Portrait of William Cecil (1620-1698), 1st Baron Burghley (1571), Secretary of State (1558-1572), Lord High Treasurer (1572-1598), Lord Privy Seal (1571-1572; 1590-1598), 1585
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (13 September 1520 – 4 August 1598) was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State (1550–53 and 1558–72) and Lord High Treasurer from 1572 to 1598. Burghley set as the main goal of English policy the creation of a united and Protestant British Isles. His methods were to complete the control of Ireland, and to forge an alliance with Scotland. Protection from invasion required a powerful Royal Navy. While he was not fully successful, his successors agreed with his goals. Cecil was not a political genius or an original thinker; but he was a cautious man and a wise counselor, with a rare and natural gift for avoiding dangers. In 1587, Cecil persuaded the Queen to order the execution of the Roman Catholic Mary Queen of Scots. Cecil was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire, in 1520, the son of Sir Richard Cecil, owner of the Burghley estate (near Stamford, Lincolnshire), and his wife, Jane Heckington. The Duke of Northumberland had employed Cecil in the administration of the lands of Princess Elizabeth. Before Mary died he was a member of the "old flock of Hatfield", and from the first, the new Queen relied on Cecil. He was also the cousin of Blanche Parry, Elizabeth's longest serving gentlewoman and close confidante. The Queen appointed Cecil Secretary of State. His tight control over the finances of the Crown, leadership of the Privy Council, and the creation of a highly capable intelligence service under the direction of Francis Walsingham made him the most important minister for the majority of Elizabeth's reign.
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