The Role of William Cecil in Tudor Government

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  • The Role Of Cecil in Tudor Government (c1520-98)
    • Summary
      • The working relationship that formed between Elizabeth and William Cecil, Lord Burghley was conditioned by Elizabeth's own personality and style.
        • This is similar to the situations of Wolsey and Cromwell, however unlike them, Cecil was able to sustain his position from 1558 until his own peaceful death in 1598.
      • Cecil came from a higher social class and was a member of the gentry and spent his entire career in royal service.
        • Cecil had a chequered political past, serving the Duke of Somerset until his fall 1549, and the transferring his service to the Duke of Northumberland.
          • By 1548, Cecil was already in contact with Elizabeth.
          • Despite this connection, he survived under Mary and by 1558 was perfectly placed to advise Elizabeth.
      • Cecil's career under Elizabeth was so long and successful because they were both naturally cautious and pragmatic in their approach.
      • Through the progression of his career, Cecil earned himself some enemies.
        • 1569- Court-based plot in which those of the nobility with Catholic sympathies e.g. Duke of Norfolk, sought to remove Cecil from power.
        • 1569- The Northern Rebels wanted to remove him from power because he was Pro-Protestant and they resented the amount of influence he had with the Queen.
        • Elizabeth always supported Cecil rather than his critics and also rewarded him with the title of Lord Burghley in 1571.
          • In return for his unwavering loyalty to her, Elizabeth allowed him to build up a network of supporters through patronage.
            • This meant that Cecil never became politically isolated and was not completely dependent on the Queen's will for political survival.
              • This does not mean that Cecil was more powerful than the Queen, their working relationship was based on trust  and understanding that was mutually beneficial.
    • Cecil's role in government and Relationship with Elizabeth
      • Cecil and Elizabeth had a close partnership that lasted until his death in 1598.
        • Until 1572, Cecil had the position of secretary of state.
          • This meant he had great influence because it gave him access to Elizabeth and her correspondence.
        • 1571- Cecil was created Lord Burghley and was able to sit in the House of Lords.
          • Could influence events in the Commons.
        • 1572- Cecil was made Lord Treasurer, retaining this post until his death.
      • Cecil was one of the most active members of Elizabeth's government.
        • As Treasurer, he organised the Council, managed parliament, controlled the exchequer and was a Justice of Peace in 5 counties.
        • Cecil was a politique, like Elizabeth.
          • Both recognised the need for stability and compromise, this formed the basis of their political relationship.
        • It was likely that Cecil was behind the 1559 'Device for the Alteration of Religion'.
          • Set out the religious problems faced by Elizabeth and proposed a settlement as soon possible.
      • Cecil was responsible for negotiating a peace treaty with Scotland in 1560.
        • Removed the presence of the French troops, (and therefore the threat of hostile invasion from North) and for setting up a Protestant government in Scotland, this neutralising the threat from England's traditional enemy.
          • Cecil achieved this despite Elizabeth's initial reluctance to intervene in foreign affairs.
            • He even threatened to resign to persuade her to change her mind.
      • Cecil remained dominant in government throughout his career.
        • A committed Protestant, in the 1570s and 1580s, he was one of the chief architects in attempts to tighten controls on English Catholics, despite Elizabeth's reluctance to follow this policy.
          • 1587- Cecil supported the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was in disgrace for weeks, but recovered.
        • Cecil was always cautious regarding religion, unlike fellow councillor Francis Walsingham, he did not wish to see the establishment of a more radical religious settlement.


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