Thursday, August 4, 2011

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Death of Elizabeth's "spirit", William Cecil, Lord Burghley

On this day, August 4th 1598 William Cecil, Lord Burghley died. Burghley, whom the Queen called her "spirit" was Elizabeth's chief advisor in the privy council. Having served her brother Edward VI before her, Burghley was one of the first subjects Elizabeth appointed to her staff upon her ascension to the throne.

William Cecil, Lord Burghly, painted by Marcus Gheeraerts in the robes of the Order of the Garter c. 1585-1598.

Burghley served Queen Elizabeth I faithfully and selflessly from the beginning of his career, though he did initially harbor some doubts about her capability as a woman to rule alone. Eventually, Burghley (along with everyone else) abandoned pressuring Elizabeth to wed.

Burghley typically took a cautionary and methodical approach to matters of foreign policy. Queen Elizabeth favored preserving peace in her realm and avoiding conflict elsewhere at all costs, so she often turned to Burghley for advice on international relations.

Burghley was succeeded by his son, Robert Cecil, who had been training under his father for a number of years before his passing. Robert also proved hardworking and wise. Elizabeth endearingly nicknamed him her "pygmy" due to his small stature!

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Lord High Treasurer of England Bodleian Library, Oxford c. 1570. Image public domain.

Rest in Peace, Lord Burghley. You served your Queen and your country well!