Today is the birthday, in 1520, of the leading Elizabethan statesmen, William Cecil, Lord Burghley. He was born in Lincolnshire and his grandfather had served Henry VII, so service to the Tudors was in his blood.
William went to Cambridge which was a hotbed of Protestant thinking while he was there. He was active in government during the reign of the Protestant Edward, and when Catholic Mary came to the throne he had some serious explaining to do, but he managed to survive by attending Mass, and pretending to be a good Catholic. As he had nothing to do with the divorce of Mary’s mother Catherine of Aragon from Henry VIII, she accepted his conversion to Catholicism, and didn’t punish him for being a Protestant.
After Elizabeth became Queen, though, he was able to take off the mask, and reveal his true plans, which was mainly to create a united and Protestant British Isles, and he spent his life working for that. Derek Wilson (2013) says, "Few politicians were more subtle or unscrupulous than William Cecil." He was the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced many politicians including two Prime Ministers.
That’s your Tudor Minute for today. Remember you can dive deeper into life in 16th century England through the Renaissance English History Podcast at englandcast.com.
Related Episode Link:
Throwback Episode 027: Francis Walsingham, Spymaster
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