Robert Cecil was vilified by some of his contemporaries and, as is still common today, some of his less attractive physical features were exaggerated to make an ideological point. His appearance in 1588 is described in Motley's History of the Netherlands thusly: "A slight, crooked, hump-backed young gentleman, dwarfish in stature, but with a face not irregular in feature, and thoughtful and subtle in expression, with reddish hair, a thin tawny beard, and large, pathetic, greenish-coloured eyes, with a mind and manners already trained to courts and cabinets, and with a disposition almost ingenuous, as compared to the massive dissimulation with which it was to be contrasted, and with what was, in aftertimes, to constitute a portion of his own character..."
Queen Elizabeth is said to have referred to him as "my elf" or "my pigmy", the latter term not to his liking.
Cecil was made Secretary of State following the death of Sir Francis Walsingham in 1590, and he became the leading minister after the death of his father in 1598, serving both Elizabeth and James as Secretary of State. James raised him to the peerage in 1605 as Earl of Salisbury and Viscount Cranborne.
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