William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

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William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (sometimes spelled Burleigh), KG (13 September 1521 – 4 August 1598) was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State (1550–1553 and 1558–1572) and Lord High Treasurer from 1572. He was the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced many politicians including two Prime Ministers.

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Early life

Cecil was born in Bourne, Lincolnshire in 1521, the son of Richard Cecil, owner of the Burghley estate (near Stamford, Lincolnshire), and his wife, Jane Heckington.

Pedigrees, elaborated by Cecil himself with the help of William Camden the antiquary, associated him with the Welsh Cecils or Sitsylts of Allt-Yr-Ynys, Walterstone[1] on the border of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, and traced his descent from an Owen of the time of King Harold and a Sitsyllt of the reign of William Rufus. Sitsylt is the original Welsh spelling of the anglicised Cecil. There is now no doubt that the family was from the Welsh Marches and Lord Burghley himself acknowledged this in his family pedigree painted at Theobalds.[2] The family had connections with Dore Abbey.[3] However, the move to Stamford provides information concerning the Lord Treasurer's grandfather, David; he, according to Burghley's enemies, kept the best inn in Stamford. David somehow secured the favour of the first Tudor Henry VII, to whom he seems to have been Yeoman of the Guard. He was Sergeant-of-Arms to Henry VIII in 1526, Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1532, and a Justice of the Peace for Rutland. His eldest son, Richard, Yeoman of the Wardrobe (d. 1554), married Jane, daughter of William Heckington of Bourne, and was father of three daughters and the future Lord Burghley.

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