Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > The Great Lord Burghley:A study in Elizabethan statecraft > CHAPTER II 1550-1553
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
CHAPTER II 1550-1553
The Catholic party soon found that Northumberland had used them only as a cat’s-paw to satisfy his ambition; and that where mild Somerset had scourged them with whips, he would scourge them with scorpions. Gardiner and Bonner were made closer prisoners than ever. Princess Mary, who had practically defied Somerset about her Mass, was more sternly dealt with by Northumberland, her chaplains imprisoned, and her household placed under strict observation;[27] Latin service was strictly forbidden throughout the realm, altars were abolished, and uniformity enforced; whilst Southampton, who had been largely instrumental in the overthrow of Somerset, found, to his dismay, that he had laboured in vain so far as he and his co-religionists were concerned. There is no reason to doubt that, even thus early, Northumberland’s ambitious plans were already formed. For their success two things were absolutely necessary: first, the unanimous support of the Protestant party; and next, a close understanding with France, which meant a reversal of the traditional foreign policy of this country. The attempt to supersede Mary on the death of the King, who was seen to be of short life, would be certain to meet with opposition on the part of the Emperor, and would necessitate the support of France to be successful. Much as Northumberland had[24] denounced the idea of the surrender of Boulogne in the time of Somerset, he lost no time in concluding a peace by which the town was given up, the necessity for doing so being still laid to the charge of his predecessor; and the alliance between France and England, which included Scotland, was nominally made the closer by the betrothal of Elizabeth,[28] the eldest daughter of the King of France to Edward VI. Soon Somerset, who still had many friends amongst Protestants, was released from prison, and in more humble guise readmitted to the Council. On every hand Northumberland courted popularity from all but the extreme Catholics, from whom he had nothing but opposition to expect.

Under the circumstances it was necessary to have by his side an experienced Secretary of State of Protestant leanings, as well as of assiduity and ability. Petre and Wotton were known to be more than doubtful with regard to religion; Smith had made himself impossible by the active part he took against Northumberland at the time of Somerset’s imprisonment. No man was more fitted to the post than Cecil, and on the 5th September 1550 he was made for the first time Secretary of State. In the “perpetual calendar” at Hatfield the entry runs, “5 Sep. 4 Ed. VI., apud Oatlands Guil. Cecill admisus secr? in loco D. Wotton,” and the Privy Council book confirms this, though the King in his journal gives the date of the appointment as the 6th September. Again William Cecil emerges from obscurity, and henceforward his position is unequivocal. As before, everything seemed to pass through his hands. No matter was too small or too large to claim his attention. His household biographer says of him that he worked incessantly, except at meal times, when he unbent and chatted wittily to his friends, but never of business. He could, he says, never[25] play any sort of game, took no interest in sport or pastimes, his only exercise being riding round his garden walks on a little mule. “He was rather meanly statured, but well proportioned, very straight and upright, active and hardy, until crippled by constant gout.” His hair and beard were brown, before they became silver-white, as they did early in life; and his carriage and conversation were always grave and circumspect.

If his own conduct was ruled—as some of his actions certainly were—by the maxims which in middle age he laid down for his favourite son, he must have been a marvel of prudence and wisdom. Like the usual recommendations of age to youth, many of these precepts simply inculcate moderation, religion, virtue, and other obviously good qualities; but here and there Cecil’s own philosophy of life peeps out, and some of the reasons of his success are exhibited. “Let thy hospitality be moderate, … rather plentiful than sparing, for I never knew any man grow poor by keeping an orderly table.… Beware thou spendest not more than three of four parts of thy revenue, and not above a third part of that in thy house.” “That gentleman who sells an acre of land sells an ounce of credit, for gentility is nothing else but ancient riches.” “Suffer not thy sons to cross the Alps, for they shall learn nothing there but pride, blasphemy, and atheism; and if by travel they get a few broken languages, they shall profit them nothing more than to have one meat served up in divers dishes. Neither train them up in wars, for he that sets up to live by that profession can hardly be an honest man or a good Christian.” “Beware of being surety for thy best friends; he that payeth another man’s debts seeketh his own decay.” “Be sure to keep some great man thy friend, but trouble him not with trifles; compliment him often with many, yet small, gifts.” “Towards thy superiors[26] be humble, yet generous; with thine equals familiar, yet respectful; towards thine inferiors show much humanity, and some familiarity, as to bow the body, stretch forth the hand, and to uncover the head.” “Trust not any man with thy life, credit, or estate, for it is mere folly for a man to enthral himself to his friend.” Such maxims as these evidently enshrine much of his own temper, and throughout his career he rarely seems to have violated them. His was a selfish and ungenerous gospel, but a prudent and circumspect one.

From the first days of his appointment as Secretary of State, the Duchess of Suffolk was again his constant correspondent. As she was one of the first to condole with him on his misfortune, she was early to congratulate him on “the good exchanges he had made, and on having come to a good market”;[29] and thenceforward all the Lincolnshire gossip from Grimsthorpe and Tattershall reached the Secretary regularly, with many Lincolnshire petitions, and much business in the buying and leasing of land by Cecil in the county, although his father lived until the following year, 1552.[30] His erudite wife, of whom he always speaks with tender regard, seems to have kept up a correspondence in Greek with their friend, Sir Thomas Morysine, the English Ambassador to the Emperor, and with the learned Joannes Sturmius, to which several references are made in Morysine’s eccentric and affected letters to Cecil in the State Papers, Foreign.

The letters of Morysine and Mason, the Ambassador to France, to Cecil are of more importance as giving a just idea of Northumberland’s policy abroad than are their despatches to the Council. The Protestant princes were already recovering their spirits after the[27] defeat of Muhlberg, and the Emperor was again faced by persistent opposition in the Diet. Henry II., having now made sure of Northumberland’s necessary adhesion to him, once more launched against the empire the forces of the Turks in the Mediterranean, whilst French armies invaded Italy and threatened Flanders. To the old-fashioned English diplomatists, this driving of the Emperor into a corner was a subject of alarm. Wotton, in a letter to Cecil (2nd January 1551), expresses the opinion that an attack upon the English at Calais would be the next move of the French King, and that Frenchmen generally are not to be trusted;[31] and Mason, the Ambassador in France (November 1550) writes also to Cecil: “The French profess much, but I doubt their sincerity; I fear they know too well our estate, and thereby think to ride upon our backs.”[32] But, withal, though as yet they knew it not, Northumberland’s plans depended upon a close understanding with France, and during the rest of his rule this was his guiding principle. Mason had to be withdrawn from France, and Pickering, another friend of Cecil’s, more favourable to the French interest, was appointed; whilst Wotton was sent to calm the susceptibilities of the Emperor, who was growing fractious at the close alliance between Northumberland and the French, which was being cemented by one of the most splendid embassies that ever left England (March 1551). Prudent Cecil through it all gives in his correspondence no inkling of his own feeling towards Northumberland’s new departure in foreign policy, though the letters of his many friends to him are a sure indication that they knew he was not really in favour of it.

In home affairs he was just as discreet. His view of the duty of a Secretary of State was to carry out the[28] orders of the Council without seeking to impose his own opinion unduly, and to the last days of his life his methods were conciliatory and diplomatic rather than forcible. He bent before insistence; but he usually had his way, if indirectly, in the end, as will be seen in the course of his career. For instance, one of the first measures which he had to carry out under Northumberland was the debasement of the coinage,[33] though it was one of his favourite maxims that “the realm cannot be rich whose coin is base,”[34] and his persistent efforts to reform the coinage under Elizabeth contributed much to the renewed prosperity of England. It would appear to have been his system to make his opinion known frankly in the Council, but when it was overborne by a majority, to carry out the opposite policy loyally. As will be seen, this mode of proceeding probably saved his head on the fall of Northumberland.

He was, indeed, not of the stuff from which martyrs are made, and when his first patron and friend, Somerset, finally fell, to the sorrow of all England, and lost his head on Tower Hill, Cecil’s own position remained unassailed. This is not the place to enter fully upon the vexed question of the guilt of Somerset in the alleged plan to murder Warwick and his friends, but a glance at Cecil’s attitude at the time will be useful. According to the young King’s journal, the first revelation of the conspiracy was made on the 7th October 1551 by Sir Thomas Palmer, who on the following days amplified his information and implicated many of Somerset’s friends. On the 14th, Somerset had got wind of the affair, and sent for his friend Secretary Cecil to tell him he was afraid there was some mischief brewing. Cecil answered coldly, “that if he were not guilty he might be of good courage; if he were, he had nothing to say[29] but to lament him.”[35] In two days Somerset and his friends were in the Tower, and thenceforward through all the shameful trial, until the sacrifice was finally consummated, Cecil appeared to be prudently wrapped up in foreign affairs;[36] for to him had been referred the appeal of the Protestant princes brought by his friend A’Lasco, for help against their suzerain the Emperor, and to others fell the main task of removing the King’s uncle from the path of Northumberland.

Cecil’s position as a Protestant Secretary of State was one that required all his tact and discretion. Somerset was his first friend and “master”; and although it is not well established that the Duke personally was guilty of the particular crime for which he suffered, it is unquestionable that he had been for several months coquetting with the Catholic party, had agitated for the release of Gardiner from the Tower, and that his friends were busy, almost certainly with his own connivance, to obtain for him in the coming Parliament the renewal of his office of Protector. Light is thrown upon Cecil’s share in bringing about the Duke’s downfall, by the letters to him of his friend Whalley,[37] who had been officiously pushing Somerset’s interests early in 1551, and had been imprisoned for it. In June he had been released, and was apparently made use of by Cecil to convey letters from the latter in[30] London to Northumberland in the country, complaining of Somerset’s efforts in favour of Gardiner, and his intrigues with the Catholics. That Cecil should resent, as Secretary of State, any movement that threatened Northumberland and the Protestant cause at the time was natural. It will be recollected that he did not become Northumberland’s Secretary of State until the former had thrown over the Catholics—but it was perhaps an ungenerous excess of zeal to be the first to denounce his former patron. At all events, Northumberland was delighted with the Secretary’s action in the matter, and told Whalley so—“He declared in the end his good opinion of you in such sort, as I may well say he is your very singular good lord, and resolved that he would write at length his opinion unto you … for he plainly said ye had shown yourself therein such a faithful servant, and by that, most witty councillor unto the King’s Majesty and his proceedings, as was scarce the like within his realm.” Whalley concludes his letter by urging Cecil to remonstrate with Somerset. Whether he did so or not is unknown; but certainly for the next three months there is no hint of any serious renewal of the quarrel: the interminable proceedings against Gardiner continued, under Cecil’s direction, without a word from Somerset, and the measures against the Princess Mary’s mass continued unchecked.

The French alliance was now in full flush. All through the autumn the stately embassy from Henry II. confirming the treaty, and bringing the Order of St. Michael to Edward, was splendidly entertained at court; the Emperor’s troubles were closing in around him; Northumberland could afford to flout his remonstrance about the treatment of the Princess Mary; and by the beginning of October, Northumberland’s power was at its height. On the 4th October he assumed his dukedom,[31] Dorset was made Duke of Suffolk, the Earl of Wiltshire was created Marquis of Winchester, and Cheke and Cecil were dubbed knights (although several of the latter’s friends had insisted upon calling him Sir William months before).[38] Then it was that the blow fell upon Somerset. We have seen how Cecil bore himself to his former master at the first hint of danger on the 14th October; and though we have no letters of his own to indicate his subsequent attitude, a few words in the confidential letters of his correspondents allow us to surmise what it was.

Somerset was imprisoned on the 16th October (1551). On the 27th, Pickering, the Ambassador in Paris, writes that “he is glad Cecil is found to be undefiled with the folly of this unfortunate Duke of Somerset.” But Morysine, Cecil’s old Lincolnshire friend, the Ambassador in Germany, reflects, evidently with exactitude, the tone which Cecil must have adopted. He speaks of Somerset as the Secretary’s old friend, and congratulates Cecil that he has not been dragged down with him. “For it were a way to make an end of amity, if, when men fall, their friends should forthwith therefore be troubled.” He plainly sees, he says, that the mark Cecil shoots at is their master’s service; “A God’s blessing! let the Duke bear his own burden, or cast it where he can.”[39] Morysine might have saved his wisdom; Cecil would certainly bear no other man’s burden if he could help it.

Through all this critical time Sir William was indefatigable. His wife lived usually retired from the court, at their home at Wimbledon; but Cecil’s town house at Cannon Row, Westminster, was the scene of ceaseless business, for Petre, the joint-Secretary, was ill disposed, and did little. The Duchess of Suffolk, Lord Clinton, and all the Lincolnshire folk used Cecil unsparingly in[32] all their suits and troubles, and they had many. Cecil’s own properties were now very extensive, and were constantly augmented by purchases and grants. He had been appointed Recorder of Boston in the previous year (May 1551). Northumberland consulted and deferred to him at every point; Cranmer sent to him the host of Protestant refugees from Germany and France: no matter what business was in hand, or whose it was, it inevitably found its way into Sir William Cecil’s study, and by him was dealt with moderately, patiently, and wisely.

In the war of faiths he was the universal arbitrator, and his task was not an easy one. The clergy had sunk to the lowest depth of degradation, and cures of souls had been given by patrons to domestic servants, and often to persons unable to read. The returned refugees from Switzerland had many of them brought back Calvinistic methods and beliefs, and between their rigidity and the English Catholicism of Henry VIII. all grades of ritual were practised. Cranmer was at the head of a commission to settle a form of liturgy and the Articles for the Church, Cecil, of course, being a member. After immense labour, forty-two Articles were agreed upon—reduced to thirty-nine ten years afterwards—but before finally submitting them to Parliament and Convocation for adoption, Cranmer referred them absolutely to Cecil and Cheke, “the two great patrons of the Reformation at court.”[40]

In foreign affairs, also, Cecil arranged everything but the main line of policy which Northumberland’s plans dictated. We have seen how the question of aid to the Protestant princes of Germany was referred to his consideration, and the help refused. The subject was shortly made a much larger one by the utter defeat of the Emperor by his former henchman, Maurice of Saxony, and the invasion of Luxembourg by the French (July 1552). The[33] tables were now turned indeed. By the peace of Passau the Protestant princes extorted the religious liberty they had in vain prayed for, and it was seen that for a time Charles’s power was broken. A considerable party in England, faithful to old traditions, were in a fever of alarm at the growth of the power of France, and Stukeley told the King that Henry II. had confided to him his intention to capture Calais.[41]

The Emperor, ready to snatch at any straw, sent an ambassador to England in September 1552 to claim the aid to which, under the treaty of 1542, he was entitled from England if France invaded his territory. The whole question was referred to Cecil; and, as a specimen of his patient, judicial style, his report, as given in the King’s Journal, is reproduced here. It will be seen that he affects impartially to weigh both sides, but his fear of French aggression is made as clear as was prudent, considering Northumberland’s leanings.[42][34] Throughout the whole of his official life this was the way in which he dealt with all really important questions referred to him, and his leading principle was to[35] strike a middle course, which would allow England to remain openly friendly with the House of Burgundy without breaking with France, and to keep the latter power out of Flanders, while still defending Protestantism, which the ruler of Flanders was pledged to destroy.

How his actions usually squared with his axioms is seen, amongst other things, from his constant efforts to extend the commerce and wealth of England. Amongst the apophthegms which he most affected are the following:[43] “A realm can never be rich that hath not an intercourse and trade of merchandise with other nations,” and “A realm must needs be poor that carryeth not out more (merchandise) than it bringeth in.” In consequence of the privileges granted to the Hanse merchants, nearly the whole of the export trade of England had been concentrated into the hands of foreigners, and in the year that Cecil was appointed Secretary of State, the Steelyard Corporation is said to have exported 44,000 lengths of English cloth, whereas all the other London merchants together had not shipped more than 1100 lengths.[44] Cecil was in favour of establishing privileged cloth markets at Southampton and Hull, and of placing impediments on the exportation of cloths first-hand by foreigners, until the new markets had succeeded in attracting customers from abroad, so that the merchants’[36] profits would remain in England as well as the money spent here by the foreign buyers. Although this particular project ultimately fell through, owing to the King’s death and other causes, Cecil throughout his life laboured incessantly to increase English trade and navigation, by favouring the establishment of foreign weavers in various parts of the country, by laws for the protection of fisheries, by the promotion of trading corporations, like the Russian Company, of which he was one of the founders, by the rehabilitation of the coinage, and by a host of other measures, to some of which reference will be made in their chronological order.

The position of affairs during the last months of Edward’s life was broadly this: Protestant uniformity was being imposed upon the country with a severity unknown under the rule of Somerset; Northumberland’s plans for the elevation of Jane Grey to the throne were maturing; Southampton, Paget, Arundel, Beaumont, and the Catholics were in disgrace or exile; and De Noailles, the new French Ambassador, was working his hardest to help Northumberland, when the time should come, to exclude from the throne the half-Spanish Princess Mary. But though Sir William Cecil was the channel through which most of the business passed, he avoided as much as possible personal identification with Northumberland’s plans. It must have needed all his tact, for Northumberland consulted and deferred to him in everything, and as the time approached for him to act, was evidently apprehensive, and stayed away from the Council. This was resented by his colleagues, as will be seen from his letter to Cecil of 3rd January 1553[45] from Chelsea, saying that “he has never absented himself from the King’s service but through ill-health. The Italian proverb is true: a faithful servant will become a perpetual ass. He[37] wishes to retire and end his days in tranquillity, as he fears he is going to be very ill.” When it came to illness, diplomatic or otherwise, Cecil was a match for his master. He had been, according to his diary, in imminent danger of death in the previous year, at his house at Wimbledon; and in the spring of 1553 he again fell seriously sick. During May, Secretary Petre constantly wrote to him hoping he would soon recover and be back again at court. Lord Audley comforted him by sending several curious remedies for his malady, amongst which is “a stewed sowe pygge of ix dayes olde”;[46] and the Marquis of Winchester was equally solicitous to see the Secretary back to the Council again. Northumberland evidently tried to keep him satisfied by grants and favours, for he conferred upon him a lease of Combe Park, Surrey, part of Somerset’s lands; the lands in Northampton held for life by Richard Cecil, his father, were regranted to Sir William on his death, and during the Secretary’s illness and absence from court he received the office of Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, with an income of 100 marks a year and fees.[47] But Cecil’s illness, real or feigned,[48] made him[38] in no hurry to return and take a prominent part in Northumberland’s dangerous game, which was now patent. During his absence his brother-in-law, Sir John Cheke, was appointed as an additional Secretary of State to help Petre (June 1553), and his fervent Protestantism and weakness of will made him a less wary instrument than Sir William in the final stages of the intrigue.

It was during Cecil’s absence from court in May that Lady Jane Grey was married to Northumberland’s son Guildford Dudley;[49] but by the time the plot was ready for consummation, Sir William could stay away no longer, and was at work again in his office. The letter, dated 11th June 1553, addressed to the Lord Chief-Justice and other judges, summoning them to the royal presence, was signed by Cecil, as well as by Cheke and Petre. When the young King handed to the Chief-Justice a memorandum of his intention to set aside King Henry’s will, and leave the crown to the descendants of Henry’s youngest sister Mary, to the deprivation of his daughters, the Chief-Justice told him that such a settlement would be illegal. The King insisted that a new deed of settlement must be drawn up. The next day at Ely Place, when Northumberland threatened Chief-Justice Montagu as a traitor, Petre was present, but not Cecil; but he must have been at the remarkable Council meeting on the 14th June, when the Chief-Justice and the other judges with tears in their eyes were hectored into drawing up the fateful will disinheriting Mary and Elizabeth; for upon Northumberland insisting that every one present[39] should sign the document, he, Cecil, like the rest of them—with the honourable exception of Sir John Hales—dared not refuse, and appended his name to it. He was probably sorry that his illness did not delay him a little longer at Wimbledon, for shortly before he had, in a conversation with Roger Alford, one of the confidential members of his household, expressed an intention to be no party to a change in the order of the succession. Alford relates the story.[50] He was walking in Greenwich Park with Cecil, when the latter told him that he knew some such plan was in contemplation, “but that he would never be a partaker in that device.” If Alford is to be believed, Northumberland was from the first suspicious of Cecil’s absence. He says that the Secretary feared assassination, and went armed, against his usual practice, visiting London secretly at night only, and concealed his valuables. His household biographer also says that he incurred the particular displeasure of Northumberland “for mislyking or not consenting to the Duke’s purpose touching the Lady Jane.”[51] And Alford, in his testimony in Cecil’s favour, asserted that the latter told him that he had refused to sign the settlement as a Councillor, but only did so as a witness, which the paper itself disproves. The position of Cecil was indeed a most difficult one. He was not a brave or heroic man, he hated extreme courses, and this was a juncture where his usual non-committal via media was of no avail. Of the two evils he chose the lesser, and not only signed the settlement like the rest of the Councillors, but also the instrument[40] by which certain members pledged themselves on oath to carry it out. But though he, like others, was terrorised into bending to Northumberland’s will, it is certain that he disliked the business, made no secret of his unwillingness to acquiesce in it, and separated himself from it at the earliest possible moment that he could do so with safety. There is in the Lansdowne MSS.[52] a paper in Cecil’s hand, written after the accession of Mary, in which is contained his exculpation. As it throws much light on the matter, and upon Cecil’s own character, it will be useful to quote it at length. It is headed “A briefe note of my submission and of my doings.

“1. My submission with all lowliness that any heart can conceive.

“2. My misliking of the matter when I heard it secretly; whereupon I made conveyance away of my lands, part of my goods, my leases, and my raiment.

“3. I determined to suffer for saving my conscience; whereof the witnesses, Sir Anthony Cooke, Nicholas Bacon, Esq., Laurence D’Eresby of Louth; two of my suite, Roger Alford and William Cawood.

“4. Of my purpose to stand against the matter, be also witness Mr. Petre and Mr. Cheke.

“5. I did refuse to subscribe the book when none of the Council did refuse: in what peril I refer it to be considered by them who know the Duke.

“6. I refused to make a proclamation, and turned the labour to Mr. Throckmorton, whose conscience, I saw, was troubled therewith, misliking the matter.

“7. I eschewed writing the Queen’s highness bastard, and therefore the Duke wrote the letter himself, which was sent abroad in the realm.[53]


“8. I eschewed to be at the drawing of the proclamation for the publishing of the usurper’s title, being specially appointed thereto.

“9. I avoided the answer of the Queen’s highness’ letter.

“10. I avoided also the writing of all the public letters of the realm.

“11. I wrote no letter to Lord La Warr as I was commanded.

“12. I dissembled the taking of my horse and the raising of Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and avowed the pardonable lie where it was suspected to my danger.

“13. I practised with the Lord Treasurer to win the Lord Privy Seal, that I might by Lord Russell’s means cause Windsor Castle to serve the Queen, and they two to levy the west parts for the Queen’s service. I have the Lord Treasurer’s letter to Lord St. John for to keep me safe if I could not prevail in the enterprise of Windsor Castle, and my name was feigned to be Harding.

“14. I did open myself to the Earl of Arundel, whom I found thereto disposed; and likewise I did the like to Lord Darcy, who heard me with good contentation, whereof I did immediately tell Mr. Petre, for both our comfort.

“15. I did also determine to flee from them if the consultation had not taken effect, as Mr. Petre can tell, who meant the like.


“16. I purposed to have stolen down to the Queen’s highness, as Mr. Gosnold can tell, who offered to lead me thither, as I knew not the way.

“17. I had my horses ready at Lambeth for the purpose.

“18. I procured a letter from the Lords that the Queen’s tenants of Wimbledon should not go with Sir Thomas Caverden; and yet I never gave one man warning so much as to be in readiness, and yet they sent to me for the purpose, and I willed them to be quiet. I might as steward there make for the Queen’s service a hundred men to serve.

“19. When I sent into Lincolnshire for my horses, I sent but for five horses and eight servants, and charged that none of my tenants should be stirred.

“20. I caused my horses, being indeed but four, to be taken up in Northamptonshire; and the next day following I countermanded them again by my letters, remaining in the country and notoriously there known.

“21. When this conspiracy was first opened to me, I did fully set me to flee the realm, and was dissuaded by Mr. Cheke, who willed me for my satisfaction to read a dialogue of Plato where Socrates, being in prison, was offered to escape and flee, and yet he would not. I read the dialogue, whose reasons, indeed, did stay me.

“Finally, I beseech her Highness that in her grace I may feel some difference from others that have more plainly offended and yet be partakers of her Highness’ bountifulness and grace; if difference may be made I do differ from them whom I served, and also them that had liberty after their enforcement to depart, by means whereof they did, both like noblemen and true subjects, show their duties to their sovereign lady. The like whereof was my devotion to have done if I might have had the like liberty, as knoweth God, the searcher of[43] all hearts, whose indignation I call upon me if it be not true.

“‘Justus adjutorius meus Dominus qui salvos facit rectos corde’—‘God save the Queen in all felicity,’

“W. Cecill.”[54]

The document shows us the real William Cecil. It is probably quite true: he had taken care, whilst remaining a member of Northumberland’s Council, and openly acquiescing in his acts, to make himself safe in either case. Throgmorton and Cheke might be made scapegoats—as Davison was years afterwards—but Jane or Mary, Protestant or Catholic, the first consideration for William Cecil was not unnaturally William Cecil’s own head. He was probably not worse than the other members of the Council, for most of them acted in a similar manner, and when at length they turned against Northumberland, and openly declared for Mary, Sir William was safe to choose the winning side.

King Edward died at Greenwich on the 6th July 1553, and on the 10th, Lady Jane was proclaimed Queen by virtue of his settlement by patent.[55] Two days afterwards the Council in the Tower learnt that the Lady Mary was rallying powerful friends about her in Kenninghall Castle, Norfolk, and it was agreed that Queen Jane’s father, the Duke of Suffolk, should lead a force to capture and bring her to London. But the girl Queen begged so hard that her father might remain by her side that her tears prevailed; “whereupon the Councell perswaded the Duke of Northumberland to take that voyage upon him, saying that no man was so fit therefor, because[44] he had atchieved the victorie in Norfolk once already, … besides that, he was the best man of war in the realm.… ‘Well,’ quoth the Duke then, ‘since ye think it good I and mine will goe, not doubting of your fidelity to the Quene’s Majesty, which I leave in your custody.’”[56]

Northumberland hurriedly completed his preparations at Durham Place, and urged the Council to send powers and directions after him to reach him at Newmarket. He insisted upon having the warrant of the Council for every step he took in order to pledge them all; but at the farewell dinner-party with them it is clear that his mind was ill at ease, and his heart already sinking. He appealed humbly to his colleagues not to betray him. “If,” he said, “we thought you wolde through malice, conspiracie, or discentyon, leave us your frendes in the breers (briars) and betray us, we could as well sondery (sundry) ways foresee and provide for our own safeguards as any of you by betraying us can do for yours.” He reminds them of their oath of allegiance to Queen Jane, made freely to her, “who by your and our enticement is rather of force placed therein than by hir owne seking;” again points out that they are as deeply pledged on each point as he himself. “But if ye meane deceat, though not furthwith, God will revenge the same. I can say no more, but in this troblesome tyme wishe you to use constaunte hartes, abandoning all malice, envy, and privat affections.” Some of the Council protested their good faith. “I pray God yt be so,” quod the Duke; “let us go to dyner.”[57]

Cecil must have been present at this scene, and when Northumberland left London on his way to Cambridge, “none,” as he himself remarked, “not one, saying God spede us,” Sir William must have known as well, or[45] better, than any of them that the house of cards was falling, and that Northumberland was a doomed man. The moment he was gone, Cecil, like the rest of them, strove to betray him. The ships on the east coast declared for Mary, the people of London were almost in revolt already, the nobles in the country flocked to the rightful Queen. On the 19th July, Mary was proclaimed by the Council at Baynard’s Castle, and the joy was general: “the Earle of Pembroke threwe awaye his cape full of angeletes. I saw money throwne out at windowes for joy, and the bonfires weare without nomber,” says an eye-witness.[58] Sir John Cheke was present at this stirring scene, upon which he must have looked with a wry face; but, as we have seen by his submission, Cecil had already been busy trimming and facing both ways. He first sent his wife’s sister, Lady Bacon, to meet the new Queen, whom she knew, and as soon as might be himself started for the eastern counties, to greet the rising sun.[59] Lady Bacon had paved the way, and, to make quite sure, Cecil sent his henchman Alford ahead to see her at Ipswich, and learn what sort of reception her brother-in-law might expect. Her message was “that the Queen thought well of her brother Cecil, and said he was a very[46] honest man.” Then Sir William went on, and met Mary at Newhall, Essex, where he explained matters as best he could. When he was reproached with arming his four horsemen to oppose Queen Mary, he explained, as we have seen, that he himself had secretly caused them to be detained. No doubt the sardonic disillusioned Queen must have smiled grimly as she read the shifty, ungenerous “submission,” already quoted in full; and however “honest” she may have considered Lady Bacon’s brother-in-law, she knew he was not a bold man or a thorough partisan of hers, and when her ministry was formed, Cecil was no longer Secretary—but he did not, like poor Sir John Cheke, find himself a prisoner in the Tower.

Sir William’s entry in his journal on the occasion of the King’s death is a curious one,[60] and seems to indicate his general dislike of his position under Northumberland, whose home and foreign policy, as we have seen, were both diametrically opposite to those dictated by the training and character of Cecil.[61] The only point upon which there could have been a real community of aims between them was that of religion, and on that point Northumberland, who subsequently avowed himself a Catholic,[62] was false to his own convictions.


During the whole of the reign of Edward, Cecil had continued to enrich himself by grants, stewardships, reversions, and offices; not of course to the same extent as Somerset, Northumberland, Clinton, or Winchester, for he was a moderate man and loved safety, but on the accession of Mary he must have been very rich. During his mother’s life, which was a long one, he always looked upon Burghley House as hers, although he spent large sums of his own money upon buildings and improvements; but he inherited from his father large estates in Northamptonshire, Rutland, Lincolnshire, and elsewhere. We have already noticed that he obtained the Crown manor of Wimbledon and other grants; but, in addition to those already noted, he obtained, in October 1551, the period of Somerset’s sacrifice, grants of the manor of Berchamstow and Deeping, in Lincolnshire; the manor and hall of Thetford, in the same county; the reversion of the manor of Wrangdike, Rutland; the manor of Liddington, Rutland, and a moiety of the rectory of Godstow. He was a large purchaser of land also in the county of Lincoln; so that although his household historian asserts that his lands never brought him in more than £4000 a year, his expenses were on a very lavish scale, and he had, as his friend the Duchess of Suffolk says in one of her letters to him, brought his wares to a good market. By his embroiderer’s account, already quoted, we see that at this period of his life he maintained thirty-six servitors wearing his badge and livery; but in the time of Elizabeth his establishments were on a truly princely footing. He had eighty servants wearing his livery, and we are told that the best gentlemen in England competed to enter his service; “I have nombered in his howse attending at table twenty gentlemen of his retayners of £1000 per annum a peece, in possession or reversion, and of his ordinarie men, as many more, some[48] worth £1000, some worth 3, 5, 10, yea, £20,000, daily attending his service.”

But though acquisitive and fond of surrounding himself with the accessories of wealth and great standing, he had few of the tastes of the territorial aristocracy, whom he imitated. Arms, sport, athletic exercises, did not appeal to him. From his youth he dressed gravely and soberly; and at a time, subsequently, when splendour and extravagance in attire were the rule, he still kept to his fur-trimmed gown and staid raiment. He was an insatiable book buyer and collector of heraldic and genealogical manuscripts. Sir William Pickering in Paris, and Sir John Mason, had orders to buy for him all the attractive new books published in France; and Chamberlain in Brussels had a similar commission. The former mentions in one letter (15th Dec. 1551, State Papers, Foreign) having purchased Euclid with the figures, Machiavelli, Le Long, the New Testament in Greek, L’Horloge des Princes, Discours de la Guerre, Notes on Aristotle in Italian, and others; and the Hatfield Papers contain very numerous memoranda of books and genealogies bought by Cecil, or sent to him as presents from his friends and suitors. Wotton, for instance, when he was abroad and wished to oblige his friend, says: “If I knew anye kind of bookes heere (Poissy) which yow like, I wold bye them for yow, and bring them home with some of myne owne. Here is Clemens Alexandrinus and Theodoretus in Epistolas Pauli, turned into Latin. But because I heere that yow have Clemens Alexandrinus in Greek already, I suppose yow care not for him in Latin.”[63]

His love of study, too, extended to interest in others. He was a constant benefactor to Cambridge University, and St. John’s particularly, and influenced the King[64] to[49] bequeath £100 per annum to the foundation in his will. Shortly before the young King’s death, also, he appears to have granted to Cecil’s own town of Stamford—almost certainly at his instance—funds for the foundation of a grammar school there, of which Sir William was to be the life governor, and there is ample evidence that the establishment of the large number of educational benefactions with which the young King signalised his reign—primarily at the instance of Bishop Hooper—was powerfully promoted by Cecil; who seems also, on his own account, to have always maintained a certain number of scholars,[65] and to have been the universal resource of students, teachers, and colleges, in their troubles and difficulties. The accession of Mary, which threw Cecil out of office, or, as he puts it, gave him his liberty, did not deprive him of his large means, or limit his enlightened activity in other directions. But for a time after the death of Edward, he remained, so far as so prominent and able a man could do so, simply a private citizen. His household biographer asserts “that Mary had a good liking for him as a Councillor, and would have appointed him if he had changed his religion.” Although he puts a grandiloquent speech in Cecil’s mouth, refusing office, saying much about preferring God’s service before that of the Queen, it is extremely doubtful whether Mary ever offered to call him to her Council. Towards the end of her reign, when Elizabeth’s early accession was inevitable, however, the Council itself was desirous of conciliating him. Lloyd (“State Worthies”) says of him: “When he was out of place he was not out of service in Queen Mary’s days, his abilities being as necessary in those times as his inclinations, and that Queen’s Council being as ready to advance him at last as they were to use him all her reign.”

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved