Who Was … William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley?


William Cecil is best known as Secretary of State to Elizabeth I, as well as Lord High Treasurer and Lord Privy Seal. He also served Edward VI as Secretary of State and then moved to look after Princess Elizabeth’s properties before she became Queen. Cecil’s role in the execution of Mary Queen of Scots is also questionable, and he was blamed in part by Elizabeth for it. He was responsible for the building of Burghley House and Theobalds.

Name: William Cecil

Title/s: 1st Baron Cecil of Burghley

Birth: 13 September 1520 in Bourne, Lincolnshire, England

Death: 4 August 1598 at Cecil House, London, England

Buried: St Martin’s Church, Stamford, Lincolnshire, England

Spouse: Mary Cheke ?-1543 & Mildred Cooke 1526-1589

Children: Thomas Cecil, Earl of Exeter 1542-1623 / Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury 1563-1612 / Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford 1556-1588 / Francisca Cecil / William Cecil 1559 / William Cecil 1561 / Elizabeth Wentworth 1564-1583

Parents: Richard Cecil c.1495-1553 & Jane Heckington ?-1587

Siblings: Agnes White c.1527-? / Margaret Cave 1523-1553 / Elizabeth Wingfield c.1525-1611

Noble Connections: William Cecil was Secretary of State to both Edward VI and Elizabeth I. He was also Elizabeth I’s closest advisor for most of her reign. He also initially supported the reign of Lady Jane Grey in 1553. He is the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced 2 prime ministers including the 3rd Marquis of Salisbury.

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Spotlight – Francis Drake


Name: Francis Drake

Title/s: Sir

Birth / Death: c. 1540 – 27 January 1596

Spouse: Mary Newman ?-1581 / Elizabeth Sydenham 1562-?

Children: None

Parents: Edmund Drake 1518-1585 & Mary Mylwaye ?-?

Siblings: John c.1552-1573 / Thomas 1556-1606 / Edward c.1550-1568 / Joseph c.1554-1572 / William c.1525-c.1581

Noble Connections: He was awarded a knighthood by Elizabeth I in 1581. Drake’s godfather was Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford. He was made a naval officer by John Hawkins, who was pivotal in the Armada expedition. Continue reading “Spotlight – Francis Drake”

Discussion Questions – ‘The Virgin Queen’s Daughter’ by Ella March Chase


1. When The Virgin Queen’s Daughter begins, Nell is imprisoned in the Tower of London. How does this set the tone of the book? Compare Nell’s perception of the fortress as a child with her feelings about it upon her return. Contrast Elizabeth’s experience as a prisoner to Nell’s.

White Tower at the Tower of London
White Tower at the Tower of London

The tone is set because you know what will happen and what it is all leading to. It sets the tone because you know things before they happen. It is more hindsight than we have even with history, because it’s debatable. The tone at the beginning is a sense of sadness and inevitability. It makes you wonder and question what you thought you knew. The Tower of London as a child, Nell saw it as a place of wonder, magical and special. It is the place of the menagerie, creatures she is unlikely to have seen before. It is the environment which she doesn’t know but really wants to that makes it so special for her. As an adult, however, she returns to it as a prisoner, and sees it more as forbidding and a symbol of power. Elizabeth believes in destiny. Nell thinks of experiences in the past – Elizabeth has locked people up before (Katherine Grey had been in the Tower for several years). Elizabeth was a valuable prisoner to her sister, Mary I, whereas Nell was very disposable, unless the truth eventually came out.

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