Privilege and power behind the throne
Date of publication: 12 August 2009
Publisher: The National Archives
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The first popular biography of two of the nation's greatest unsung heroes - William and Robert Cecil.
For over 50 years, one family dominated England's high offices of state. William and Robert Cecil, father and son, held unparalleled power as statesmen, diplomats, counsellors and spymasters throughout Elizabeths' reign and long beyond. From Privy Councillor to Chief Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer, both exerted far-reaching influence to secure the Queen's realm and legacy. They enjoyed her reliance and trust, and Robert the gratitude of her successor James I, yet each inhabited a perilous world where favour brought enemies and a wrong step could lead to disaster.
In The Cecils, leading Tudor historian David Loades reveals the personal and political lives of these remarkable men. He shows how father and son negotiated volatile court life, battling flamboyant favourites like Robert Dudley and the ill-fated Earl of Essex and playing for time to stabilize a country still torn by religious divide. He discovers the contradictory characters of these advocates of caution who nevertheless took great personal risks, such as William's role in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and Robert's secret negotiations with James VI of Scotland before Elizabeth's death. Yet these principled public servants - who put the interests of the State before their own - still amassed large personal wealth, and relished its display at their great houses of Burghley, Theobalds and Hatfield. From the early days of turmoil, when William escaped the fate of Thomas Seymour and honed his strategies for survival, to the shadowy intrigues of the Jacobean court, this is a fascinating portrait of men who shaped an extraordinary age. Illustrated in colour with contemporary portraits and paintings, private letters and original documents from The National Archives, it explores the real power wielded by one of England's major political dynasties.
David Loades is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wales, and Associate of the Centre for Early Modern History at the University of Oxford and Honorary Research Professor at the University of Sheffield. A leading authority on Tudor England, he is also a well-known and popular writer on its key personalities and events. He has a particular interest in the Tudor navy and has written on several of the period's monarchs and statesmen. Recent books include Henry VIII: Court, church and conflict and Princes of Wales: Royal heirs in waiting , also published by The National Archives.