William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

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William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

Birthplace: Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, (Present UK)
Death: Died in Stand, Middlesex, England, (Present UK)
Place of Burial: St. Martin's Church, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, (Present UK)
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Cecil, MP; High Sheriff of Rutland Richard Cecil; Richard Cecil; Jane Cecil; Heiress Jane Heckington and 1 other
Husband of Mary Cecil; Mary Cheke; Mary Cecil and Mildred Cooke, Baroness Burghley
Father of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter; Frances Fransica Cecil; Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford; Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Elizabeth Cecil
Brother of Elizabeth Wingfield (Cecil); Agnes White and Margaret Smith

Occupation: Prime Minister of England under Queen Elizabeth I for Forty (40) years, Lord High Treasurer, Chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I & Secretary of State twice and Lord Treasurer
Managed by: Private User
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About William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley



William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I


Cecil was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire in 1520, the son of Richard Cecil, owner of the Burghley estate (near Stamford, Lincolnshire), and his wife, Jane Heckington.

Wikisource has an original article from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica about:

Burghley, William Cecil, BaronPedigrees, elaborated by Cecil himself with the help of William Camden the antiquary, associated him with the Cecils or Sitsyllts of Allt Yr Ynys, Walterstone on the border of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and traced his descent from an Owen of the time of King Harold and a Sitsyllt of the reign of William Rufus. The connection with the Herefordshire family is not so impossible as the descent from Sitsyllt; but the earliest known authentic ancestor of the Lord Treasurer is his grandfather, David, who, according to Burghley's enemies, kept the best inn in Stamford. David somehow secured the favour of Henry VII, to whom he seems to have been Yeoman of the Guard. He was Sergeant-of-Arms to Henry VIII in 1526, Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1532, and a Justice of the Peace for Rutland. His eldest son, Richard, Yeoman of the Wardrobe (d. 1554), married Jane, daughter of William Heckington of Bourne, and was father of three daughters and the future Lord Burghley.

William, the only son, was put to school first at The King's School, Grantham and then at Stamford School, which he later saved and endowed. In May 1535, at the age of fourteen, he went up to St John's College, Cambridge, where he was brought into contact with the foremost educationalists of the time, Roger Ascham and John Cheke, and acquired an unusual knowledge of Greek. He also acquired the affections of Cheke's sister, Mary, and was in 1541 removed by his father to Gray's Inn, without, after six years' residence at Cambridge, having taken a degree. The precaution proved useless and four months later Cecil committed one of the rare rash acts of his life in marrying Mary Cheke. The only child of this marriage, Thomas, the future Earl of Exeter, was born in May 1542, and in February 1543 Cecil's first wife died. Three years later he married (21 December 1546) Mildred, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, who was ranked by Ascham with Lady Jane Grey as one of the two most learned ladies in the kingdom, and whose sister, Anne, became the wife of Sir Nicholas (and the mother of Sir Francis) Bacon.

William Cecil's early career was spent in the service of the Duke of Somerset (a brother of the late queen, Jane Seymour, who was Lord Protector during the early years of the reign of his nephew, the young Edward VI). Cecil accompanied Somerset on his Pinkie campaign of 1547 (part of the "Rough Wooing"), being one of the two Judges of the Marshalsea, i.e. in the courts-martial. The other was William Patten, who states that both he and Cecil began to write independent accounts of the campaign, and that Cecil generously communicated his notes for Patten's narrative of the "Expedition into Scotland".

Cecil, according to his autobiographical notes, sat in Parliament in 1543; but his name does not occur in the imperfect parliamentary returns until 1547, when he was elected for the family borough of Stamford.

In 1548, he is described as the Protector's Master of Requests, which apparently means that he was clerk or registrar of the court of requests which the Protector, possibly at Hugh Latimer's instigation, illegally set up in Somerset House to hear poor men's complaints. He also seems to have acted as private secretary to the Protector, and was in some danger at the time of the Protector's fall in October 1549. The lords opposed to Somerset ordered his detention on 10 October, and in November he was in the Tower of London.

Cecil ingratiated himself with Warwick, and on 15 September 1550 he was sworn in as one of King Edward's two Secretaries of State. He was knighted on 11 October 1551, on the eve of Somerset's second fall, and was congratulated on his success in escaping his benefactor's fate.

In April 1551, Cecil became Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. But service under Warwick (by now the Duke of Northumberland) carried some risk, and in his diary Cecil recorded his release in the phrase ex misero aulico factus liber et mei juris. His responsibility for Edward's illegal devise of the crown (a document which barred both Elizabeth and Mary, the remaining children of Henry VIII, from the throne, in favour of Lady Jane Grey) has been studiously minimised by Cecil himself and by his biographers. Years afterwards, he pretended that he had only signed the devise as a witness, but in his apology to Queen Mary I, he did not venture to allege so flimsy an excuse; he preferred to lay stress on the extent to which he succeeded in shifting the responsibility on to the shoulders of his brother-in-law, Sir John Cheke, and other friends, and on his intrigues to frustrate the Queen to whom he had sworn allegiance.

There is no doubt that Cecil saw which way the wind was blowing, and disliked Northumberland's scheme; but he had not the courage to resist the duke to his face. As soon, however, as the duke had set out to meet Mary, Cecil became the most active intriguer against him, and to these efforts, of which he laid a full account before Queen Mary, he mainly owed his immunity. He had, moreover, had no part in the divorce of Catherine of Aragon or in the humiliation of Mary in Henry's reign, and he made no scruple about conforming to the religious reaction. He went to Mass, confessed, and out of sheer zeal and in no official capacity went to meet Cardinal Pole on his pious mission to England in December 1554, again accompanying him to Calais in May 1555.

It was rumoured in December 1554 that Cecil would succeed Sir William Petre as Secretary of State, an office which, with his chancellorship of the Garter, he had lost on Mary's accession to the throne. Probably the Queen had more to do with the falsification of this rumour than Cecil, though he is said to have opposed, in the parliament of 1555 (in which he represented Lincolnshire), a bill for the confiscation of the estates of the Protestant refugees. But the story, even as told by his biographer (Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, 1732–1735, i. 11), does not represent Cecil's conduct as having been very courageous; and it is more to his credit that he found no seat in the parliament of 1558, for which Mary had directed the return of "discreet and good Catholic members".

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William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley's Timeline

September 13, 1520
Bourne, Lincolnshire, England, (Present UK)

The Family is supposed to have a Welsh origin, and certainly there were two families with a similar name living in Herefordshire who claimed relationship with Cyssells or Syssells of Stamford; these two families were the Sitsylts of Altyrennes and the Cyssells of Maysemore.

William Cecil was interested in genealogy and there is a contemporary pedigree in existence attributing to the Cecils a descent from Sitselt, or Sitsell, who in 1091 received lands in Wales from Robert FitzHamon. This pedigree is traced through the Sitsilts (or Sitsylts) of Altyrennes, Co. Hereford.

Bourne, Lincolnshire, England

William Cecil saw the light at Bourne in the County of Lincoln on 13 Sep, 1520, and he was baptised at the same place. His father was Richard Cyssell of Burghley, near Stamford, sometime one of the pages of Henry VIII, and Groom of the Wardrobe.

Age 6

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (13 September 1520 – 4 August 1598), was an English statesman, the chief advisor and good friend of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign (17 November 1558–24 March 1603), twice Secretary of State (1550–1553 and 1558–1572) and Lord High Treasurer from 1572.

May 1535
Age 14
Cambridge, England

William Cecil was carefully educated, and in May 1535 he was entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, then under the Mastership of Dr. Nicholas Metcalf. Young Cecil already possessed a good knowledge of Greek. St. John's was at that time the most important College in England and it was the resort or earnest students who came up to the University to work.

August 8, 1541
Age 20
London, Middlesex, England, (Present UK)

In an attempt by his father, Richard Cecil, to prevent what he regarded as an improvident marriage to Mary, the daughter of Peter Cheke and sister of John Cheke, a young William Cecil was removed from the University and admitted to Grays Inn. The father failed, and the marriage took place, probably secretly, at Cambridge.

March 5, 1542
Age 21
December 21, 1546
Age 26
Romsford, Essex, England, (Present UK)
December 5, 1556
Age 36
Westminister, Salisbury, England
Age 35
Westminster, Salisbury, England
Age 37

Constructed between 1555 and 1587, the house was designed by his first occupant, William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I.

There are 35 major rooms and 80 lesser rooms, including the 18 grandiose State Rooms, with its Tudor Kitchen, George Rooms and Blue Silk Bedroom and Dressing Room.