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William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, was an English politician, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I of England for most of her reign.

Cecil was born in Lincolnshire in 1520, the son of the owner of the Burghley estate in Northamptonshire, which is today open to the public and is the setting for a popular equestrian event. Cecil was educated at Cambridge University and in 1547 was given a post in the household of King Henry VIII of England.

His early career was spent in the service of the Duke of Somerset (a brother of the late queen Jane Seymour). When Somerset, a powerful figure during the reign of his nephew, King Edward VI of England, was disgraced and executed, Cecil lost his position but was soon restored and promoted, being knighted in 1550. He survived the reign of Edward's successor, Mary, by diplomatically adopting the Catholic faith, but it seems that he already recognized the potential of the queen's younger sister, Elizabeth, whom he coached for the monarchy. When she came to the throne in 1558, she appointed him secretary of state. In 1571 she created him 1st Baron Burghley.

Burghley continued to hold the dominant position in Elizabeth's administration right up until his death in 1598 and contributed hugely to her success as queen. His younger son, Robert Cecil, inherited his political mantle, taking on the role of chief minister and arranging a smooth transfer of power to the Stuart administration under King James I of England.

Preceded by:
New Creation
Baron Burghley Followed by:
Thomas Cecil