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The Cecils (Hardback)

The Dynasty and Legacy of Lord Burghley

P&S History > British History > Tudors & Stuarts P&S History > By Century > 16th Century

By David Lee
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781399083775
Published: 6th April 2023



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The Cecils: The Dynasty and Legacy of Lord Burghley looks at the lives of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s Chief Minister and Secretary of State and that of his son, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury.

Lord Burghley served three Tudor Monarchs in an unparalleled rise to power during the reign of Elizabeth I and his political influence on state matters, his remarkable close bond to the queen, and the self-sacrifice in his service to the state and crown, are closely examined in this unprecedented work. The life and career of William’s youngest son Robert, Earl of Salisbury, who also became Elizabeth’s Chief Minister as heir to his father’s political mantle, will also be discussed.

Robert served his queen equally to, if not more ruthlessly than his father. His powerful position remained intact during the transition of the crown from the House of Tudor to the House of Stuart upon Elizabeth’s death in 1603. Robert’s loyalties and his relationship with his father remain a topic of discussion and debate. This book will also explore the transition of power from one Cecil to another, and how both men created a powerful dynasty and legacy that continues to fascinate readers today.

The book is based on a close examination of William and Robert Cecil’s correspondence, personal papers, state papers, legal documents, and memoranda. By closely examining these sources, the author has gained a clearer insight into the lives and careers of the Cecil’s, the true powerhouse behind the throne.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant account of one of the most important noble families in the kingdom. Will definitely be reading more books by the author.

NetGalley, If It Ain’t Baroque History

What Lee provides is a valuable insight into a family whose sense of duty to the monarch and crown saw them well rewarded and regarded even if not by those courtiers who viewed them with a slightly envious eye. Their political legacy extended even into the 20th century.

Recommended for those wanting to expand their reading beyond general histories of both the Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobite periods.

NetGalley, Melisende d'Outremer

A very well written and researched account of the Cecil's and much over do I suspect a lot of history lovers will agree.

We are taken back to the humble, if not meagre origins of the Welsh Cecil's or Sysils and learn how through individual talent, attributes, intelligence and attributes, they managed to rise as high as they did by the Elizabethan era, carrying on into the reign of James I.

NetGalley, Clare Willmott

Well researched and well written, The Cecils offers a further glimpse into Tudor England. I recommend it to readers that enjoy Tudor history who are interested in looking beyond the usual "cast of characters".

NetGalley, Kori Parkinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such an interest read! I am a huge history buff so this biography was a perfect read for me! I hope to read more by Lee this was well paced and not dry at all.

NetGalley, Morgan Schaer

I decided to pick up this book because I am interested in the Cecil family. Elizabeth I is my all-time favorite Queen and I enjoy reading about those closest to her: including William and Robert Cecil. I also have Burghley House on my never-ending wish list of places to go visit in the UK. It looks absolutely magnificent.

I found the book interesting and well-researched and the author seemed to have had a lot of knowledge of the subject. He mentioned using sources such as Stephen Alford, who I also used for my capstone research paper on Elizabeth I's court.

NetGalley, Traci Hoffman

William Cecil, Lord Burghley was Queen Elizabeth I's Chief Minister and Secretary of State. Monumentally influential, he was pivotal to the reigns of three (arguably four) Tudor monarchs. Cecil blossomed into his career during the reign of King Edward VI, he survived the downfall of Lady Jane Grey while promoting his usefulness during the reign of Queen Mary I and finally presenting himself as indispensable during the Golden Age of Elizabeth I.

While there was Lord Burghley, there was also Robert Cecil, Earl Salisbury. The youngest son of William Cecil, he was notably devoted to serving his royal masters. Ruthless and bold, he chiseled a strong position at court, also becoming Chief Minister to Elizabeth I and remarkably, retaining this position during the transition of power from Tudor to Stuart dynasty as King James VI and I assumed the throne of England following the death of Elizabeth.

These men were incredibly important to shaping the reigns of the later Tudor monarchs and David Lee has managed to tackle these powerhouses of history with grace and respect.

Magnificently researched with a clear and direct narrative, Lee weaves the reader through the complexities of this fascinating period of history, exploring the clashes of religion, inner court politics and personal struggles for one at the very centre of the royal circle.

Unbiased and accessible, the author examines his subjects through a balanced lens, considering them within their historical context.

A unique perspective of those closest to the monarch during the Tudor and Stuart Eras, this is a thrilling and wonderful insight into the construct of court life, power, politics and how intelligent men such as the Cecils had to be in order to survive the fickle nature of their royal masters.

NetGalley, Kirsty Whyte

Article: Book takes a look at the character of Lord Burghley

Stamford Mercury

In a departure from his usual material, David Lee explores two generations of an Elizabethan political powerhouse, the Cecil family. Focusing on William Cecil, right hand man to Queen Elizabeth I, and his son Robert Cecil, Lee highlights the political acumen, rise to power, and presence of William Cecil and Robert Cecil’s work to continue his father’s legacy in the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign and the early years of James I and VI’s rule. Lee details the social, and familial factors behind the Cecils’ political presence, with a brief exploration of the women in the two men’s lives. Utilizing primary documents and the historiographies of the Elizabethan period, Lee observes and examines this period from the perspectives of the Cecils from their positions in Elizabeth I’s government. Lee examines key historical events such as the Spanish Armada and the Guy Fawkes Gunpowder Plot from the perspectives of the Cecils, allowing the reader to experience and understand these events from the perspectives of the government rather than a general understanding of the topic. Lee’s clear historical expertise (if not specifically in sixteenth-century politics) adds another level to the text, and his analysis and insight into these historical figures and events makes this a compelling introduction to the Elizabethan period and early modern politics.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An informative and readable look at the Cecil dynasty who helped shape the reigns of Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth Tudor. William and Robert Cecil were among the Secretaries of the Tudor dynasty who forged the role of Prime Minister.

NetGalley, Caroline Palmer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author did a great job researching and I learned a lot about the Cecil family. I have not really read much about the family, so this was a fun read to branch out from the regular characters that a lot of author's write about. Highly recommend.

NetGalley, Heather Michael

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Well researched & written. Hugely enjoyable & easy to read, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to fellow history lovers.

NetGalley, Vicki Bramble

About David Lee

David Lee is an Irish historian who specialises in women’s history, paying particular attention to women in power from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. He also has an interest in the history of courtship and marriage. David is the author of The Queen’s Frog Prince: The Courtship of Elizabeth I and the Duke of Anjou and has written for Tudor Life Magazine. He lives in Kildare with his husband, Victor.

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