There is, in any case, a gap in all known records with regard

It may be stated as an historical truism that great organic changes in
the relationship of human beings towards each other are usually preceded
by periods of quiescence and apparent stability, during which unsuspected
forces of preparation are at work. When the moment of crisis comes, the
unthinking marvel that men are ready, as if by magic, to accept, and,
if need be, to fight and die for, the new order of ideas. Although the
outward manifestation of it may be unexpected, yet, in reality, no vast,
far-reaching revolution in human institutions is sudden: only that the
short-sightedness of all but the very wisest fails to see the signs until
the forces are openly arrayed and the battle set.

The period of the struggle for religious reform in Europe was preceded by
such a process of unconscious preparation as this. Over a century elapsed
from the martyrdom of John Huss before the bold professor of Wittemberg
dared to denounce the Pope’s indulgences. It is true that during that
century, and before, satirists and moralists had often pointed the finger
of contumely at the corruption of the clergy and the lax discipline of
the Church, but no word had been raised against her doctrines. In the
meanwhile, the subterranean process which was sapping the foundations
of the meek submission of old, was progressing apace with the spread of
printed books and the revival of the study of Greek and Hebrew. By the
time that Luther first made his daring stand, the learning of cultivated
laymen, thanks to Erasmus and others, had far outstripped the cramped
erudition of the friars; and when at last a churchman thundered from the
Saxon pulpit his startling doctrine of papal fallibility, there were
thousands of men throughout Europe who were able to do without monkish
commentators, and could read the Scriptures in the original tongues,
forming their own judgment of right and wrong by the unobscured light of
the inspired Word itself.

Thus it happened that the cry for radical religious reform in 1517 found
a world waiting for it, and in an incredibly few years the champions of
the old and the new had taken sides ready for the struggle which was to
decide the fate of civilisation for centuries to come. By an apparently
providential concurrence of circumstances, the personal characters and
national ambitions of rulers at the same period were such as to enlist
the hardiest and most tenacious of the European peoples on the side of
freedom from spiritual and intellectual trammels; and eventually to ally
the idea of political emancipation and personal liberty with that of
religious reform, to the immense strengthening of both. The fight was to
be a long and varied one; it can hardly, indeed, be looked upon as ended
even now. Many of the combatants have fainted by the way, and both sides
have belied their principles again and again; but looking back over the
field, we can see the ground that has been won, and are assured that
in the long-run the powers of progress must prevail, as we hope and
believe, to the greater glory of God and the greater happiness of men.

The year 1520 saw the first open marshalling of the powers for the great
struggle, partly religious and partly political, which was to lead to the
triumph of the Anglo-Saxon race. In England, as yet, there was no whisper
of revolt against the authority of the papacy. The King had just written
his book against the new doctrines of Luther, which was to gain for him
the title of Defender of the Faith; Catharine, the Spanish Queen-Consort,
an obedient child of the Church, as became the daughter of Isabel the
Catholic, lived in yet unruffled happiness with her husband; whilst the
all-ruling Wolsey was plotting and intriguing for the reversion of the
triple tiara of St. Peter when Pope Leo should die. The first step to
the political rise of England was the election (June 1519) of young King
Charles of Spain to the imperial crown of Germany, in succession to his
grandfather, Maximilian of Hapsburg. The marriage of the new Emperor’s
father, Philip of Hapsburg, the heir of Burgundy, with Jane the Mad, the
heiress of Spain, had joined to her heritage Flanders, Holland, and the
Franche Comté, and had already upset the balance of power. Francis I. had
sought to redress matters by securing his own election to the empire,
but he had been frustrated, and he saw a Spanish prince in possession
of territory on every side of France, shutting her in. Naples had been
filched by greedy Ferdinand, and was now firmly Spanish, as Sicily had
been for centuries; the Emperor asserted suzerainty over most of Italy,
and, above all, over Milan, which Francis himself claimed and occupied.
It was clear that the expansion of France was at an end, and her national
decline must commence, unless the iron bands braced around her by the
Hispano-Germanic Empire could be broken through. It was then that the
importance of England as the potential balancing power between the
two great rivals became evident. Henry VIII. was rich in money, able,
ambitious, and popular. He had devoted all his great energy to improving
the resources of his country, and to reconstructing his navy; besides
which he held Calais, the key to the frontier battle-ground of Flanders
and France, and was as fully conscious of his rising importance as he was
determined to carry it to the best market.

It had been for many years the main point of English foreign policy to
counteract the unification of France by maintaining a close connection
with the House of Burgundy, as possessors of Flanders and Holland, the
principal markets for the English wool and cloth. This policy had drawn
England and Spain together when the inheritances of Spain and Burgundy
were united, and it had also led to the marriage of Catharine of Aragon
in England. But Henry’s desire to hold the balance, and Wolsey’s greed
and ambition, had made them willing to listen to the blandishments of
Francis, and to consent to the distrustful and pompous comedy of the
Field of the Cloth of Gold. Charles, the new Emperor, had shown his
appreciation of the threatened friendship between France and England,
by his Quixotic rush over to England to see Henry earlier in the year
(1520). His stay was a short one, only four days, but it was sufficient
for his purpose. He could promise more to Wolsey than Francis could, and
Henry’s vanity was flattered at the young Emperor’s chivalrous trust in
him. When Charles sailed from Dover, he knew full well that, however
splendid and friendly might be the interviews of the Field of the Cloth
of Gold, Francis would not have the King of England on his side in the
inevitable coming war, even if he did not fight against him.

This was the condition of English politics at home and abroad when
William Cecil first saw the light at Bourne, in Lincolnshire, on the 13th
September 1520. He came into the world at the opening of a new epoch both
for his country and for the general advancement of civilisation, and
before he left it the modern dispensation was firmly planted, in England
at least, owing in no small measure to his sagacity and statecraft.

In his after life, when he had become famous, Cecil drew up in his
own hand a private journal (now in the British Museum), in which he
endeavoured to set down in chronological order the principal events of
his life. It will be seen, by the specimen line reproduced under the
portrait, that he was in some confusion as to the year of his birth and
other events of his earlier years. The entry relating to his birth, as
first made, is against the year 1521, and reads, “13ᵒ Sep. Ego Gulielm.
Cecill natˢ sū, apud Burne in Com̄ Lincoln̄i;” but afterwards the date
was crossed out and entered above the line, so as to correspond with the
year 1520, whilst the blank against the year 1521 is filled in with the
mention of the arrival of the Emperor Charles V. in London on the 5th
June of that year. This also is a mistake, as the Emperor’s second visit
was in June 1522. The entry with regard to Cecil’s becoming a student
at Gray’s Inn in 1541 mentions that he was at that time twenty-one
years of age, so that it may be concluded that the year of his birth
was really 1520, although 1521 has usually been given by his earlier
biographers. There is at Hatfield a little book which appears not to
have been noticed or calendared, but which is, nevertheless, interesting
for purposes of comparison, as I conclude it to have been the foundation
or rough draft of the journal. It is a small perpetual calendar bound
up with a custom-house tariff: “Imprinted at London at the Longe Shop
adjoining St. Mildred’s Church in the Pultrie, London, by John Alde,
anno 1562.” In this calendar the entry relating to his birth runs thus:
“13ᵗʰ Sep. 1521. Ego Gul. Cecill natus sū: 13 Sept. 1521, between 3 and
4 P.M.;” whilst his entering Gray’s Inn is stated as follows: “6ᵗʰ May,
33 Henry VIII. Gul. Cecill veni ad Graye’s Inn.” No age is given in this
case, so that it may probably be concluded that on copying the entries
into his permanent journal he recollected the age at which he became a
law student, and then saw that he was born a year earlier than he had
originally thought, and at once corrected the statement he had written.

The question of his remote ancestry is of no great importance to the
purpose of the present book, although Cecil himself, who throughout
his life was a diligent student of heraldry and genealogy, devoted
considerable attention to it; and Camden was at the pains to trace
his descent to a Robert Sitsilt, a gentleman of Wales in the time of
William Rufus (1091). It may be sufficient for our purpose to adhere
to a written pedigree at Hatfield House annotated and continued by
William Cecil, which proves, so far as such documents can, that the
statements made by his opponents to the end of his life that he was of
“base origin,” were entirely untrue. This pedigree traces the descent
of the statesman’s great-grandfather Richard Sitsilt, who died in 1508
possessing considerable estates in Monmouthshire and Herefordshire, to
the ancient Welsh family of Sitsilt; but its interest and trustworthiness
really commences with Cecil’s own continuation of the pedigree from his
great-grandfather to himself. At the end of the engrossed genealogy he
has written, “Here endeth ye old Roole in parchmᵗ,” and “The contynuance
of ye line in ye heyres males untill this yere 1565.” This continuation
shows that his grandfather David, the third son of Richard Sitsilt,
came across England and settled at Stamford,[3] whilst his elder
brothers remained in possession of the ancestral acres at Alterennes,
Herefordshire. In the perpetual calendar at Hatfield, this David’s
death is recorded by his grandson as follows: “David Cecill avus meus
obiit Oct. 27 Hen. VIII.”[4] (1535). He was an alderman of Stamford,
and appears to have possessed a good estate in Lincolnshire, which he
purchased in 1507; and was appointed in 1512 Water-bailiff of Wittlesea
Mere, in Huntingdonshire, and Keeper of the Swans throughout all the fen

Soon after the accession of Henry VIII., David Cecil, the substantial
Lincolnshire squire, became a courtier, and was made one of the King’s
serjeants-at-arms. Thenceforward royal grants and offices came to him
plentifully, stewardships of crown lands, the escheatorship of Lincoln,
the shrievalty of Northampton, and the like, which must have added
greatly both to his wealth and his importance. No indication has ever
been given of the reasons for his court favour, but it may be conjectured
to have arisen from the friendship of his powerful neighbour Lord
Willoughby d’Eresby of Grimsthorpe, who married Maria de Sarmiento,
Queen Catharine’s dearest friend and inseparable companion; as the
connection between Lady Willoughby’s daughter, the Duchess of Suffolk,
and William Cecil, remained almost on a sisterly footing throughout the
lady’s life. In any case, David’s influence at court was sufficient
to obtain for his son Richard, the statesman’s father, a succession of
lucrative offices. He was one of the King’s pages, and is said to have
attended the sovereign to the Field of the Cloth of Gold a few months
before William Cecil was born, and he subsequently became Groom of the
Wardrobe, and Yeoman of the Robes. He, like the rest of the King’s
favourites, fattened on the spoils of the monasteries, and stewardships
of royal manors showered upon him. He was Constable of Warwick Castle,
Bailiff of Wittlesea Mere, and Keeper of the Swans, like his father, and
Sheriff of Rutland; and to add to his prosperity, he married the heiress
of William Heckington of Bourne, who brought to him the fine property of
Burghley adjoining his own estates at Stamford. When, therefore, William
Cecil was born in the house of his maternal grandfather at Bourne, he was
prospective heir to broad acres in a half-dozen counties, with almost the
certainty of advancement through court influence in whatever career he
might choose.

Little is known, or need be told, of Cecil’s early youth. He went to
school successively at Grantham and Stamford, and in May 1535, when he
was fifteen years of age, entered St. John’s College, Cambridge, to
embark upon deeper studies. His anonymous biographer, who lived in his
household in his later years, and can only have spoken by hearsay of
his college days, says[5] that he was so “diligent and paineful as he
hired a bell-ringer to call him up at foure of the clock every morninge;
with which early rising and late watchinge, and continuall sitting,
there fell abundance of humours into his leggs, then very hardly cured,
which was thought one of the original causes of his gowt.” It is, at
all events, certain that he threw himself with avidity into the studies
which were then especially claiming the attention of scholars, and in
a very short time became remarkable for his wide knowledge of Greek
especially, and for his extraordinary general aptitude and application.
It is said, indeed, that he gratuitously read the Greek lecture at St.
John’s before he was nineteen years of age. By good fortune it happened
that the University was at the time of his residence the centre of a
new intellectual movement, the young leaders of which at once became
Cecil’s chosen friends. Already the new learning had taken fast hold of
the brighter spirits, and although Luther’s works were openly forbidden,
they were secretly read by a little company of students who met for the
purpose at a tavern in Cambridge called the White Horse; Erasmus had
left memories of his teaching behind him at Queen’s, and Melancthon’s
books were eagerly studied. A brilliant young King’s scholar, named
Thomas Smith, read the Greek lectures at Queen’s College, and assembled
under him a band of scholars, such as have rarely been united at one
time. Cheke, Ascham, Matthew Parker, Nicholas Bacon, Bill, Watson, and
Haddon, amongst many others, who afterwards achieved fame, were Cecil’s
intimate companions; and Cheke especially, who belonged to the same
college, and was somewhat older, systematically helped him, doubtless for
a consideration. Cheke’s capacity was almost as remarkable as that of his
fellow King’s scholar, Smith. He was poor, but of ancient family, the son
of a college-beadle whose widow on his death had to maintain her children
by keeping a wine-shop in the town; although he subsequently became the
Regius Professor of Greek, and tutor to Edward VI., and, by the aid of
Smith, reformed the vicious pronunciation of Latin and Greek upon which
the Churchmen had insisted. Humble John Cheke was Cecil’s bosom friend,
and to his mother’s wine-shop the rich courtier’s son must often have
been a welcome visitor.

Details of his daily life are wanting, but he must have been a
well-conducted youth, for the amount of study he got through was
prodigious. Catharine de Medici, years afterwards (1563), spitefully told
Smith—then Sir Thomas, and an ambassador—that Cecil had had a son at the
age of fifteen or sixteen,[6] to which Smith, who must have known whether
it was true or not, made no reply; but she probably spoke at random, and
referred to Cecil’s early marriage. He left the University after six
years’ residence, without taking his degree. Whether his father withdrew
him because of his close intimacy with the family of the wine-shop
keeper, is not known, but is probable. In his own hand he states that he
was entered a student of Gray’s Inn, in May 1541, and that on the 8th
August of the same year he married Mary Cheke, of Cambridge, the sister
of his friend.[7] The next entry in the diary records, under date of 5th
May 1542, the birth of his eldest son, Thomas Cecil, his own age at the
time being twenty-two (Natus est mihi Thomas Cecil filius; cum essem
natus annos xxii.). In the Perpetual Calendar at Hatfield it is mentioned
that the child was born at Cambridge, so that it may be assumed that
Cecil’s wife still lived with her own people. The next entry to that
relating the birth of the future Lord Exeter, records the death of his
young mother thus: “22 Feb. 1543, Maria uxor mortua est in Domine, hora
2ᵃ nocte,”[8] and with this bare statement the story of Cecil’s first
marriage ends, though he never lost touch with or interest in the Cheke
family, who appear to have been equally attached to him.

It may be questioned whether Cecil went deeply into the study of law at
Gray’s Inn. It was usual to enter young gentlemen at one of the inns of
court to give them some definite standing or pursuit in London, rather
than with a view of their becoming practising lawyers. It is almost
certain from a statement of his household biographer,[9] that such was
the case with Cecil. “He alwaies praised the study of the common law
above all other learning: saying ‘that if he shoulde begyene againe he
would follow that studie.’” He probably passed much of his time about the
court; and his domestic tells a story of him in this connection, which
may well be true, but which rests upon his authority alone. He was, he
says, in the presence-chamber, where he met two chaplains of O’Neil, who
was then (1542) on a visit to the King; “and talking long with them in
Lattin, he fell in disputation with the priests, wherein he showed so
great learning and witt, as he proved the poore priests to have neither,
who weare so putt down as they had not a word to saie, but flung away no
less discontented than ashamed to be foiled in such a place by so younge
a berdless yewth.”[10] The chronicler goes on to say that the King being
told of this, Cecil was summoned to the royal presence, and delighted
Henry with his answers; Richard Cecil, the father, being directed by the
King to seek out some office or favour which might be bestowed upon his
clever son. The Yeoman of the Robes, we may be sure, was nothing loath,
and petitioned in William Cecil’s name for the reversion of the office of
_custos brevium_ in the Court of Common Pleas, which was duly granted,
and was the first of the future great statesman’s many offices of profit
received from the Crown.

At about the same time, or shortly afterwards (1544), Cecil’s connection
with the court was made closer by the appointment of his brother-in-law,
John Cheke, to be tutor to the young Prince Edward, and of his friend,
Roger Ascham, to a similar position to the Princess Elizabeth. A general
supervision over the studies of Prince Edward was entrusted to his
governor, Sir Anthony Cooke, who was one of the pioneers of the new
learning, and a member of the Protestant party in Henry’s court led by
Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, Prince Edward’s uncle. The secular
educational movement, which was now in full swing, had spread to the
training of girls of the upper classes. The working of tapestry and the
cares of a household were no longer regarded as the sole ends and aims of
a lady’s life, and it was a fashion at court for Greek and Latin, as well
as modern languages, to be imparted to the daughters of gentlemen of the
newer school. Amongst the first of the ladies to be thus highly educated
were the four daughters of Sir Anthony Cooke, who were afterwards to be
celebrated as the most learned women in England, at a time when education
had become a feminine fad under the learned Elizabeth. To the eldest of
these paragons of learning, Mildred Cooke, aged twenty, William Cecil was
married on the 21st December 1545, and thus bound himself by another
link to the rising progressive party at court.[11]

Already the struggle of the Reformation on the Continent had begun. The
Emperor, alarmed at the firm stand made by the Protestant princes of
the empire, had hastily made peace with Francis I., and had left his
ally the King of England in the lurch. The spectre of Lutheranism had
drawn together the lifelong rivals with the secret object of crushing
religious dissent, which struck at the root of their temporal authority.
The ambition of Maurice of Saxony, and disunion in the Protestant ranks,
enabled Charles to destroy the Smalkaldic league, and in April 1547,
after the battle of Muhlberg, to impose his will upon the empire. Henry
VIII. had deeply resented the desertion of his ally Charles V., when
in December 1544 he had been left to fight Francis alone, and during
the closing years of his life the Protestant influence in his Councils
grew stronger than ever. The old King died on the 28th January 1547.
Parliament was sitting at the time, but the King’s death was kept secret
for nearly three days, and it was Monday, 31st January, before Lord
Chancellor Wriothesley, his voice broken by sobs, informed the Houses
of Parliament that King Edward VI. had ascended the throne, under the
regency, during his minority, of the Council nominated in King Henry’s
will. The star of Seymour and the Protestants had risen, and soon
those papistically inclined, like Wriothesley, and Gardiner, Bishop of
Winchester, shed tears indeed for the master they had lost, schismatic
though he was.

With such friends in the dominant party as Cooke, Cheke, Cranmer, and
Seymour, it is not surprising that William Cecil’s career emerged from
obscurity and uncertainty almost as soon as the new Government was
established. For a young man of twenty-seven he had already not done
badly. His father was still alive, but in the first year of Edward VI.
the office of _custos brevium_, of which the old King had given him the
reversion five years before, fell in, and this brought him, in salary and
fees, £240 per annum (£6, 13s. 4d. salary and rest fees at the four law
terms), and in addition to this, according to his household biographer,
the Lord Protector appointed him his Master of Requests soon after
assuming power. That he held some such office from the summer of 1547 is
certain, as from that date forward great numbers of letters exist written
to him in relation to suits and petitions addressed to the Protector.
The office, as then constituted, appears to have been an innovation, as
being attached to Somerset’s personal household,[12] and intended to
relieve him from the trouble of himself examining petitions and suits. In
any case Cecil’s assiduity and patience appear thus early to have been
acknowledged, to judge by the tone of most of his correspondents, many
of whom belonged to a much more exalted social position than himself.
In June 1547 Sir Thomas Darcy informs him[13] that (evidently by order)
he had inquired into the love affair between “Mistress Dorothy” and the
young Earl of Oxford—who was a ward—and desires to know whether the
Protector wishes the match to be prevented or not; and in the following
month Lady Browne wrote to him in terms of intimate friendship, begging
him to use his influence with Somerset to appoint her brother to the
coming expedition to Scotland.[14]

The master and fellows of his old college, St. John’s, too, were
anxious to propitiate the rising official and to bespeak his interest
in favour of their foundation,[15] and the widowed Duchess of Suffolk
(Lady Willoughby) consulted him in all her difficulties. The war with
France was suspended, though the English forces holding Boulogne were
closely beleaguered, and Somerset’s greed was diverting the money which
should have been spent in war preparations; but in pursuance of the
traditional policy of England, it became a question almost of national
existence when it was seen that the French intrigues for the marriage of
the child Queen of Scots and the final suppression of the rising reform
party in Scotland were likely to succeed. Arran had signed the treaty
with Henry for the marriage of Edward and Mary; but he, and especially
the Queen-mother, Mary of Lorraine, had resisted the deportation of the
infant Queen to England. It is possible that some arrangement might
have been arrived at had not the ill-advised murder of Cardinal Beaton
and the subsequent anarchy given to the new King of France, Henry II.,
an excuse for armed interference in protection of the Catholic party.
Then it became incumbent upon the Protector to fight the Scots at all
hazards, or French influence over the Border threatened to become
permanent; a double danger, now that the religious question tended to
alienate England from her secular alliance with the House of Burgundy.
When Somerset made his rapid march upon Scotland with an army of 18,000
men, supported by a powerful fleet, in September 1547, his trusted
Cecil attended him in the capacity apparently of provost-marshal, in
conjunction with the chronicler of the campaign, William Patten.[16] The
decisive battle of Pinkie was fought on the 10th September 1547, and was
in a great measure won by the dash, at a critical moment, of the Spanish
and Italian auxiliaries whom Somerset had enlisted. According to the
“household” historian so often quoted,[17] Cecil narrowly escaped death
from a cannon shot at Pinkie, but no other mention of the fact is to be
found. It has been doubted whether at this time he held still the office
of Master of Requests, in which he is said to have been succeeded by his
old college friend Sir Thomas Smith,[18] but there was no break in his
close connection in some capacity with the Protector. About five months
after Pinkie, in a letter to Lord Cobham, Somerset calls him “my servant
William Cecill,”[19] and refers to letters written to him on his behalf;
and in June 1548 the powerful Earl of Warwick, who was soon to supplant
Somerset, writes to Cecil, almost humbly thanking him for forwarding some
request of his to the Protector.[20]

Cecil’s position, however, shortly after this becomes clearly defined,
and his personality emerges into full daylight. Against the year 1548 in
his journal, the only entry is as follows: “Mes. Sep. _co-optatus sū in
ofᵐ Secretarij_.” This has often given rise to confusion as to the date
of his first appointment as Secretary of State, but there is now no room
for doubt that the office to which this entry refers is that of Secretary
to Somerset; and the appointment, like that of Master of Requests, was
part of the Protector’s system of surrounding himself with a household as
near as possible modelled on that of the King.

Thenceforward everything that did not strictly appertain to the
official Secretaries of State went through the hands of Cecil, who in
the meanwhile was imbibing the traditions of statecraft which were to
guide him through life. Already the cabal against Somerset had been in
progress before he went to Scotland, and had caused him to hurry back
before he gained the full fruits of his victory at Pinkie. Mary of
Lorraine and the Scottish nobles had almost unanimously rallied now to
the French side, and had agreed to give the young Queen in marriage to
the Dauphin, whilst strong reinforcements were sent to Scotland from
France. Bound though he was to the extreme Protestant party, Somerset
was therefore obliged to turn to the arch-enemy of Protestantism, the
Emperor, for support and assistance. Charles had his hands full with his
vast new projects of universal domination for his son, and was postponing
the inevitable war with France as long as possible, and consequently
turned a deaf ear to Somerset’s approaches. Public discontent, artfully
encouraged by the Protector’s enemies, grew daily more dangerous. His
brother, the Lord Admiral, had sought to depose him, and fell a victim
to his own foolishness and ambition (20th March 1549). The attempt to
interfere with the religious service in the house of the Princess Mary
made Somerset even more unpopular, alienated the Emperor still further,
and enraged those who yet clung to the remnants of the old faith. Then
came the great rising in the West, the revolt of the commons throughout
Eastern and Central England against the enclosures carried out by the
land-grabbing crew that surrounded Somerset. In April 1549 Cecil was
trying to obtain a grant of the rectory and manor of Wimbledon, in which
he eventually succeeded, and he appears to have purchased at the same
time some fen lands near Spalding; but although he was in the midst of
affairs, and must have been the Protector’s right hand in most things, he
was sagacious enough at so dangerous a time to keep to the routine work
of his office, and avoided all responsibility on his own account.

When Warwick came back from his ruthless campaign against the peasants
of Norfolk, flushed with an easy victory, the idol of a discontented and
partly foreign soldiery, the time was ripe for him to strike his blow.
Gardiner and Bonner were in the Tower, the Catholic party were being
harried and persecuted throughout the country, the French and Scots in
Scotland were now strong and invincible, the French fleet dominated the
Channel, the town of Boulogne was known to be untenable; and, above
all, an unpaid victorious soldiery looked to Warwick as their champion.
Warwick himself laid the blame for all troubles and shortcomings upon
the Protector, and summoning the officers of his army to Ely Place,
constituted himself their spokesman for obtaining their pay. Through
Wriothesley—now Southampton—Somerset’s enemy, he persuaded the Catholics
that he disapproved of the religious pressure that was being exercised.
The first step taken openly for the overthrow of the Protector appears to
be a letter written by Warwick to Cecil,[21] on the 14th September 1549,
which shows, amongst other things, the high esteem in which the secretary
was held. “To my very loving friend, Mr Cecille,” it runs,—“These shall
be to desire you to be an intercessor to my Lord’s Grace that this
bearer, Thomas Drury, captain of nine-score footmen, serving the King’s
Majesty in Norfolk, should receive for them his pay for the space of two
months.” Warwick knew full well that no money would be forthcoming for
these men’s pay, and that the Protector was already being deserted by the
councillors, who were finding excuses for meeting with Warwick at Ely
Place rather than with Somerset at Hampton Court. At length the Protector
could shut his eyes no longer to the desertion. The only councillors
who were at Hampton Court with him were Cranmer, Sir William Paget, Sir
William Petre, and Sir Thomas Smith, Secretaries of State, and his own
secretary, William Cecil. The meetings at Ely Place and the growing storm
against him found Somerset unprotected and unprepared. On the 1st October
he issued a proclamation calling upon the lieges to muster and defend
the King; but most of his advisers near him deprecated the use of force,
which they knew would be fruitless against Warwick and the troops, and
his divided councils only resulted in the dissemination of anonymous
handbills and circulars stating that the King’s person was in danger from
Warwick, and the summoning of such nobles as were thought most likely
to be favourable to the Protector’s cause. Secretary Petre, who had
advocated an agreement, was on the 7th October sent to London to confer
with Warwick, but he betrayed his trust and returned no more. The King
and the Protector had in the meanwhile removed to Windsor for greater
security; but Warwick had gained the Tower and had conciliated the city
of London, and it was clear to all now, that Somerset’s power was gone.
All fell away from him, except only Sir Thomas Smith. The two principal
generals in arms, Lords Russell and Herbert, rallied to Warwick. Cranmer
and Paget, it is true, remained by the side of the Protector, but,
like Petre, they played him false. No word or sign is given of Cecil,
though he too remained with his master; but it is significant that all
the letters to Warwick at the time are in the handwriting of Sir Thomas
Smith, and at this moment of difficulty and danger sagacious Cecil
recedes into the position of a private secretary, sheltered behind the
responsibility of his master.

In vain Somerset, at the prompting of Cranmer and Paget, sought to
make terms with Warwick. Finding that Petre did not return to Windsor,
but that the Lords in London demanded unconditional submission, the
Protector, in the name of the King, sent Sir Philip Hoby on the 8th
October with an appeal _ad misericordiam_ to Warwick. “Marry,” says the
letter, “to put himself simply into your hands, having heard as he and
we have, without knowing upon what conditions, is not reasonable. Life
is sweet, my Lords, and they say you do seek his blood and his death.…
Wherefore, good my Lords, we beseech you again and again, if you have
conceived any such determination, to put it out of your heads, and
incline your hearts to kindness and humanity, remembering that he hath
never been cruel to any of you, and why should you be cruelly minded to

This appeal was supported by a passionate prayer from Smith to Petre
for clemency to the Protector. But Hoby also played false, and delayed
his return until Warwick had secured the formal adhesion of Russell and
Herbert. He then returned to Windsor with Warwick’s secret ultimatum to
Cranmer, Smith, and Paget, warning them to desert the Protector, or be
prepared to share his fate. Cranmer and Paget gave way, and washed their
hands of the betrayal; Smith stood firm, and faced the consequence;
whilst Cecil discreetly retired into the background, and apparently did
nothing, though he was certainly present when Hoby delivered his official
message, solemnly promising that no harm was intended, or would be done,
to Somerset or his friends; “upon this all the aforenamed there present
wept for joy, and prayed for the Lords. Mr. Comptroller (Paget) fell down
on his knees, and clasped the Duke about the knees, and weeping said,
‘O! my Lord, ye see now what my Lords be.’” Paget’s crocodile tears were
hardly dry before he sent a servant post-haste to London, saying that the
Protector was now off his guard, and might easily be seized. The next
day Somerset was a prisoner, and three days afterwards was in the Tower.
Smith, Cecil, Thynne, and Stanhope were placed under arrest in their own
apartments, whilst Cranmer, Paget, and Petre reaped the reward of their

When the Protector was sent to the Tower, all of his friends were made
his fellow-prisoners except Cecil. Smith was dismissed from his offices,
and threatened with the extreme penalty for treason; but Cecil, the
Protector’s right hand, through whom all his patronage had passed,
escaped punishment at the time[24] (13th October 1549). Warwick was
apparently an old friend of his father,[25] and had unquestionably a
great opinion of Cecil’s own application and sagacity. This may have
inclined him to leniency in his case, but for some reason not disclosed
he was certainly a prisoner in the Tower in the following month. In a
letter from his friend the Duchess of Suffolk, dated 16th November 1549
(Lansdowne MSS., 2, 24), she condoles with him for “the loss of his
place in _the Duke of Somerset’s family_,”[26] but says nothing to lead
to the idea that he is in prison. But in the holograph journal already
quoted, there is an entry—although, curiously enough, out of its proper
position, and opposite the year 1547, saying, “_Mēse Novēb aₒ 3ᵒ E vi.
fui in Turre_;” and his household biographer also records the fact as
follows: “In the _second_ year of K. Edward VI. he (Cecil) was committed
to the Tower about the Duke of Somerset’s first calling in question,
remaining there a quarter of a year, and was then enlarged;” but, as
has already been explained, this life was written in the minister’s old
age, and as he certainly was not in the Tower as a prisoner twice, the
imprisonment referred to must have been that of November 1549 (3rd Edward
VI.). There is, in any case, a gap in all known records with regard to
Cecil for several months after Somerset’s disgrace, and he evidently
had no share in public affairs for nearly a year after Warwick’s (now
Northumberland’s) rise, during which time Sir William Petre and Dr.
Wotton—who succeeded Smith—were joint Secretaries of State.

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
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 secr̄ 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 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 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 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 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 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
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, 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 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 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

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] 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 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’ 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 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 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
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 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

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

“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

“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

“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

“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 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 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
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 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

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
worth £1000, some worth 3, 5, 10, yea, £20,000, daily attending his

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 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.”

During the trial and execution of Northumberland and his accomplices,
Cecil remained prudently in the background. Gardiner, Norfolk, Courtney,
Bonner, and the other prisoners in the Tower were released. Home and
foreign policy changed, the Catholics were buoyed with hope, and the
Emperor’s Ambassador was in full favour, whilst the Protestants were
timorous and apprehensive, and the French Ambassador ill at ease, for his
King was at war with the Emperor, and had from the first endeavoured to
minimise the claims of Mary.[66]

On the 3rd August the new Queen entered London with her sister near her,
and preparations were at once set afoot for her coronation (1st October).
Cecil was no longer in office, and was commanded by the Queen to send
her the seals and register of the Garter on the 21st September;[67] but
he appears to have gone to the expense of new liveries for his servants
in honour of the occasion. Twelve of his servants were given garments
of the best cloth with badges, eleven received one and a quarter yards
of the best cloth each, with second-class cognisances, and nine more
had cloth of second quality, one coat being left with Lady Cecil to
bestow as she pleased.[68] On the same document Sir William himself has
made numerous notes as to the price of these materials, which, if we
did not already know it by many other testimonies, would prove that,
though his expenditure was great, he was careful of the items of it. His
father, the Yeoman of the Robes, had died in the previous year (1552),
and apparently the office had remained in abeyance, being temporarily
administered by Sir William. His neighbour Sir Edward Dymoke, of
Scrivelsby, Lincolnshire, had, in accordance with his tenure, to act as
champion at the Queen’s coronation, and was entitled to his equipment out
of the office of robes. A few days before the coronation ceremony Dymoke
applied for his outfit. Some of the articles were not on hand and had to
be bought of one Lenthal; and the champion begged Cecil to vouch for the
purchase, consisting of “a shrowd, a girdle, a scabbard of velvett, two
gilt partizans, a pole axe, a chasing staff and a pair of gilt spurs, the
value in all being £6, 2s. 8d.” Apparently Cecil took no notice of the
application, and in an amusing letter at Hatfield, the champion complains
bitterly, nearly two months after the coronation, that he could never
get his outfit. Cecil insisted upon a warrant from the Queen; but, said
Dymoke, he had received all his equipment without warrant at the previous
coronation, and he prays Cecil not to be “more straytor” than his father
was. He had his cup of gold, his horse, and trappings, and crimson satin,
without warrant then, and why, he asks, should one be required now. “I do
not pass so much of the value of the allowance as I do for the precedent
to hinder those who do come after me, if I do lose it this time.”

Cecil does not seem to have absented himself from court, though he
passed more of his time than hitherto at Wimbledon. Wyatt rose and fell;
Elizabeth and Courtney suffered under the Queen’s displeasure; Cheke
and Cooke went to exile; Cecil’s old friend the Duchess of Suffolk and
her husband Mr. Bertie fled to Germany; Carews, Staffords, Tremaynes,
Killigrews, Fitzwilliams, the ex-Ambassador Pickering, and hundreds
like them, took refuge abroad from the country over which a Spanish
King, with his half-Spanish Queen, were soon to be supreme. Cranmer,
Cecil’s friend from boyhood, and other Protestant Churchmen, filled
the rooms in the Tower vacated by those whom Cecil had been active in
prosecuting, but Cecil himself lived rich and influential, if no longer
politically powerful, and no hand was raised against him. That he was
a conforming Catholic is certain, quite apart from Father Persons’
spiteful description of his exaggerated devotion; “frequenting masses,
said litanies with the priest, laboured a pair of great beads which
he continually carried, preached to his parishioners in Stamford, and
asked pardon for his errors in King Edward’s time.” This statement of
itself would not suffice were it not supported by better evidence; but
although there is a dearth of such evidence at the beginning of Mary’s
reign, there is abundance of it later. At the Record Office, among
other papers of the same sort, there exists the Easter book for 1556,
headed, “The names of them that dwelleth in the pariche of Vembletoun
that was confessed and received the Sacrament of the altar;” the first
entry being, “My master Sir Wilyem Cecell, and my lady Myldread his
wyff;”[69] and Cecil’s accounts for this period contain many entries of
the cost of his oblations and gifts to the altar. He retained, moreover,
the benefices of Putney and Mortlake, of which he kept strict account;
and in August 1557 the Dean and Chapter of Worcester addressed a letter
of thanks to him for his annual contribution to his two churches, and
assured him of their willingness to accede to his wishes and increase the
stipends of the curates there.[70] There is therefore no doubt that, like
Princess Elizabeth and most of those who afterwards became her ministers,
Cecil was quite ready, in outward seeming at least, to adopt the ritual
decreed by the Court and Parliament.

Renard, the Emperor’s Ambassador, had broached the idea of a marriage
between Mary and Philip, the Prince of Spain, less than a week after
the Queen’s entry into London; and thenceforward the arrangements for
the match went forward apace. The people generally were in an agony of
fear; Gardiner himself, the Queen’s Chancellor, and most of her wisest
Councillors, looked coldly upon the idea; they would rather she had
married Courtney, and formed a close political alliance with the House
of Spain. But the Queen was a daughter of Catharine of Aragon, and the
exalted religious ideas of her race had caused her to look upon herself
as the divinely-appointed being who was to bring to pass the salvation of
her people, and this she knew could only be done by the power and money
that Spain could bring to her. The connection would enable her, too, to
be revenged upon France, which had befriended her mother’s supplanter,
and was still subsidising revolution against her. Those who were
Catholics first and Englishmen afterwards, applauded her determination
to wed her Spanish cousin; and the priests in Rome watched, from the
moment of her advent, for the possibility of the restoration of England
to the faith, and the disgorging of the plunder of the Church by those
who had swallowed it. Most of these saw in the Spanish match the probable
realisation of their hopes.

Immediately after Mary’s accession the Pope had appointed Cardinal Pole
to negotiate with these ends. He was an Englishman of the blood royal,
who had no special Spanish ends to serve: his one wish was to bring back
England into the fold of the Church. But before he started on his journey
to England, Charles V. took fright. His views were quite different. He
and his son wanted to get political control over England for their own
dynastic interests. So long as the religious element helped them in this,
they were glad to use it; but if the priests went too fast and too far,
and caused disgust and reaction in England, their plans would fail. So,
as usual when it was a choice between religion and politics by statesmen
of that age, they chose politics. The difficulty was that the Churchmen
had expected that the return of England to the fold would necessarily
mean the restitution of all ecclesiastical property. Pole himself was
full of this idea, and his first powers from the Pope gave him little
or no discretion to abate the claim for entire and unconditional
surrender of the Church plunder. But at the instance of the Emperor,
the Pope was induced to grant to Pole full discretionary powers. Then
he was persuaded to send the Legate to France and Brussels on his way
to England, with the ostensible purpose of mediating a peace between
France and the Emperor, but really in order that he might be influenced
in the Spanish interest, and his departure for England was thus delayed
until it was considered prudent to let him go. It was not until he had
promised that he would only act in accordance with the advice of the new
King-consort, Philip, that he was permitted to proceed on his mission,
with the certainty now, that the restitution of the Church property
would go no further than was dictated by the political interests which
the Emperor had nearest his heart. This happened in November 1554, four
months after the Queen’s marriage, and the somewhat curious choice of
Paget (Lord Privy Seal), Sir Edward Hastings, and Sir William Cecil, was
made to go and meet the Legate at Brussels, and bring him to England.
Their instructions,[71] evidently inspired by Philip, who was still in
England, entirely confirm the above view of the subject. The envoys are
to seek the Cardinal, and “to declare that the greatest, and almost the
only, means to procure the agreement of the noblemen and others of our
Council (to the re-entry of England into the Church) was our promise
that the Pope would, at our suit, dispense with all possessors of any
lands or goods of monasteries, colleges, or other ecclesiastical houses,
to hold and enjoy quietly the same, without trouble or scruple.” Herein
the influence of the politicians is clearly visible; and the Churchmen
for fifty years afterwards attributed the failure of Catholic attempts
in England to God’s anger at this paltering with the plunder of His
property.[72] Cecil’s voyage was a short one. The entry in his journal
runs thus: “_1554. viᵒ Novembris (ii. Mariæ) capi iter cum Domino Paget
et Magistro Hastings versus Casarem pro reducendo Cardinale_;” but in the
little Perpetual Calendar at Hatfield the voyage is noted in English.
The journal continues: “_Venimus Bruxelles 11 Novēbris_;” and then,
“_Redivimus 24ᵒ Westmonsterij cū Card. Polo_.”

No more is said of the events of the journey, or of Cecil’s negotiations
with the Cardinal; but it may be surmised that Pole at first would not
look very favourably upon Sir William, as during the correspondence with
Somerset, in which Pole exhorted the Protector to desist from troubling
Catholics, a somewhat rude communication was sent to him, which in his
reply he attributed, not to the Protector himself, but to Cecil. It is
probable that Cecil was chosen, because, though outwardly a Catholic,
his views were known to be extremely moderate, and at the moment it was
these views which were most in accordance with the interests of England
and Spain from the point of view of the Emperor and his son. It may
be assumed that a similar reason accounts for Cecil’s appointment in
the following May, 1555, to accompany the Cardinal to Calais, for the
purpose of negotiating for a peace between France and the Emperor. Pole
had offered the mediation of England to Noailles some months before, but
the lukewarmness of the Emperor, the delay in the appointment of his
envoys, and the French military successes in Piedmont, had dragged the
matter out whilst an infinity of questions of procedure and personality
were being slowly settled. The French Ambassador protested against the
appointment of the Earl of Pembroke or the Earl of Arundel, especially
the latter, a vain, giddy man, and a friend of Spain, to accompany the
embassy. Gardiner, he said, would be sufficient to represent English
interests, with Pole as Papal Legate; and the addition of either of the
Earls or of Paget was looked upon as an indication of a desire rather to
pick a fresh quarrel with France than to negotiate a peace.

Cecil would appear to have occupied quite a secondary position in the
embassy, as he is never mentioned in the correspondence between the
French envoys Constable Montmorenci and Cardinal Lorraine and Noailles
describing the meetings. In any case, the negotiations, which took place
at Marcq, equidistant from Calais, Ardres, and Gravelines, speedily fell
through, and by the 26th June the attempt was abandoned; in consequence
mainly of the insistence of the Emperor in the restoration of the Duke
of Savoy to his dominions then occupied by the French. The apprehensions
of the French Ambassador had not been entirely unfounded. It had been
Philip’s intention to ask the Parliament of 1554 for England’s armed aid
in favour of the Emperor, but the indiscreet zeal of the Churchmen had
already brought about reaction, and the Parliament was hastily dissolved.
In the new Parliament of 1555, Cecil was elected, as he insinuates not by
his own desire, Knight of the Shire for Lincoln. In the previous year
(February 1554) he had requested the aldermen of the borough of Grantham
to elect a nominee of his their member. What would, no doubt, have been
a command when he was Secretary of State in the previous reign, could be
disregarded under Mary, and the aldermen politely informed him that they
had already made other arrangements.[73] It is quite understandable that
to so prudent a man as Cecil it would have been much more agreeable to
have been represented by a nominee than to have sat personally in the
Parliament of 1555.

The Queen’s pregnancy had turned out a delusion. It was seen by the
Spaniards now that the Queen herself was but a puppet in the hands of the
Council, and that Philip would never be allowed to rule England, as had
been intended, solely for the benefit of Spanish interests. The imperial
plot had failed; and on the 26th August 1555, the King-consort took leave
of his heartbroken wife, and went to his duties elsewhere. As soon as he
had gone, as Renard had wisely foretold, all barriers of prudence which
had hitherto, to some extent, restrained the persecution of Protestants,
were broken down. Philip left with the Queen strict instructions for the
administration of affairs, and notes of all Council meetings were sent
to him, in order that he might still keep some control. But Cranmer was
arraigned, Ridley and Latimer were martyred, the restitution of alienated
tithes, first-fruits, and tenths was proposed, the Protestant exiles
abroad were recalled, under pain of confiscation of their property, the
bishops were deprived, and throughout England the flames of persecution
soon spread unchecked.

What King Philip wanted were English arms and money, to aid his father
in the war, not the fires of Smithfield, or the blind zeal of the
priests to set men’s hearts against the cause of Rome, which was his
main instrument. But the Parliament of 1555 and the Queen’s Council were
determined to withhold aid to the Emperor’s war as long as they could.
Money there was none, the English ships were rotting and unmanned in
port, men-at-arms were sulky at the idea of fighting for the Spaniard;
but burning Protestants and confiscating recusants’ property cost
nothing, and so the game went on in despite of absent Philip. Amongst the
threatened exiles in Germany were many of Cecil’s friends, especially
the Duchess of Suffolk and Sir Anthony Cooke, who kept up a close
correspondence with his son-in-law, but refused to conform and return
to England. Whether it was the enactment against these friends,[74] or
some other of the confiscatory or extreme measures of the Government,
that Cecil opposed in the Parliament of 1555, is not quite certain; but
an entry in his diary shows that he was in extreme peril as a result of
his action.[75] The entry is, as usual, in Latin. “On the 21st October,
Parliament was celebrated at Westminster, in which, although with danger
to myself, I performed my duty; for although I did not wish it, yet being
elected a Knight of the Shire for Lincoln, I spoke my opinion freely, and
brought upon me some odium thereby; but it is better to obey God than
man.” The household biographer gives a fuller account of what probably is
the same matter: “In this Parliament (1555) Sir William Cecil was Knight
for the County of Lincoln. In the House of Commons little was done to the
liking of the court. The Lords passed a bill for confiscating the estates
of such as had fled for religion. In the Lower House it was rejected with
great indignation. Warm speeches were made on this, and other occasions,
particularly in relation to a money bill, in all of which Sir William
Cecil delivered himself frankly.”[76] One day, especially, a measure
was before the House which the Queen wished to pass, and Sir William
Courtney, Sir John Pollard, Sir Anthony Kingston, with other men from the
west, opposed. Sir William Cecil sided with them and spoke effectively,
and after the House rose they came to him and invited themselves to dine
with them. He told them they would be welcome “so long as they did not
speak of any matter of Parliament.” Some, however, did so, and their host
reminded them of the condition. The matter was conveyed to the Council,
and the whole of the company was sent for and committed to custody. Sir
William himself was brought before his late colleagues and friends, Lord
Paget and Sir William Petre. He said he desired they would not do with
him as with the rest, which was somewhat hard, namely, to commit him
first, and then hear him afterwards, but prayed them first to hear him,
and then commit him if he were guilty; whereupon Paget replied, “You
spake like a man of experience;” and Cecil, as usual, cleared himself
from blame.[77]

During this period Cecil divided his time between Cannon Row, Wimbledon,
and Burghley, occupying himself much whilst in the country with farming
and horticulture. His accounts are very voluminous, and are frequently
annotated in his own hand. Every payment is stated under its proper
head—kitchen, cellar, buttery, garden, and so forth; and the whole of the
household supplies, whether, as was usual, taken from his own farm, or
purchased, are duly accounted for at current prices. The dinner-hour of
the family was 11 A.M., before which prayer was read in the chapel, and
the supper was served at 6 P.M.; these rules being observed at all his
houses, whether he was in residence or not. His charities were always
large, and in his later years reached an average of £500 a year; and
wherever he had property there was a regular system of distribution of
relief to the needy in the neighbourhood. His most intimate friends were
still some of the first people in England. As a moderate man he had now
commended himself to Pole; Lord Admiral Clinton, a great Lincolnshire
magnate, was evidently by his letters on terms of familiarity with him;
the Earl of Sussex, the Viceroy of Ireland, expressed himself anxious to
do him service;[78] Sir Philip Hoby and Lord Cobham vied with each other
in inducing him and Lady Cecil to visit them at their respective Kentish
seats; and Lord John Grey, on the occasion of his wife being delivered
of a “gholly boye,” begs Cecil to stand godfather to the infant.[79]
Cecil’s wife had already given birth to a daughter, and in the Calendar
Diary at Hatfield an entry against 5th December 1556 records, “Natus
est Anna Cecil,” which event somewhat disappointed both Cecil and his
father-in-law, Cooke, in his exile, as they had earnestly looked for
a son. Cecil must have been a devoted husband, though probably an
undemonstrative one, as the letters of Sir Anthony Cooke always praise
him for his goodness, both to his daughter and to himself in his poverty
and banishment. Sir Philip Hoby, in one of his hearty letters during Lady
Cecil’s confinement, expresses sorrow that Sir William cannot visit him.
“You should have been welcome if my Lady might have spared you, to whom
you have been as good a nurse as you would have her be to you;”[80] and
seven weeks later he writes again (21st February), advising Cecil “to
come abroad, and not tarry so long with my Lady, and in such a stinking
city, the filthiest of the world.” Sir Nicholas Bacon and his wife, Lady
Cecil’s sister, were also frequent and kindly correspondents; and the
Countess of Bedford, who with her children were left by her husband to
Cecil’s care on the Earl’s departure in command of the English contingent
to aid the Emperor, referred all her business to him.[81] Cecil’s life,
indeed, at this period was that of a noble of great wealth and influence,
surrounded by friends, occupied with the details of large estates and
with studious pursuits, in great request as trustee and intermediary
for other people’s affairs, openly conforming in religion, but of
acknowledged moderate views, and keeping on fairly good terms with
the party in power, as did Sir Nicholas Bacon, Sir Thomas Smith, Roger
Ascham, and others in similar case.

But there was one element of Cecil’s activity to which no undue
prominence was given, although it was great and continuous—namely, his
communications with the Princess Elizabeth and his prudent efforts in
her favour. From his first official employment at court, he had been
appealed to by the Princess in questions requiring discretion. When he
was Secretary to the Protector (25th September 1549), Parry, the cofferer
and factotum of Elizabeth, wrote to him the letter which has often been
quoted,[82] in which he gives an account of the visit of the Venetian
Ambassador to Ashridge: “Hereof her Grace hath, with all haste, commanded
me to send unto you, and to advertise you, to the intent forthwith it may
please you, at her earnest request, either to move my Lord’s Grace, and
to declare unto him yourself, or else forthwith to send word in writing,
that her Grace may know thereby, whether she shall herself write thereof
… and in case ye shall advise her Grace to write, then so forthwith to
advertise her Grace.… Herein she desires you to use her trust as in
the rest.” It will be seen by this that Cecil was then considered by
Elizabeth as her friend. Another letter from Parry (September 1551)[83]
is still more cordial: “I have enclosed herein her Grace’s letters, for
so is her Grace’s commandment, which she desires you, according to her
trust, to deliver from her unto my Lord’s Grace, taking such opportunity
therein by your wisdom as thereby she may … hear from his Grace.… Her
Grace commanded me to write this. ‘Write my commendations in your letters
to Mr. Cecil that I am well assured, though I send not daily to him, that
he doth not, for all that, daily forget me; say, indeed, I assure myself
thereof.’… I had forgotten to say to you that her Grace commanded me to
say to you for the excuse of her hand, that it is not now as good as
she trusts it shall be; her Grace’s unhealth hath made it weaker and so
unsteady, and that this is the cause.”

Elizabeth, in common with most other people, was also very anxious to put
her business affairs into Cecil’s hands, and in such matters as leases,
sales of timber of her manors, and the like, Sir William’s services and
advice were often requisitioned by her. In April 1553 she had serious
complaints to make of extortion and malversation on the part of the
steward (Keys) of certain of her manors which had been dedicated to
the support of the hospital of Ewelme; and she appointed Cecil as the
principal member of a committee to examine closely into the whole matter,
“as her Grace is determined to remove the violence and oppression,
and to have the poor thoroughly considered.”[84] At the time that
Northumberland was casting about for a foreign husband for Elizabeth,
some prince who, though of Protestant leanings, should not be powerful
enough to force her claims to the crown, Cecil seems to have suggested
the Duke of Ferrara’s son Francesco, but the proposal came to nothing.
It may, however, be accepted as certain that the intrigues of Noailles
on the one hand to pledge Elizabeth to marry Courtney, as proposed by
Paget, and the persistent attempts of the Spanish party to pledge her to
Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, found no support from Cecil, since
one marriage would have played into the hands of France, and the other
would have rendered the Catholics permanently supreme in England; and, as
has already been seen, Cecil’s great principle was to keep his country
as far as possible free, both from Rome and from France. The consummate
dexterity exhibited by Elizabeth during the troubled reign of Mary was
exactly of a piece with Cecil’s own management of his affairs at the
same period; and although there is no proof that he in any way guided
her action, it is in evidence that she kept up communication with him on
many subjects, and it is in the highest degree probable that she asked
his advice on the vital points, upon which on several occasions her very
life depended. Camden expressly says that she did so, and he is confirmed
by Cecil’s household biographer; but if it be true, it must have been
done with great caution and care, for Cecil to have escaped, as he did,
all suspicion when Elizabeth herself was deeply suspected after Wyatt’s
rising. Cecil’s advice to the Princess, if given at all, was probably to
do as he himself endeavoured to do; namely, to conform as much as might
be necessary for her safety, and to avoid entanglements or engagements
of every description. This at all events was the course they both
successfully followed.

Philip had at last dragged England into war against the wish of the whole
of the Council except Paget, though the King had reluctantly to come and
exert his personal influence on his wife before it could be done. At the
beginning of July 1557 he left her for the last time, and in a month
the victory of St. Quentin gave him the great chance of his life. He
hesitated, dallied, and missed it; the English contingent sulky, unpaid,
and discontented—the Spaniards said cowardly—clamoured to go home, and
Philip, not daring to add to his unpopularity in England, let them go.
Calais and Guînes fell before the vigour of Francis of Guise (January
1558), for the fortresses had been neglected both by Northumberland
and Mary. When it was already too late, the King had urged the English
Council to send reinforcements; but his envoy, Feria, crossed the Channel
at the same time as the news that the last foothold of England on the
Continent had gone.

Thenceforward it was evident that Mary’s days were numbered, and eyes
were already looking towards her successor. The war, never popular in
England, became perfectly hateful. The people growled that waggon-loads
of English money were being sent to Philip, and the Council, almost to
a man, resisted as much and as long as they dared, Philip’s constant
requests for English aid. When Parliament and the Council had been
cajoled and squeezed to the utmost, Feria left in July 1558 to join
his master; but before doing so, he thought it prudent to pay a visit
to Madame Elizabeth at Hatfield, with many significant hints of favour
from his King in the time to come; none of which the Princess affected
to understand. A few weeks before the Queen died, peace negotiations
were opened between England, France, and Spain; the foolish Earl of
Arundel, Dr. Thirlby (Bishop of Ely), and Cecil’s friend Dr. Wotton being
sent to represent England. On the 7th November the Queen was known to
be dying, and the Council prevailed upon her to send a message to her
sister confirming her right to succeed. Feria arrived a few days before
unhappy Mary breathed her last, and already he found that “the people
were beginning to act disrespectfully towards the images and religious
persons.”[85] From the 7th November until the Queen died, on the 17th,
matters were in the utmost confusion. All the bonds were breaking, and no
man knew what would come next. The Council had for months been drifting
away from Philip, and during the Queen’s last days were openly turning
to her Protestant successor.

But their duty kept them mostly at court; whereas Cecil, being free from
office, went backwards and forwards between Cannon Row and Hatfield,
making arrangements for the formation of a new Government when the
sovereign should die. Feria writes that on the day the new Queen was
proclaimed (17th November 1558), the Council decided that Archbishop
Heath, Lord Admiral Clinton, the Earls of Shrewsbury, Pembroke, and
Derby, and Lord William Howard should proceed to Hatfield, whilst the
rest stayed behind; “but every one wanted to be the first to get out.”
When they arrived at the residence of the young Queen, Cecil was already
there and the appointments decided upon. Cecil was the first Councillor
sworn, and was appointed Secretary of State;[86] the others mentioned
above, with Paget and Bedford, being subsequently admitted; and the
faithful Parry, her cofferer, elevated to the post of Controller of the
Household; whilst Lord Robert Dudley, the son of Northumberland, Cecil’s
former patron, was made Master of the Horse.

The Catholics, and especially the Spanish party, were in dismay. Changes
met them at every turn. The Councillors who had fattened on Philip’s
bribes, turned against him openly, although some few, like Lord William
Howard (the Lord Chamberlain), Clinton, and Paget, secretly offered
their services for a renewed consideration. But it soon became evident
that the two men who would have the predominant influence were Cecil and
Parry, and they had never yet been bought by Spanish money. Only a week
after the Queen’s accession, Feria wrote to Philip:[87] “The kingdom is
entirely in the hands of young folks, heretics and traitors, and the
Queen does not favour a single man … who served her sister.… The old
people and the Catholics are dissatisfied, but dare not open their lips.
She seems to me incomparably more feared than her sister, and gives her
orders, and has her way, as absolutely as her father did. Her present
Controller, Parry, and Secretary Cecil, govern the kingdom, and they tell
me the Earl of Bedford has a good deal to say.”

Before entering London from Hatfield, the Queen stayed for a day or
two at the Charterhouse, then in the occupation of Lord North. All
London turned out to do her honour, and she immediately made it clear
to onlookers that she meant to bid for popularity and to depend upon
the good-will of her subjects. On the 26th or 27th November the Spanish
Ambassador went to the Charterhouse to salute her. He had been under Mary
practically the master of the Council; but the new Queen promptly made
him understand that everything was changed. Instead of, as before, having
right of access to the sovereign when he pleased, he found that in future
he and his affairs would be relegated to two members of the Council, and
when he asked which two, the Queen replied, Parry and Cecil. Feria did
his best to conciliate her—gave her some jewels he had belonging to the
late Queen, and so forth; but when he mentioned that a suspension of
hostilities had been arranged between the French and Spanish, she thought
it was a trap to isolate her, and she dismissed the Ambassador coldly.
When she had retired, Feria called Cecil and asked him to go in at once
and explain matters to her, “as he is the man who does everything.” The
effects of Cecil’s diplomacy were soon evident. The Queen smiled and
chatted with Feria, took with avidity all the jewels he could give her,
coyly looked down when marriage was mentioned, but would pledge herself
to nothing. “She was full of fine words, however, and told me that when
people said she was ‘French,’ I was not to believe it;”[88] but when the
Ambassador treated such a notion as absurd, and endeavoured to lead her
on to say that her sympathies were with Spain and against France, she
cleverly changed the subject. Her sister, she said, had been at war with
France, but she was not.

As has already been said, when the deputation of the Council arrived
at Hatfield, Cecil was there before them, and had conveyed the news of
her accession to the Queen. Naunton[89] says that when she heard it she
fell on her knees and uttered the words, “_A Domino factum est illud, et
est mirabile in oculis nostris_.” But whether this be true or not, it
is certain that the intelligence did not come upon her as a surprise;
for Cecil had already drawn up for her guidance a document which still
exists,[90] providing for the minutest details of her accession. Some of
these provisions were rendered unnecessary by the universal and peaceful
acceptance of the new sovereign; but they exhibit the care and foresight
which we always associate with the writer. The note runs as follows: 1.
To consider the proclamation and to proclaim it, and to send the same
to all manner of places and sheriffs with speed, and to print it. 2. To
prepare the Tower and to appoint the custody thereof to trusty persons,
and to write to all the keepers of forts and castles in the Queen’s name.
3. To consider for the removing to the Tower, and the Queen there to
settle her officers and Council. 4. To make a stay of passages to all the
ports until a certain day, and to consider the situation of all places
dangerous towards France and Scotland, especially in this change. 5. To
send special messengers to the Pope, Emperor, Kings of Spain and Denmark,
and the State of Venice. 6. To send new commissioners (commissions?) to
the Earl of Arundel and Bishop of Ely (the peace envoys), and to send one
into Ireland with a new commission; the letters under the Queen’s hand
to all ambassadors with foreign princes to authorise them therein. 7. To
appoint commissioners for the interment of the late Queen. 8. To appoint
commissioners for the coronation and the day. 9. To make continuance
of the term with patents to the Chief-Justice, Justices of each Bench,
Barons, and Masters of the Rolls, with inhibition. _Quod non conferant
aliquod officium._ 10. To appoint new sheriffs under the Great Seal.
11. To inhibit by proclamation the making over of any money by exchange
without knowledge of the Queen’s Majesty, and to charge all manner of
persons that have made, or been privy to any exchange made, by the space
of one month before the 17th of this month. 12. To consider the preacher
of St. Paul’s Cross, that no occasion be given by him to stir any dispute
touching the governance of the realm.

It will be seen that every necessary measure for carrying on peaceably
the government and business of the country is here provided for. Within
a week of the Queen’s accession the religious persecutions all over the
country had ceased, and a few days later all persons who were in prison
in London as offenders against religion had been released on their own
recognisances. The Queen had already foreshadowed her dislike to the
harrying of Protestants by refusing her countenance to Bonner, the Bishop
of London, when, with the other bishops, he met her on her approach to
London. The English refugees were flocking back home from Germany and
Switzerland; and though, for the most part, the religious services were
continued without marked change,[91] the Catholics saw that the day of
their tribulation was coming, and were filled with indignation and fear.
The measures suggested by Cecil as to the appointment of the preacher
at Paul’s Cross were doubtless adopted,[92] for there was no violent
ecclesiastical pronouncement against the tendency of the new Government
until the funeral of the late Queen, on the 13th December. White, Bishop
of Winchester, preached the sermon, in which he attacked the Protestants
in the most inflammatory language, quoting the words of Trajan: “If my
commands are just, use this sword for me; if unjust, use it against me.”
It was not Elizabeth’s or prudent Cecil’s line, however, to adopt extreme
measures at first, and the prelate was only kept secluded for a month in
his own house. This is a fair specimen of the cautious policy adopted
by Elizabeth. All of Mary’s Council had been Catholics, many of them
bigoted Catholics, and yet eleven of them were admitted to the Council
of the new Queen; the principal change being the addition to them of
seven known Protestants, who had, like Cecil, conformed in the previous
reign—namely, Parr (Marquis of Northampton), Cecil’s friend the Earl
of Bedford, Sir Thomas Parry, Edward Rogers, Sir Ambrose Cave, Francis
Knollys (the Queen’s cousin), and Sir William Cecil; Sir Nicholas Bacon,
Cecil’s brother-in-law, another Protestant conformer, being shortly
afterwards also appointed a Councillor and Lord Keeper, but not yet
Chancellor, in the place of Heath, Archbishop of York.

We are told by his household biographer that two of Cecil’s favourite
aphorisms were: “That war is the curse, and peace the blessing of God
upon a nation,” and “That a realm gaineth more by one year’s peace than
by ten years’ war.” He and his mistress plainly saw that the first task
for them to perform was to put an end to the disastrous and inglorious
war into which for his own ends Philip had dragged England. Here, on the
very threshold of Elizabeth’s reign, Cecil’s influence upon her policy
was apparent and eminently successful. Cecil came from the Charterhouse
to see Feria at Durham Place on the 24th November, saying that the Queen
was sending Lord Cobham to inform Philip in Flanders officially of Queen
Mary’s death; but two days afterwards, one of Feria’s spies at court,
probably Lord William Howard, sent him word that this was not Cobham’s
only mission. He was to turn aside to Cercamp, on the French frontier,
where the peace commissioners were assembled, except Arundel, who had
hurried back as soon as he learnt of the Queen’s death, in order to take
fresh commissions from Elizabeth to Dr. Thirlby, Arundel, and Wotton.
Feria, on this news, sent post-haste to Philip’s Secretary of State,
telling him to advise the Spanish “commissioners to keep their eyes on
these Englishmen, in case this should be some trick to our detriment,
as I was told nothing about his going to Cercamp till he (Cobham) had

But no trick was meant which should divide England from the House of
Burgundy. The instructions carried by Cobham[94] were drafted by Cecil,
and made the restitution of Calais the main point of the English demand;
and Wotton was instructed to accompany Cobham to Philip, to persuade
the latter to support the English in their demand. The commissioners,
moreover, were instructed to insert in the treaty an article reserving
all former treaties between England and the House of Burgundy. Before
these instructions reached the hands of the commissioners, the suspension
of hostilities for two months, which had so much disquieted the Queen
when Feria told her of it, had been arranged. There is no doubt that the
willingness of the French to agree to this suspension had been occasioned
by their desire to enter into separate negotiations with the new Queen
and her ministers, with the object of causing distrust between Spain and
England; and here it was that Cecil had his first opportunity of proving
his ability. Lord Grey had been captured by the French at Guînes, and
early in January 1559 was allowed to return to England on parole, for
the purpose, ostensibly, of arranging an exchange. He brought with him
a message from the Dukes of Guise and Montpessart, proposing a secret
arrangement between England and France. This was not the first intimation
of such a desire; for some weeks before, a similar but less authoritative
message was brought by the Protestant Florentine, Guido Cavalcanti, from
the Vidame de Chartres; and Cavalcanti had gone back to France with kind
but vague expressions of good-will from Elizabeth. When Lord Grey’s
message arrived, Cecil considered it in all its bearings, and drew up one
of his judicial reports[95] in which Grey’s answer to Guise is dictated.
With much circumlocution the Queen’s willingness to make peace is
expressed, “if all things done in her sister’s time be revoked”; or, in
other words, that Calais should be restored. But what Grey was not told
was Cecil’s recommendation to the Queen: “It seemeth necessary to allow
this overture of peace, so as neither so to lyke of it, nor so to follow
it, as thereby any jelusy shall arise in the hart of the King of Spain,
but that principally that that amyty be preserved and this not refused.”

At the same time Dr. Wotton was to be instructed to go to Philip, and
assure him emphatically, that the Queen was determined to remain friendly
with him, and to let the whole world see it. She had had some hints that
the French would like to approach her separately, but Philip “shal be
most assured that nothyng shal be doone that maye in any respect either
directly or indirectly prejudice this amyté betwixt their two Majesties,
or anything doone but that his Majesty shal be made privy thereto; and
thereof his Majesty shal be as well assured as he was of his late wyffe’s
proceedings here.” Guido Cavalcanti arrived in France before Lord Grey’s
answer to Guise, and the Florentine came posting back to England with an
affectionate letter from the King of France to Elizabeth.[96] Cecil’s
draft answer to this is just as judicious as the previous one. The King
of France suggested that French and English commissioners might be
mutually appointed to meet. This would never do, said Cecil; secrecy was
of the first importance, and a meeting of Englishmen and Frenchmen of
rank would be noticed immediately. The negotiations had better be carried
on directly by correspondence, and this was the course accepted by the
French. Whilst the matter was thus being drawn out, the disposition
of Philip was being sounded. Later in the reign, Elizabeth and Cecil
had taken his measure, and could foresee his action, but in these first
negotiations they were groping their way. Elizabeth had practically
refused Philip’s own suggestion of marriage made by Feria, and was now
fencing with the proposals of his cousins the Archdukes; but she was
careful not to drive Philip too far away. Reassuring letters came from
Wotton. Much, he said, as Philip wished for peace, he did not believe he
would make it alone, and leave both England and Scotland at the mercy of
France, as “what woulde ensew thereof, a blynde manne can see.”[97]

It was well that Cecil’s caution disarmed Philip about the French
advances; for Cavalcanti’s movements and mission were soon conveyed to
the Spanish King by his spies, and when, at the expiration of the two
months’ truce, the peace commissioners again met at Cateau-Cambresis,
the King did his best to support the English commissioners in their
demand for the restitution of Calais. His own agreement with France was
easily made, for Henry II. was seriously alarmed now at the growth of
the reform party, and gave way to Philip on nearly every point; whilst
Philip himself was in great want of money, he hated war, and, above
all, was burning to get back to the Spain he loved so much. But when,
week after week, he saw that the English commissioners stood firm about
Calais, he was obliged to speak out and assure Elizabeth that he could
not plunge his country into war again for the purpose of restoring to
England a fortress she had lost by her own laxity. At length, after
infinite discussion, the English were forced to conclude a peace based
upon the restitution of Calais in eight years, the demolition of the
fortifications of Eyemouth, and a truce, to be followed by a peace,
between England and Scotland.

In the meanwhile, before the peace of Cateau-Cambresis was signed,
matters were growing more acrimonious in tone between England and Spain,
owing to the ecclesiastical measures to which reference will be made
presently, and also to the haughtiness and want of tact displayed by
Feria in England. When, therefore, news came hither that amongst the
conditions of the general peace was one providing for the marriage of
Philip with Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the French King, and the
establishment of a close community of interests between France and
Spain, a gust of apprehension passed over the English that they had been
outwitted, and would have to face a combination of the two great rivals.

Paget—a thorough Spanish partisan and a Catholic—had foretold such a
possibility as this in February, and had entreated Cecil to cling closely
to Spain and continue the war with France.[98] But Cecil was wiser
than Paget. He knew that by fighting for Calais we should lose both
friendships, and he accepted the best terms of peace he could get. But
when it was a question of the brotherhood between Spain and France, and
whispers came from French reformers of the secret international league to
crush Protestantism, then the only course to pursue was to disarm Philip
and sow discord between Spain and France. When Feria saw the Queen on
the 7th April 1559, the day on which the news of the signing of peace
arrived in London, he found her pouting and coquettish that Philip should
have married any one but her. “Your Majesty, she said, could not have
been so much in love with her as I had represented, if you could not
wait four months for her.” But in the antechamber the Ambassador had
a conversation with Cecil, “who is a pestilent knave, as your Majesty
knows. He told me they had heard that your Majesty was very shortly going
to Spain, and, amongst other things, he said that if your Majesty wished
to keep up the war with France, they for their part would be glad of it.
I told him he could tell that to people who did not understand the state
of affairs in England so well as I did. What they wanted was something
very different from that. They were blind to their own advantage, and
would now begin to understand that I had advised what was best for the
interests of the Queen and the welfare of the country; and I left them
that day as bitter as gall.”[99]

Paget wailed that the country was ruined; Alba, Ruy Gomez, and young De
Granvelle tried to impress upon the English peace commissioners that
England’s only chance of salvation now lay in Philip’s countenance.[100]
Feria tried to frighten the Queen by assuring her that her religious
policy was hurrying her and her country to perdition, and complained that
certain comedies insulting to Philip which had been acted at court, had
been suggested by Cecil, her chief minister. But she outwitted him at
every point. “She was,” he said, “a daughter of the devil, and her chief
ministers the greatest scoundrels and heretics in the land.” She disarmed
him and his master by pretending that she would marry one of the Austrian
Archdukes, who would depend entirely upon Spain; and Spanish agents were
still fain to be civil to her, in hope of bringing that about; though
hot-headed Feria soon found his place intolerable, and relinquished it to
a more smooth-tongued successor. The reason why Feria was so especially
bitter against Cecil, was that to him was attributed the principal blame
for forcing through Parliament, at the same time as the conclusion of
the treaty of peace, the Act of Supremacy, recognising the Queen as
Governor of the Anglican Church, and the Act of Uniformity, imposing the
second prayer-book of Edward VI., but with some alterations of importance
for the purpose of conciliating the Catholics. The oath of supremacy,
however, was only compulsory on servants of the Crown; and the general
tendency of the Council, and especially of the Queen, was to avoid
offending unnecessarily the Catholic majority in the country. The Queen
personally preferred a ceremonious worship, and several times assured
the Spanish Ambassador that her opinions were similar to those of her
father—that she was practically a Catholic, except for her acknowledgment
of the papal supremacy.

Cecil’s interests at this period were somewhat different from those
of the Queen. Her great object was to consolidate her position by
gaining the good-will of as many of her subjects as possible, apart
from the question of religion. It was necessary for her to pass the
Act of Supremacy, in order to establish the legality of her right to
reign, and some sort of uniformity was necessary in the interests of
peace and good government; but beyond that she was not anxious to push
religious reform, for she disliked the Calvinists much more than she
did the Catholics. But Cecil saw that if the Protestant Church were not
established legally and strongly before Elizabeth died—and of course she
might die at any time—the accession of Catholic Mary Stuart with French
power at her back would mean the end of his ministry, and probably of
his life. He and Sir Nicholas Bacon, his brother-in-law, with Bedford,
were consequently regarded by the Spaniards as the principal promoters
of religious changes. They tried hard to divert him, and in the list
of Councillors who were to receive pensions from Spain he is down for
a thousand crowns;[101] but though he treated the Spaniards with great
courtesy and conciliation, they do not appear to have influenced his
policy by a hair’s-breadth. Parry, the Controller, now Treasurer of the
Household, was a man of inferior talent, and was apparently jealous of
Cecil. Feria, despairing of moving Cecil, consequently endeavoured to
influence the Queen by fear through Parry. On the 6th March, during the
passage of the ecclesiastical bills through Parliament, the Ambassador,
with the Queen’s knowledge, arranged to meet Parry in St. James’s
Park; but at the instance of Elizabeth, who did not desire the rest of
her Council to see her confidential man in conference with Feria, the
meeting-place was changed to Hyde Park, “near the execution place.” The
Ambassador urged upon Parry that the proposed religious measures would
certainly bring about the Queen’s downfall. Parry promised that the Queen
would not assume the title of Supreme Head of the Church, but would call
herself Governor. But this was all Feria could get; for a week after,
when he saw the Queen, he “found her resolved about what was passed in
Parliament yesterday, which Cecil and Vice-Chamberlain Knollys and their
followers have managed to bring about for their own ends.” The Queen
was excited and hysterical. She was a heretic, she said, and could not
marry a Catholic like Philip. Feria endeavoured to calm and flatter her;
but he assured her that if she gave her consent to the bills she would
be utterly ruined. She promised him that she would not assume the title
of Supreme Head; but she said that so much money was taken out of the
country for the Pope that she must put an end to it, and the bishops were
lazy poltroons, whereupon Feria retorted angrily, and Knollys purposely
put an end to the conversation by announcing supper. Parry’s influence
was small and decreasing. “Although,” says Feria, “he is a favourite of
the Queen, he is not at all discreet, nor is he a good Catholic, but,
still, he behaves better than the others. Cecil is very clever, but a
mischievous man, and a heretic, and governs the Queen in spite of the
Treasurer (Parry);[102] for they are not at all good friends, and I have
done what I can to make them worse.”[103] Cecil, of course, had his way,
and the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity received the royal assent within
a few weeks of this time (April 1559).

In the meanwhile both Cecil and the Queen worked hard to divert or
mollify the irritation of the Spaniards caused by the religious measures.
The pretence of a desire on the part of the Queen to marry an Austrian
Archduke was elaborately carried on. Envoys from the Emperor went
backwards and forwards. The sly, silky old Bishop of Aquila, the new
Spanish Ambassador, tried to draw the Queen into a position from which
she could not recede. She was coy, interesting, unsophisticated, and
cunning by turns, but never compromised herself too far. The object was
simply to keep the Spaniards from breaking away whilst pursuing her own
course, and this object was effected.

The treaty of Cateau-Cambresis was ratified with great ceremony in London
at the end of May: François de Montmorenci and a splendid French embassy
were entertained at Elizabeth’s court,[104] the Emperor’s envoy being
present at the same time to push the Archduke’s suit. It was Cecil’s cue
to pretend to the Spaniards that the French were now very affectionate,
and one day after some vicarious love-making with the Queen on behalf
of the Archduke, the Bishop had a long conversation with the Secretary.
The latter hinted that a French match had been offered to the Queen, and
asked his opinion of it. If it had not been for the dispensatory power
of the Pope being necessary, the Queen, said Cecil, would have married
Philip; “but the proposal involved religious questions which it would be
fruitless now to discuss, as the matter had fallen through.” The object
of this, of course, was to attract the Spaniards, first by jealousy
of the French, and next by a show of sympathy with Spain. For reasons
already set forth with regard to English succession, Philip was just as
anxious as Cecil to avoid a quarrel. “I was glad,” writes the Bishop, “to
have the opportunity of talking over these matters with him, to dissipate
the suspicion which I think he and his friends entertain, that they have
incurred your Majesty’s anger by their change of religion. I therefore
answered him without any reproach or complaint, and only said that what
had been done in the kingdom certainly seemed to me very grave, severe,
and ill-timed, but that I hoped in God; and if He would some day give us
a council of bishops, or a good Pope, who would reform the customs of the
clergy, and the abuses of the court of Rome, which had scandalised the
provinces, all the evil would be remedied; and God would not allow so
noble and Christian a nation as this to be separated in faith from the
rest of Christendom.”[105] Thus the Catholic Bishop met the Protestant
Cecil more than half-way; and no more triumphant instance can be found
than this of the policy of the first few months of Elizabeth’s reign. The
faith of England had been revolutionised in six months without serious
discontent in the country itself. Instead of hectoring Feria flouting
and threatening, the bland Churchman sought to minimise differences of
religion to the “pestilent knave” who had been principally instrumental
in making the great change. From master of England, Philip had changed
to an equal anxious to avoid its enmity. The altered position had been
brought about partly by Philip’s dread of half-French Mary Stuart
succeeding to the English throne if Elizabeth should disappear, partly
by the studious moderation of the English ecclesiastical measures, and
partly by the care taken by Cecil and the Queen to keep alive the idea
that the French were courting their friendship, whilst they themselves
preferred the old connection with the House of Burgundy.

How vital it was for England to conciliate Philip at this juncture was
evident to those who, like Cecil, were behind the scenes, although the
extreme Protestants in the country were somewhat restive about it. Before
the treaty of peace with France was negotiated, at the very beginning
of the year 1559, Cecil drew up an important state paper for the
consideration of the Council, discussing the probability of an immediate
French attack upon England over the Scottish border in the interests of
Mary Stuart. The religious disturbances in Scotland had necessitated the
sending of a considerable French force to the aid of the Queen Regent,
and Cecil says that a large army of French and German mercenaries was
already collected, which it was doubtful whether the English could
resist. The questions he propounded to the Council were whether it would
be better to seize the Scottish ports at once before the French fleet
arrived, or to place England in a state of defence and await events. The
latter course was adopted, conjointly with endeavours to draw Philip
to the side of England, and the sending of Sir Nicholas Throgmorton to
France to remonstrate with the King.[106] The occasion given for this
alarm is stated in Cecil’s diary as follows: “January 16th, 1559. The
Dolphin of France and his wife Queen of Scotts, did, by style of King and
Queen of Scotland, England, and Ireland, graunt unto the Lord Fleming
certain things.”

Throgmorton arrived in Paris on the 23rd May, and on the 7th June wrote
to Cecil that the Guises and Mary Stuart were bribing and pensioning
Englishmen there, and that Cardinal Lorraine was busy intriguing for the
sending of a force to Scotland, and for promoting his niece’s claim to
the English crown. He was “inquisitive to know of such Englishmen as he
hath offered to interteigne, how many shippes the Queen’s Majesty hath
in redeness, and whether the same be layed up in dock at Gillingham, and
how many of them be on the narrow seas, and whether the new great ships
be already made and furnished with takling and ordnance.”[107] On the
21st of the same month the news was still more alarming. Throgmorton
informed Cecil that a suggestion had been made to him for a marriage
between Queen Elizabeth and Guise’s brother, the Duke de Nemours, to
which he had replied that he could not say anything about it unless the
King of France or his Council officially mentioned it. Throgmorton now
heard that Constable Montmorenci had reproached Nemours for making such
a suggestion, “adding further these words, ‘What! do yow not know that
the Queen Dauphin hath right and title to England.’”[108] They only
waited for an opportunity, said Throgmorton, to say, “Have at you.”
Great preparations were being made in Paris for the celebration of the
peace with Spain, and the betrothal of the King’s daughter to King
Philip by proxy, and watchful Throgmorton soon discovered that on all
escutcheons, banners, and trophies in which the Dauphin’s and his wife’s
arms were represented, the arms of England were quartered, and almost
daily thereafter in his letters to Cecil the Ambassador sounds the alarm.
Cecil himself in his diary thus marks the progress of events, 28th June
1559: “the justs at Paris, wherein the King-Dolphin’s two heralds were
apparelled with the arms of England.”[109] On the 29th June, at the
great tournament to celebrate his child’s betrothal to Philip, Henry II.
was accidentally thrust in the eye by Montgomerie, and in a moment the
political crisis became acute.

Mary Stuart was now Queen Consort of France. Her clever, ambitious
uncles, Guise and the Cardinal, were practically rulers of France,
and she herself, as Throgmorton says, “took everything upon her,” and
according to Cecil’s diary (16th July), “the ushers going before the
Queen of Scotts (now French Queen) to Chappell cry, ‘Place pour la
Reine d’Angleterre.’” As soon as the pretensions of Mary were known,
Cecil’s counter move was to send help to the reform party in Scotland,
and to revive the talk of a marriage between Elizabeth and the Earl of
Arran, the heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. Arran was in France;
and on the first suspicion against him of intriguing with the English,
the King had ordered his capture, dead or alive. Randolph and Killigrew
were successively sent by Cecil to Throgmorton with orders to aid the
Earl, and, at any risk, smuggle him to England.[110] In disguise he was
conveyed by Randolph to Zurich, and thence to England, and subsequently
into Scotland,[111] to head the Protestant party against the French,
from his father’s castles of Hamilton and Dumbarton. Whilst Arran was
in hiding in England, Cecil was apparently the only minister who saw
him, and when he left, it was with full instructions and pecuniary help
from the Secretary. Cecil was a man of peace; but the main point of his
policy was the keeping of the French out of Flanders and Scotland. Now
that Guise ambition openly struck at England through the northern kingdom
active measures were needed, and they were taken.

As usual, Cecil’s report on the whole question[112] to the Queen
judiciously summed up all the possibilities. The document sets forth
the desirability of an enduring peace between Scotland and England,
and the impossibility of it whilst the former country is governed by a
foreign nation like the French in the absence of its native sovereign;
that the land should be “freed from idolatry like as England”; and that
the nobility should be banded together with the next heir to the crown
(Arran) to remedy all abuses. “If the Queen (Mary) shall be unwilling to
this, as is likely, … then it is apparent that Almighty God is pleased
to transfer from her the rule of the kingdom for the weale of it. And
in this time great circumspection is to be used to avoid the deceits
and trumperies of the French.” Sir William’s decision, after infinite
discussion, is that the cheapest and only possible way will be at once
to send strong reinforcements to the Scottish reformers, and at the same
time that Sadler and Crofts on the Border should be sleepless, as they
were, in their efforts in favour of the Protestant Scots.

There was no matter which concerned Cecil so much as this, as will be
seen by his many interesting letters about it to Sir Ralph Sadler in the
Sadler Papers. He had gone to Burghley in September 1559, and thence
wrote to Sadler his anxiety to hear of Arran’s[113] safe arrival in
Scotland. “Th’erle of Arrayn borrowed of me at his being at London 200
crowns, which he promised should be paid to you, Mr. Sadler, for me.
After some tyme passed, I praye you aske it of hym.” The next day Cecil
wrote that he had ordered Sadler “to lende the Protestants money, as of
your selve, taking secretly the bonds of them to rendre the same; so as
the Quene should not be partie thereto.” Thenceforward money was secretly
sent in plenty by Sir William to maintain the Scottish reformers who were
besieging Leith, but Knox and the rigid Calvinists, with their republican
and anti-feminine ideas, were hated by the Queen, and made matters
difficult. “Knox’s name,” says Cecil, “is the most odious here. I wish no
mention of it hither.” “Surely I like not Knox’s audacitie.… His writings
do no good here, and therefore I do rather suppress them.”[114]

But it became evident that the Lords of the Congregation would be unable
much longer to hold their own without powerful armed assistance from
England. This would of course mean a renewal of the war with France, and
before it could be undertaken it was necessary to make quite sure of the
attitude of Philip, who was about to marry the French Princess. On this
occasion, for the first time, Cecil was met and hampered in his action by
a counter intrigue within the English court, such as for the next twenty
years continually faced him.

When the Queen rode through the city from the Charterhouse to the Tower
on her white jennet, she was followed closely by a handsome young man
of her own age, who attracted general attention. She had appointed Lord
Robert Dudley, the son of Cecil’s old patron, Northumberland, Master
of the Horse at Hatfield on the day that Mary died. In less than six
months the tongue of scandal was busy with the doings of the Queen and
her favourite, and the Spanish agents were calculating the chances of
his being made an instrument for their ends. Gradually the English
competitors for the Queen’s hand sank into the background, whilst
Dudley, a married man, grew in favour daily.[115] He was made a Knight
of the Garter, to the openly expressed annoyance of other older and
worthier nobles; money grants and favours of all sorts were showered
upon him, and the Queen would hardly let him out of her sight. So long
as the talk of the match with the Archduke Charles only dragged on its
interminable length, Dudley was mildly approving and claiming rewards
and bribes from the Spaniards in consequence; for he knew perfectly
well that the negotiation was a feint, and that the religious obstacles
were unsurmountable. But when, as has been seen, national interests led
Cecil to play his master-move and checkmate Mary Stuart and the French
connection in Scotland with Arran and the English marriage, Dudley saw
that the affair was serious, and at once set about frustrating Cecil’s
national policy for his personal advantage. In order to obstruct the
marriage with Arran, the first step was for Dudley to profess himself
hotly in favour of the Austrian match.

His sister, Lady Sidney, was sent to the Bishop of Aquila, with the
assurance that the Queen would consent to marry the Archduke at once if
she were asked (September 1559). Dudley and Parry both came and assured
the Bishop of their devotion, body and soul, to Spanish interests.[116]
There was, they said, a plot to kill the Queen, and she had now made up
her mind to concede the religious points at issue and marry the Archduke
at once. The Queen herself avoided going so far as that in words, but
by looks and hints she confirmed what Lady Sidney and Dudley had said.
Between them they hoodwinked the Churchman, and he urged upon Philip
and the Emperor the coming of the bridegroom. After his long talk at
Whitehall with the Queen at the end of September, the Bishop saw Cecil,
who by this time was fully aware of what was going on, and adroitly
turned it to the advantage of his policy. War with the French in Scotland
was practically adopted, if Philip could be depended upon to stand aloof.
When, accordingly, the Bishop approached Cecil, the latter, although he
avoided pledging himself to the Queen’s marrying the Archduke, spoke
sympathetically about it. But his tone was different from Dudley’s. “I
saw,” says the Bishop, “that he was beating about the bush, and begged
that we might speak plainly to one another. I was not blind or deaf,
and could easily perceive that the Queen was not taking this step to
refuse her consent after all. He swore he did not know, and could not
assure me.” But then Cecil shot _his_ bolt. The French, he said, were
striving to impede the Archduke’s match, and had offered great things to
the Swedes if they could bring about the marriage of Elizabeth with the
Prince of Sweden. “They (the English) well understood that this was only
to alienate the Queen from her connection and friendship with Philip,
and thus to enable the French to invade this country more easily.”[117]
Cecil then consented, but vaguely, to help forward “our affair,” and was
promised all Philip’s favour if he did so. All Cecil asked for and wanted
was an assurance of the help or neutrality of Spain, in the event of a
French invasion, and this he unhesitatingly got—“if the Queen will marry
the Archduke,” a condition which Cecil, at least, must have known would
not be fulfilled.

For the next week or two the Queen surpassed herself in vivacity, in
pretended anticipation of the coming of her Imperial lover. She became
outwardly more Catholic than ever. Candles and crucifixes were again
put up on the altars of her chapels, priests wore their vestments, and
the Spanish Bishop was in the best of spirits. All this was going too
far for Cecil, and was forcing his hand. He wanted to ensure Philip’s
countenance by arousing jealousy of the French, whilst keeping the
Archduke’s marriage gently simmering. But if Dudley and the Queen carried
it too far, it would either end in mortally offending Philip, or in
introducing a strong Catholic influence in England, which would have
been the end of Cecil as a minister. Feria, in Flanders, saw this clearly
enough, and wrote to the Bishop to tell Dudley that Cecil would really be
against the Archduke’s business.[118] Dudley’s intrigue to prevent the
Scottish match, not only hampered Cecil, but set the whole court by the
ears. The Duke of Norfolk and the thorough-going Spanish Catholic party
formed a plot to kill Dudley, as they knew he was not sincere, and would
prevent the marriage with the Archduke, perhaps, at the last moment;
whilst Cecil’s own Protestant friends, Bedford especially, who did not
understand his cautious manner of dealing with difficulties, quarrelled
with him about his apparent acquiescence in fresh Popish innovations.

Dudley’s bubble soon burst of itself. The Emperor, not under the sway of
Elizabeth’s charm, was cool. The Bishop, as a feeler, fostered the idea
that the Archduke was already on the way, and then the Queen, Dudley, and
Lady Sidney took fright and began to cry off; and the Bishop saw he had
been deceived (November 1559). But Arran’s suit had still to be combated,
and Dudley warmly took up the Swedish match; whilst the gossips whispered
that he had decided to poison his wife, and marry the Queen himself.
Matters had reached this stage, when the Bishop’s agents began plotting
with the Duke of Norfolk for the open coming of the Archduke, his
marriage with Catharine Grey, and the murder of Elizabeth and Dudley; but
this required bolder hands than Norfolk or Philip, and nothing came of
it but open quarrels between Dudley and those who he knew were planning
his ruin. Gradually prudent Cecil worked the Archduke’s negotiations
back again into the stage in which they had been when Dudley interfered.
The Bishop was courted, an envoy was sent to Vienna, care was taken to
keep alive Philip’s jealousy of the French—more than ever to be feared
by the Spanish King, now that his own Netherlands were seething with
disaffection; and then, at last, Cecil was able to accede to the prayer
of the Scottish reformers,[119] and send an English force to their aid.

On the 23rd December 1559, Cecil could write to Sadler, saying that the
Duke of Norfolk and Lord Grey were on their way north to take command of
the army. “Our shippes be on the sea, God spede them! William Winter is
appointed, as he commeth nigh, to learn of you the state of the French
navy within the Firth. And it is thought good that ye should cause some
small vessell to goo to hym with your intelligence before he come very
nigh that towne, lest by tarryeng for your answer his voyage be hindered.
The French are much amased at this our sodden going to sea, so as the
Marq d’Elbœuf being come to Callise is retorned to Parriss in great hast.
We lack intelligence from you and be ignorant of what ye do in Scotland.
We be afrayd of the loss of Edinburgh Castle. God gyve ye both good
night, for I am almost a slepe. At Westminster, hora 12ᵃ nocte 23 Dec.

The fleet of thirty-two sail, with 8000 infantry and 2000 cavalry, sailed
up the Forth exactly a month after this letter was written, to the dismay
of the French and the Queen Regent, who shortly afterwards learnt that
Elbœuf and his army had been storm-beaten back to France. The French
and Catholic Scots were now cooped up in Leith, with no possibility of
receiving aid from France; whilst the English on the Border, and the
Lords of the Congregation, were organising a strong land force to invade

There was nothing more to be dreaded by Philip—as Cecil well knew—than a
war between England and France for the cause of the Scottish Protestants.
The Spanish alliance with France had aroused the distrust of the powerful
reform party in the latter country; and on the accession of Francis II.
and the Guises to power, the Queen-mother, Catharine de Medici, whose
chance had at last come after years of insult and neglect, at once
threw her influence into the scale of their opponents, the Montmorencis
and the reformers. Throgmorton had been sent to France to form a union
between the Protestant and anti-Guisan elements in France and Elizabeth,
and in this he had been entirely successful, to the unfeigned dismay
of Philip and his agents.[121] This combination of Protestants in
England, Scotland, and France, and probably also in Germany, was a most
threatening one for Philip’s objects, especially in view of the condition
of his own Netherlands; and yet his hands were tied. He dared not raise
a hand to make French Mary Stuart Queen of Great Britain, although
the triumph of reform in Scotland and this combination of Protestants
struck at the very root of his objects and his policy. To the cautious
planning of Cecil almost exclusively was owing the fact that in one year
Philip had been disarmed, and rendered impotent to injure a Protestant
England. The Spanish Bishop’s only remedy for it all was to plot with
the extreme English Catholics to kill Elizabeth, Dudley, and Cecil, and
place Catharine Grey or Darnley on the throne under Spanish tutelage;
and he conspired ceaselessly with that object. But his master knew
better than he. The French, he was aware, would fight to prevent such a
result, as well as the English, and neither he nor his coffers were in a
mood for fighting them then; so he had to stoop to peaceful diplomacy,
and tried to beat Cecil at his own game. The Secretary had continued to
answer firmly all the Bishop’s remonstrances and veiled threats, for he
knew Philip could not move; and when it was decided to send a special
Flemish envoy to England to dissuade the Queen from aiding the Scottish
Protestants, the Bishop almost scornfully told Feria that, if talking had
been of any good, he would have done it already. “They would do more harm
than good if they were only coming to talk, for the English Catholics
expect much more than that.” “Cecil,” he says, “is the heart of the
business, and is determined to carry it through, until they are ruined,
as they will be.”[122] In the meanwhile (April 1560) the siege of Leith
went on, notwithstanding the attempts of the French to settle terms of
peace in London. Elizabeth would have nothing to do with any peace that
left a French man-at-arms in Scotland.

Philip’s Flemish envoy, De Glajon, arrived in London on the 5th April
1560, and was very coolly received by Elizabeth.[123] In Philip’s name
he exhorted her to abstain from helping the Scottish rebels, and then
threatened that if she did not come to terms with the French, Spanish
troops would be sent to reinforce the latter. She was dignified, but
alarmed at this, and sent Cecil on the following day to discuss the
question with De Glajon.[124] After a conference, lasting five hours,
in which Cecil recited all the English complaints against France, and
pointed out the danger to Philip that would ensue upon the French
becoming masters of Scotland, he positively assured the envoy that the
English troops would not be withdrawn from Scotland until their objects
were attained. The French Ambassador tried hard to draw Philip’s envoy
into a joint hostile protest[125] to Elizabeth; but the Spaniards
knew that their master really did not mean to fight, and declined to
compromise him. They, indeed, assured Cecil privately, that if Philip
helped the French, it would only be in the interests of Elizabeth herself.

Through all the negotiation Cecil’s management was most masterly. He had
taken Philip’s measure now, and knew the powerless position in which
English diplomacy, aided by circumstances, had placed him. The Guises
had taken his measure too. As week followed week, and hope of help from
him disappeared, they saw that they must make such terms as they might
with Elizabeth. The French in Leith were heroically holding out, though
starving and hopeless; no reinforcements could be sent from France, for
England held the sea, and the Queen-mother and the reform party would
give no help to purely Guisan objects. So at last, in May, Monluc, the
Bishop of Valence, came humbly to London and sued Elizabeth for peace,
and Cecil and Wotton, with Sir Henry Percy, Sir Ralph Sadler, and Peter
Carew, travelled to Scotland to meet the French commissioners and settle
the terms. Cecil started on the 30th May, and at the different stages of
his journey he wrote letters to Sir William Petre.[126] On the 31st he
writes from Royston: “in no apparent doubt of health, yet by foulness of
weather afraid to ride to Huntingdon till to-morrow.” On the 2nd June his
letter comes from his own house at Burghley, “rubbing on between health
and sickness, yet my heart serveth me to get the mastery.”

His energy, his command of detail, and his foresight are remarkably shown
in these letters. He spurs Petre to do as evidently he himself would
have done—to expedite everything necessary for the prosecution of the
war, though peace was in prospect; “to quicken the Lord Treasurer for
money,” and so forth. From Stamford he went to Doncaster, Boroughbridge,
Northallerton, Newcastle, and so to Scotland, always vigilant, observant,
suggestive; but in nearly every letter expressing deep distrust of the
French, whom he suspected of treachery at every point. When they met
in Edinburgh his complaints are constant of their “cavilations” and
hairsplitting. “They may contend, however, about a word,” he says, “but I
mean to have the victory.” Before the negotiations commenced, the Queen
Regent, Mary of Lorraine, died (11th June), and this, by perplexing the
French, somewhat facilitated an arrangement. The most difficult point was
the use of the English arms by Mary Stuart, and, on the 1st July, Cecil
wrote to the Queen that the negotiations had been broken off on that
point alone. After this was written, but before it was despatched, Cecil
proposed a “device,”[127] by the insertion of a “few fair words”; and
an arrangement was the result, which stands a triumphant vindication of
Cecil’s policy.

The French troops were all to be withdrawn, Leith and Dunbar to be
razed, Mary abandoned her claim to the English crown, and acknowledged
Elizabeth; and, above all, Mary granted a constitution to her subjects,
which well-nigh annihilated the prerogative of her throne. A Parliament
was to be forthwith summoned, which should have the power to declare or
veto war or peace; during the sovereign’s absence the country was to be
governed by a council of twelve persons to be chosen out of twenty-four
elected by Parliament, seven of the twelve being chosen by the Queen,
and five by Parliament; no foreigner was to hold any place of trust, nor
was an ecclesiastic to control the revenues; a complete indemnity was
given for all past acts, civil and ecclesiastical, and the question of
religious toleration was to be finally decided by Parliament.

Thus the Scottish-French question, which had been a standing menace to
England for centuries, was settled by the statesmanship of Cecil; and
perhaps through the whole of his great career no achievement shows more
clearly than this the consummate tact, patience, firmness, moderation,
and foresight that characterised his policy. Less than two years before
England under the patronage of Philip was forced to accept a humiliating
peace from France, and Spanish and French agents had intrigued against
each other as to which of their two sovereigns should use prostrate,
exhausted England for his own objects. In two short years of dexterous
statesmanship England had turned the tables. Not only had she with
comparative ease effected a vast domestic revolution, but she was
conscious of the fact that both of the great Continental rivals were
impotent to injure her, out of jealousy of each other, whilst her own
power for offence and defence had enormously increased, and the knitting
together of the reformers throughout Europe had placed her at the head of
a confederacy which she could use as a balance against her enemies.