Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter

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Thomas Cecil

Also Known As: "Lord Burghley", "1st Earl Exeter K.G. Cecil"
Birthplace: St. Mary The Great, Cambridgeshire, England
Death: February 08, 1623 (80)
Westminster Abbey, London, Middlesex, England
Place of Burial: London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and Mary Cecil
Husband of Dorothy Cecil and Frances Cecil
Father of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter, PC, KG; Catherine Cecil; Lady Mildred Trafford; Lady Lucy Cecil; Sir Richard Cecil, Earl of Wakerley and 9 others
Brother of Marguerite Cissell
Half brother of Frances Fransica Cecil; Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford; Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and Elizabeth Wentworth

Occupation: Earl of Exeter (04 May 1605), Politician, Soldier, Knight
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter

Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter

Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG (5 May 1542 – 8 February 1623), known as Lord Burghley from 1598 to 1605, was an English politician and soldier.

Thomas Cecil was the elder son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, by his first wife, Mary Cheke (died February 1543). He was the half-brother of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Anne Cecil, and Elizabeth Cecil.

His father, although fond of both his sons, recognised that only Robert had inherited his political gifts: Thomas, he said sadly, was hardly fit to govern a tennis court. He did however inherit Burghley House.

Cecil was educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge.[1]

He served in government under Elizabeth I of England, first serving in the House of Commons in 1563 and representing various constituencies for most of the time from then until 1593. He was knighted in 1575 and appointed High Sheriff of Northamptonshire for 1578. He accompanied the Earl of Leicester to the Dutch Republic, where he was distinguished for his bravery. In 1585 he served as governor of Brielle. He did not have good relations with Leicester, but he was very loyal to Sir John Norreys. In 1584 and 1586 he was Member of Parliament for Lincolnshire, and once more in 1592 for Northamptonshire. His father's death in 1598 brought him a seat in the House of Lords, the 2nd Lord Burghley, as he then was, served from 1599 to 1603 as Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire and Lord President of the Council of the North. It was during this period that Queen Elizabeth made him a Knight of the Garter in 1601. He was created Earl of Exeter on 4 May 1605, the same day his half-brother Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cranborne, was created 1st Earl of Salisbury. Unlike his brother, however, he did not become a government minister under James I, which may suggest that James shared their father's low opinion of Thomas's political skills.

The Cecil family fostered arts; they supported musicians such as William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Thomas Robinson. The latter, in his youth, was in the service of Thomas Cecil.[2]

Thomas Cecil married, firstly, Dorothy Neville, the daughter of John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer, by his wife, Lucy Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester; and, secondly, Frances Brydges, the daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos, of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, and widow of the Master of Requests, Thomas Smith, of Abingdon, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), and Parson's Green, Middlesex.

By his first wife, Thomas Cecil had eleven children:

  • William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter.
  • Catherine Cecil.
  • Lucy Cecil, who married William Paulet, 4th Marquess of Winchester.
  • Mildred Cecil.
  • Sir Richard Cecil of Wakerley.
  • Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon.
  • Mary Cecil, who married Edward Denny, 1st Earl of Norwich.
  • Dorothy Cecil, who married Sir Giles Alington.
  • Elizabeth Cecil, who married firstly Sir William Newport alias Hatton, and secondly, Sir Edward Coke.
  • Thomas Cecil, esquire.
  • Frances Cecil, who married Nicholas Tufton, 1st Earl of Thanet.[3]

Lord Exeter is buried in the chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey.



  • Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, 2nd Baron Burghley1
  • M, #52373, b. 5 May 1542, d. 8 February 1623
  • Father Sir William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley2 b. 13 Sep 1521, d. 4 Aug 1598
  • Mother Mary Cheke3 b. c 1522, d. 22 Feb 1544
  • Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, 2nd Baron Burghley was born on 5 May 1542 at St. Mary the Great Parish, Cambridgeshire, England.1 He married Dorothy Neville, daughter of Sir John Neville, 4th Lord Latimer and Lucy Somerset, on 27 November 1564 at Yorkshire, England.1 Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, 2nd Baron Burghley married Frances Brydges, daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos and Mary Hopton, circa December 1610.4 Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, 2nd Baron Burghley died on 8 February 1623 at London, Middlesex, England, at age 80.1 He was buried on 10 February 1623 at Westminster Abbey, London, Middlesex, England.1
  • Family 1 Dorothy Neville b. c 1548, d. 23 Mar 1609
  • Children
    • William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter, Lord Burghley+5 b. Jan 1566, d. 6 Jul 1640
    • Dorothy Cecil+6 b. 11 Aug 1577, d. 10 Nov 1613
  • Family 2 Frances Brydges b. c 1580, d. 1663
  • Citations
  • [S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. V, p. 216-218.
  • [S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. V, p. 217.
  • [S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. II, p. 429.
  • [S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. V, p. 217-218.
  • [S11568] The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom, by George Edward Cokayne, Vol. V, p. 218.
  • [S61] Unknown author, Family Group Sheets, Family History Archives, SLC.
  • From: _________________
  • Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter1
  • M, #3935, b. 5 March 1542, d. 8 February 1622/23
  • Last Edited=31 Dec 2011
  • Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter was born on 5 March 1542.1 He was the son of William Cecil, 1st Baron of Burghley and Mary Cheke.1 He married, firstly, Dorothy Neville, daughter of John Neville, 4th Lord Latymer and Lady Lucy Somerset, on 27 November 1564.3 He married, secondly, Frances Brydges, daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos of Sudeley and Mary Hopton, in 1610.3 He died on 8 February 1622/23 at age 80.3
  • He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Stamford between 1563 and 1567.4 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Stamford in 1571.4 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Stamford between 1572 and 1583.4 He was invested as a Knight in 1575.4 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Lincolnshire between 1584 and 1587.3 He held the office of Member of Parliament (M.P.) for Northamptonshire from 1592 to 1593.3 He succeeded to the title of 2nd Baron of Burghley, co. Northampton [E., 1571] on 4 August 1598.4 He held the office of Lord President of the Council of the North between 1599 and 1603.3 He held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Yorkshire between 1599 and 1603.3 He was invested as a Knight, Order of the Garter (K.G.) in 1601.3 He was created 1st Earl of Exeter [England] on 4 May 1605.4 He has an extensive biographical entry in the Dictionary of National Biography.5
  • Child of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter and Frances Brydges
    • unknown daughter Cecil3
  • Children of Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter and Dorothy Neville
    • Lady Lucy Cecil+3 d. Oct 1614
    • Lady Mildred Cecil3
    • Lady Dorothy Cecil+6
    • unknown son Cecil3
    • unknown daughter Cecil3
    • unknown daughter Cecil3
    • William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter+3 b. Jan 1565/66, d. 6 Jul 1640
    • Sir Richard Cecil+3 b. 1570, d. 4 Sep 1633
    • Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon+3 b. 27 Feb 1571/72, d. 16 Nov 1638
    • Lady Mary Cecil+7 b. 1573
    • Thomas Cecil3 b. 1578, d. 3 Dec 1662
    • Lady Elizabeth Cecil+3 b. 1578, d. 3 Jan 1646
    • Lady Frances Cecil+8 b. 28 Feb 1580/81, d. 12 Jun 1653
  • Citations
  • [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume II, page 430. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • [S3409] Caroline Maubois, "re: Penancoet Family," e-mail message to Darryl Roger Lundy, 2 December 2008. Hereinafter cited as "re: Penancoet Family."
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 1, page 1363. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [S37] BP2003. [S37]
  • [S18] Matthew H.C.G., editor, Dictionary of National Biography on CD-ROM (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1995), Cecil, Thomas. Hereinafter cited as Dictionary of National Biography.
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume I, page 106.
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume III, page 32.
  • [S15] George Edward Cokayne, editor, The Complete Baronetage, 5 volumes (no date (c. 1900); reprint, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1983), volume I, page 150. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Baronetage.
  • From: _______________________
  • Thomas CECIL (1º E. Exeter)
  • Born: 5 May 1542, St. Mary the Great, Cambridge
  • Acceded: 4 May 1605
  • Died: 8 Feb 1622/3, London, England
  • Buried: 10 Feb 1622, Westminster Abbey, London, England
  • Notes: Knight of the Garter. Lord President of the Council of the North. Present at the storming of Edinburgh in 1573. Suppressed the rebellion of the Earl of Essex. The Complete Peerage vol.V,pp.216-218.
  • Father: William CECIL (1° B. Burghley)
  • Mother: Mary CHEKE
  • Married 1: Dorothy NEVILLE (C. Exeter) 27 Nov 1564, Yorkshire
  • Children:
    • 1. William CECIL (2° E. Exeter)
    • 2. Richard CECIL (Sir M.P.)
    • 3. David CECIL
    • 4. Edward CECIL (1º V. Wimbledon)
    • 5. Thomas CECIL
    • 6. Dorothy CECIL
    • 7. Lucy CECIL (M. Winchester)
    • 8. Elizabeth CECIL
    • 9. Mildred CECIL
    • 10. Frances CECIL
    • 11. Mary CECIL
  • Married 2: Frances BRYDGES (C. Exeter) 1610
  • Children:
    • 12. Georgiana CECIL (b. Jun 1616 - d. 1621)
  • From: CECIL (1º E. Exeter) ___________________
  • CECIL, Thomas (1542-1623), of Burghley House, Lincs. and Wimbledon, Surr.
  • b. 5 May 1542, 1st s. of Sir William Cecil by his 1st w. Mary, da. of Peter Cheke of Pirgo, Essex; half-bro. of Robert Cecil. educ. privately; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1558; G. Inn 1559; travelled abroad 1561-3. m. (1) 27 Nov. 1564, Dorothy (d. Mar. 1609), da. and coh. of John Nevill, 4th Lord Latimer, 5s. inc. William, Richard and Sir Edward 8da.; (a) 1610, Frances, da. of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos, wid. of Thomas Smith, 1da. (d. inf.). Kntd. 1575; suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Burghley 1598; KG 1601; cr. Earl of Exeter 1605.
  • Offices Held
    • Jt. steward of Collyweston and other Northants. manors and of Gretford, Lincs.; jt. (with his fa.) keeper of Cliff park, Northants. 1566; j.p. Lincs. (Kesteven) 1569-73, q. Lincs. (Holland and Lindsey), Northants. by 1573; sheriff, Northants. 1578-9; gov. Brill 1585-6; dep. lt. Lincs. by 1587, Northants. 1588; col. Lord Hunsdon’s force to protect the Queen at Tilbury 1588; custos rot. Northants., Lincs. and Rutland 1594; ld. pres. council in the north and ld. lt. Yorks. 1599-1603; PC, ld. almoner for coronation 1603; ld. lt. Northants. from 1603.2
  • Cecil, a ‘soft and gentle child’ a tutor called him, did not distinguish himself at Cambridge, and it was with misgivings that his father sent him in the summer of 1561 to complete his education abroad, in the charge of Thomas Windebank. Before the end of the year, there were complaints about the size of the bills he was running up, and apologetic letters from Windebank, who could not control his charge. The young man rose late in the day, was ‘negligent and rash in expenses, careless in his apparel, an immoderate lover of dice and cards, in study soon weary, in game never’. When his father reduced his allowance, he borrowed from other Englishmen in Paris, or broke open Windebank’s strongbox and helped himself. Still, the English ambassador reported that Cecil had made a good impression at the French court, and it is possible that what brought about his removal from Paris was his seduction of a young French lady in 1562. He was then taken to Antwerp, where he lodged in the house of Sir Thomas Gresham, and then to Germany, where Henry Knollys I put him up. Knollys objected to a proposal to send him to Italy, but in the event the death of his young stepbrother William led to his return to England in January 1563, in time for him to be sent, still under age, to Parliament for the family borough of Stamford.3
  • Cecil now combined attendance at court with a military career, taking part in tournaments, commanding 300 horse during the Northern rebellion, fighting at the siege of Edinburgh (1573) and serving against the Armada. Only once, as far as is known, was he given an appointment outside England, the governorship of Brill, to which he was appointed before the end of 1585, though he did not arrive there until the end of January 1586. In April he was back in England, sick. Leicester, who had not wanted him in the first place, animadverted upon Cecil’s courage. Burghley replied that the arrangements for paying the Brill garrison were inadequate. The governor had had to dip into his own pocket ‘so much, as he came home with £5’. There was a sequel to this when it was reported in the Commons committee on the Netherlands, 25 Feb. 1587, that ‘it cost Sir Thomas Cecil £5,000 in service in the Low Countries’. Cecil himself had made a brief intervention in this debate on the previous day.4. Cecil returned to the Netherlands in June and resigned in September, not an heroic tenure of office.
  • The standing of his family brought Cecil election to seven Elizabethan Parliaments. He made no known contribution to the business of his first two, nor to the first session of his third. The first mention of him in the journals is as a member of a legal committee on 24 Feb. 1576. In 1581 he was appointed to committees on the subsidy (25 Jan.), Arthur Hall (4 Feb.), the preservation of game (18 Feb.), and the fortification of the frontier with Scotland (25 Feb.). He was also concerned in fetching and carrying bills to the Lords. Cecil was knight of the shire for Lincolnshire in both the 1584 and 1586 Parliaments, and he was appointed to the subsidy committee in each (24 Feb. 1585, 22 Feb. 1587). He was named to two other committees in 1584, concerning Westminster (15 Dec.) and grain (19 Dec). He was not in the 1589 Parliament, the only one he missed from the age of 20 until he succeeded to his father’s peerage in 1598. Why he did not come in has not been ascertained—he was not abroad, for he was sorting out a muddle over Richard Stoneley’s accounts for his father on 26 Dec. 1588.
  • Cecil represented Northamptonshire for his remaining appearances in the Commons. He was appointed both to the standing committee on privileges and returns and to the subsidy committee at the outset of the 1593 Parliament (26 Feb.), to a conference on the subsidy (1, 3 Mar.), and it was on the vexed subject of the 1593 subsidy that he made his first reported contribution to a full-scale debate in the House (7 Mar.), suggesting three subsidies payable within four years, to be levied on assessments of £10 and above. It has been suggested that this intervention may have been inspired by Cecil’s father, who was thus letting it be known that the Lords, who had hitherto held out for a three year period, were ready to compromise, but the proposal to exclude the ‘men of £3 goods’ was certainly unwelcome to the chancellor of the Exchequer, as this category included half of those who paid the subsidy. In another speech in the same debate, probably next day—the sources are confused—Cecil was concerned that the Cinque Port men should not escape paying the tax. He is reported to have spoken on disloyal subjects (4 Apr.). Other committees to which Cecil was appointed in this Parliament concerned recusants (28 Feb.) and maimed soldiers (30 Mar.), and, in his capacity as a knight of the shire Cecil could have attended the committee on springing uses (9 Mar.).
  • Cecil’s activity in his last Parliament was more impressive. He was again named to the committee of privileges and returns (5 Nov. 1597), and his other committees concerned armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), the subsidy (15 Nov.), a bill concerning Northampton (16 Nov., and reported by him on 24 Nov.), the poor law (19, 22 Nov.), double payments of debts upon shop books (2 Dec., and taken by him to the Lords on 16 Jan.), and defence of the realm (12 Jan. 1598). This last resulted in a conference with the Lords, suggested on 23 Jan., of which Cecil was a member. Cecil also took a prominent part in bills concerning the private affairs of two Members, 19 and 24 Nov.
  • In view of his reticence throughout six Parliaments, it is odd that he took the initiative no less than three times in 1597, twice on matters that concerned the royal prerogative. On 11 Nov. he moved for a committee to draw up a bill to deal with ‘abuses by licences for marriages without banns’, a matter squarely within the royal prerogative, and likely to be the thin end of the wedge as far as the reformation of ecclesiastical abuses was concerned. Thus when the committee reported a few days later it
    • did not conclude of anything by reason that it was doubtful whether they were to treat of that matter only, or else both of the same, and also touching the stealing away of men’s children without assent of their parents [a hardy perennial this—the abduction of heiresses] and touching the abuses in the probates of testaments and processes ex officio by ecclesiastical officers ...
  • Perhaps it was not Cecil’s intention to embarrass his father, his brother and the Queen, but this is what he did. On 28 Nov. he took the initiative again, this time innocuously, introducing a bill
    • concerning watery and surrounded grounds in the Isle of Ely and in the counties of Cambridge, Huntingdon, Northampton, Lincoln and Norfolk,
  • or, as it became, the ‘Act for the draining and drying of certain grounds drownded in Norfolk and the Isle of Ely’. Finally, least to be expected, was Cecil’s motion on 8 Dec. ‘for a bill of petition to her Majesty, to be drawn and presented unto her, touching monopolies’. As a knight of the shire Cecil was automatically a member of the committee on monopolies set up on 10 Nov., but repeated attempts to raise this subject, in which Queen and courtiers had a vested interest, had been blocked by the Speaker, by the solicitor-general and by Robert Cecil. It is tempting to imagine that someone with a sense of humour had thought of the idea of putting up Robert Cecil’s half-brother to make the definitive motion on this subject, the one actually adopted by the House.5 It would have been interesting to have heard the two Cecils discussing the events of 8 Dec. 1597. Perhaps fortunately for the family peace, Thomas Cecil’s succession to the peerage had removed him from the fray before the subject came up again in the Commons of 1601. As it was, relations between the two were, as far as can be seen, friendly, despite their differences in temperament and Burghley’s own clearly demonstrated preference for Robert. Writing to the latter in June 1603 Thomas was ‘void of envy or mistrust’. He confessed
    • that God hath bestowed rarer gifts of mind upon you than on me. I know you have deserved far greater merit both of his Majesty and your country.
  • All the same, Thomas Cecil was tireless in his performance of the duties of president of the council in the north to which office he was appointed soon after succeeding his father. His instructions were to exterminate recusancy, and within two months he had ‘filled a little study with copes and mass books’. At the 1601 Lammas assizes in Northumberland over 150 recusants were convicted. Archbishop Hutton even complained to Whitgift that the recusant prisoners in York castle, who were being forced on Cecil’s orders to attend protestant services, created so much disturbance that the rest of the congregation could not hear the preacher. Cecil was satisfied with a modest success, writing to Robert in June 1601:
    • I find this country by certificates returned since my coming down, daily inclining their obedience in coming to church; I mean only Yorkshire, for the remoter parts I cannot yet write so much.
  • He was back in London by the time of the Essex rebellion, when he commanded the troops raised to defend the city, and in November 1602 John Chamberlain wrote ‘the lord president of York is come hither to his old winter garrison; belike he finds his government too far from the sun’.
  • His appointment was not renewed by James; perhaps he was too closely associated with the anti-Catholic policy which James proposed to abandon. He was appointed to the Privy Council but at first declined advancement in the peerage. However, he changed his mind when Robert was about to become Earl of Salisbury, and was created Earl of Exeter on the same day. He kept up great state at Wimbledon, a house given him by his father before 1570, and he several times received James there, as he had Elizabeth. He was granted the lease of the manor of Wimbledon in exchange for two Lincolnshire manors in February 1590. Cecil’s second marriage in 1610, when he was nearly 70, ‘gouty and diseased’, provoked adverse comment, and a child died in infancy. His second wife was suspected of poisoning the wife of his grandson Lord Ros, and a Star Chamber case resulted, the King himself giving judgment.
  • Cecil died 7 Feb. 1623, and was buried in Westminster abbey. ‘There was neither dinner, supper nor banquet, nor so much as a cup of drink, it was called a dry funeral.’6
  • From: _________________
  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 09
  • Cecil, Thomas (1542-1622) by Augustus Jessopp
  • CECIL, THOMAS, first Earl of Exeter, second Lord Burghley (1542–1622), eldest son of William Cecil, lord Burghley, by Mary Cheke [see Cecil, William], was born on 5 May 1542. He seems to have been brought up under tutors at his father's house, and never to have received a university education; he gave no signs of more than average ability, and it was probably because his father knew him to be deficient in capacity that he felt compelled to keep him in the background during his own lifetime. In June 1561 he was sent with Sir Thomas Windebank to travel on the continent, but he had hardly got to Paris before he began to exhibit a taste for dissipation, and he seems to have indulged that taste with much freedom. His father was greatly distressed by the reports he received, and in one of his letters expresses a fear that his son ‘will return home like a spending sot, meet only to keep a tennis court.’
  • Windebank, when he had been in Paris for more than a year, wrote home in despair, saying there was no doing anything with the young man, whose idle and dissolute habits had quite got beyond his control, and recommended his being recalled. To this, however, his father did not agree, and we hear that in August 1562 they left Paris ‘secretly,’ and slipped away to Antwerp and thence made their way to Spires, Heidelberg, and Frankfort. Young Cecil's conduct showed no improvement, and though his father wished him to visit Italy and Switzerland he had no desire himself to prolong his stay abroad, and returned in the spring of 1563. In 1563 he was M.P. for Stamford, and again in 1571 and 1572. In 1564 he married Dorothy, second daughter and coheiress of John, lord Latimer, negotiations for the marriage having, it appears, been begun two years before. During the next five years we hear little of him, but during the rebellion of the northern earls in 1569 he showed a commendable activity, and did not forget to claim his reward. In 1570 the Earl of Sussex, under whom he had served, recommended him to the queen as deserving some recognition, and he wrote a letter of thanks, which has been preserved. If it be a fair specimen of his style of composition, he must indeed have been a man of but small ‘parts.’ Next year, on the occasion of the French ambassador visiting Cambridge, accompanied by Lord Burghley as chancellor of the university, and other notables, Cecil was admitted M.A. by a special grace of the senate. At a magnificent tournament held at Westminster during this year he took a prominent part, and received a prize at the hands of the queen for his prowess at the barriers. He had always had a desire for a military life, which his father would never allow him to gratify; but in 1573 he volunteered for the Scotch war without asking leave, and was present at the storming of Edinburgh on 28 May. In July 1575 he received the honour of knighthood on the occasion of the queen's visit to Kenilworth. When Leicester went in command of the English contingent to the Low Countries, Cecil accompanied him and distinguished himself by his valour in the campaign. In November 1585 he was made governor of the Brille, one of the cautionary towns. There was little cordiality between him and Leicester, for whom he entertained a scarcely disguised contempt; on the other hand, he was one of those who showed a loyal admiration for Sir John Norris.
  • In August 1587 we find him among the mourners at the funeral ceremonies of Mary Queen of Scots, which were celebrated at Peterborough. In 1588 he was among the volunteers who served on the fleet equipped to resist the Spanish Armada. In 1584 and 1586 he was M.P. for Lincolnshire, and in 1592 for Northamptonshire. At his father's funeral in 1598 the queen gave order that he, as chief mourner, should ‘mourn as an earl.’ It was not until the summer of 1599 that he received his first preferment. He was made president of the council of the north. The instructions addressed to him by the queen give a most curious account of the condition of Yorkshire at this time, and of the widespread discontent that prevailed. Lord Burghley is charged to resort to strong measures to reduce the recusant gentry to obedience, and to hunt down the papists and the priests. He showed no reluctance to obey his orders, and before he had been in office two months he writes to his brother, Sir Robert Cecil, boasting, ‘Since my coming I have filled a little study with copes and mass-books.’ In October 1600 he had leave of absence, and being in London during the so-called rebellion of Robert, earl of Essex, in the following February, he took a leading part in suppressing the foolish riot and in proclaiming Essex a traitor with due formalities. In recognition of his service he was made a knight of the Garter, and installed at Windsor 20 May 1601. On the accession of James I (1603) he was sworn of the privy council, and on 4 May 1605 he was created Earl of Exeter. In April 1609 his wife, Lady Dorothy, died, and about the same time Sir Thomas Smith, master of requests to James I, being carried off by a fever, Lord Exeter consoled himself for his own loss by marrying Sir Thomas Smith's widow, though she was thirty-eight years his junior; she was daughter of William, fourth lord Chandos.
  • He appeared but little at court after this—indeed, he was nearly seventy at the time of his second marriage. He had suffered a great deal from the gout for many years before, and he spent most of his time at Wimbledon House in comparative retirement, though his name occurs now and then upon commissions, upon all of which he certainly did not serve. The last years of his life were embittered by the scandalous lawsuits in which he found himself entangled through the quarrels that arose between his grandson and heir, Lord Roos, and the violent and wicked woman to whom that son was married. The story of the hateful business may be read in Mr. Gardiner's ‘History of Prince Charles and the Spanish Marriage.’ Lord Exeter died 7 Feb. 1622, in his eightieth year, and was buried in Westminster Abbey three days after, in the chapel of St. John the Baptist, where a splendid monument to his memory still exists.
  • It is clear that the first Lord Exeter was a person of very ordinary abilities, and that if he had been born of other parentage we should have heard nothing of him. By his first wife, Lady Dorothy, he had a family of five sons and eight daughters. His eldest son, William, who succeeded to the earldom, was the father of the despicable Lord Roos who died before him, in 1618, and as he had no other son the earldom passed to Sir Richard Cecil, the first earl's second son, from whom the present Marquis of Exeter is lineally descended. The third son, Sir Edward Cecil, was created Viscount Wimbledon 25 July 1626, but dying in 1638 without male heirs the title became extinct [see Cecil, Sir Edward, Viscount Wimbledon]. Of his daughters, Elizabeth married, first, Sir William Hatton, and secondly Sir Edward Coke. The violent quarrel between this lady and her second husband was a cause célèbre before the law courts in 1617. Lord Exeter imitated his illustrious father in founding a hospital for twelve poor men and two women at Liddington in Rutlandshire, and was a liberal benefactor to Clare College, Cambridge. By his second wife he had a daughter, who died in infancy. His widow survived him more than forty years. She died in 1663 and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.
  • [Many of the authorities for the life of Thomas Cecil are given under Cecil, William, Lord Burghley. To them must be added: Calendars, Domestic, covering all the period of his life, passim; Birch's Court and Times of James I; Nichols's Progresses of Eliz. and Jas. I; Strype's Annals, II. i. 36, and elsewhere through his works; Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, ii. 278; Gardiner's Hist. of James I, vol. iii. chap. iii.; Spedding's Bacon's Life and Letters, vi. et seq.; Collins's Peerage, ‘Marquis of Exeter,’ ii.; Life and Times of Sir Edward Cecil, lord Wimbledon, by C. Dalton, 2 vols. 8vo, 1885; Froude's Hist. of England, vol. ix.; Motley's United Netherlands, i. and ii.; Col. Chester's Westminster Abbey Registers, p. 21, n. 5. There is a curious document quoted in the fourth report of the Hist. MSS. Commissioners, p. 125, which appears to throw some doubt upon the marriage of Thomas Cecil to Dorothy Nevill. The fact of that marriage is so certain that it is not worth while to discuss the matter here.]
  • From:,_Thomas_(1542-1622)_(DNB00) __________________
  • Thomas "Earl of Exeter" Cecil
  • Birth: May 5, 1542
  • Death: Feb. 8, 1623
  • Soldier and benefactor of Clare College, Cambridge. Husband of Dorothy Nevill (q.v.) (bio by: David Conway)
  • Family links:
  • Parents:
  • William Cecil (1521 - 1598)
  • Maria Cheke Cecil (____ - 1543)
  • Spouses:
  • Dorothy Neville Cecil (____ - 1608)*
  • Frances Brydges Cecil (1580 - 1663)*
  • Children:
    • Dorothy Cecil Alington (____ - 1613)*
    • Lucy Cecil Paulet (____ - 1614)*
    • William Cecil (1566 - 1640)*
    • Mary Cecil Denny (1573 - 1638)*
    • Thomas Cecil (1578 - 1662)*
    • Sophia Anna Cecil (1616 - 1621)*
  • Siblings:
  • Thomas Cecil (1542 - 1623)
  • Anne Cecil De Vere (1556 - 1588)**
  • Margaret Coke Smith (1562 - 1616)**
  • Robert Cecil (1563 - 1612)**
  • *Calculated relationship
  • **Half-sibling
  • Burial: Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
  • Plot: Chapel of St. John the Baptist
  • Find A Grave Memorial# 20617
  • From: ________________
  • CECIL, Sir Edward (1572-1638), of Wimbledon House, Surr.
  • b. 29 Feb. 1572, 3rd s. of Thomas Cecil, afterwards 1st Earl of Exeter, by his 1st w. Dorothy, da. and coh. of John Nevill, 4th Lord Latimer; bro. Richard and William. educ. G. Inn 1591; travelled abroad 1594. m. (1) 10 July 1601, Theodosia (d.1616), da. of Andrew Noel, sis. of Edward Noel, 2nd Visct. Campden, 4da.; (2) 27 Feb. 1617, Diana (d.1631), 3rd da. of Sir William Drury of Hawstead, Suff., 1da. (d. inf.); (3) Sept. or Oct. 1635, Sophia (d.1691), da. of Sir Edward Zouche of Woking, Surr., 1s. (d.inf.). Kntd. 1601; cr. Visct. Wimbledon 1625.
  • .... etc.
  • From: _________________
  • CECIL, William (1566-1640), of London, Newark Castle, Notts.; later of Burghley House, Lincs.
  • b. Jan. 1566, s. of Thomas Cecil by his 1st w., and bro. of Richard and Sir Edward. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1578; travelled abroad 1585; G. Inn 1589. m. (1) 1589, Elizabeth, s.j. Baroness Ros (d.1591), da. and h. of Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland, 1s. d.v.p.; (2) Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Drury of Hawstead, Suff., 3da. Kntd. Apr. 1603; KG 1630; styled Lord Burghley 1605; suc. fa. as 2nd Earl of Exeter 1623.
  • .... etc.
  • From: _________________
  • CECIL, Richard (1570-1633), of Wakerley, Northants.
  • b. 7 Dec. 1570, 2nd s. of Thomas Cecil, and bro. of Sir Edward and William. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1585; G. Inn 1591, travelled abroad 1594. m. 1603, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Anthony Cope, 1s. David afterwards 3rd Earl of Exeter. Kntd. 1616.
  • .... etc.
  • From: _______________________

Family Links


Dorothy Neville

Edward Cecil+

Thomas married Dorothy Neville.


Other References



@R-1349992918@ UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current Operations, Inc. 1,60526::0 1,60526::3051


@R-1349992918@ UK and Ireland, Find A Grave Index, 1300s-Current Operations, Inc. 1,60526::0 1,60526::3051


@R-1349992918@ Web: International, Find A Grave Index Operations, Inc. 1,70699::0 1,70699::982190

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Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter's Timeline

March 5, 1542
St. Mary The Great, Cambridgeshire, England
January 1565
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, United Kingdom
April 15, 1567
Burghley, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
March 7, 1568
Burghley, Northamptonshire, England
December 7, 1570
Wakerley, Northamptonshire, , England
February 27, 1572
Stamford, Northamptonshire, , England
July 15, 1573
September 22, 1574