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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 Elizabeth's 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 ...
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 Elizabeth's 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", 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 stabilise 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.
Posted February 20, 2012
I purchased this book with high hopes, having just come from a visit to Hatfield House and having read Shakespeare by Another Name by Mark Anderson (a fabulous book). My appetite was whetted for knowing as much as possible about William Cecil, and by extension, his daughter Anne, who was married to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (who was the true author behind the canon of the works attributed to "William Shakespeare"). Just before reading this book, I received and read The Cecils of Hatfield House by David Cecil, a descendant of William Cecil, Lord Burghley. It was everything and more I could have wished, eloquently composed and interesting. The segments about the branch of the family I was most interested in were, sadly, shorter than I might have wished. David Loades' manner of speaking of William Cecils' daughters from page nine made me wince from ambiguity: "His daughters, Anne and Elizabeth, taxed his love in different ways." This is in keeping with Loades' defamatory style of describing all the Cecils, reminding me very much of Christopher Hitchens, although Loades is not so bold as to call Anne Cecil a slut or a whore, which Hitchens might have done. Instead Loades claims this girl educated in Britain's foremost school was neither beautiful nor learned. This, he writes, of a young woman who was betrothed to first one (Sir Philip Sydney), then another (Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, and lifetime rival of the former) of England's greatest budding literary talents. Note, by contrast, Anderson's eloquent testimony to the esteem in which she was held by others upon her death: "His [Edward De Vere's] silence and apparent distance are made all the more remarkable by the effusion of memorial verse that Anne's death generated. At least twenty in memoriam tributes were written--in English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew--by as many different authors. Furthermore, since Burghley was cleary distraught by the loss of his favorite daughter. . . " Loades must be the world's worst sleuth. I didn't know before writing this that he has so many earned titles; all I can suspect is he wanted to make a splash by deriding truly amazing people and he manages to show his ignorance and inability to make any connections whatsoever. Geez, how boring is that? Once I realized something was terribly amiss with this book, I completely lost the desire to read any more. How can I trust an author who has an attitude that poisons what should be a beautiful effort, helping the reader to understand history? History is so ill taught because of authors like this. Sad!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.