The Aspiring Mind of the Elizabethan Younger Generation

By Anthony Esler | Go to book overview

V. A lust for dominion

Soon after the outbreak of the Spanish War, a second center of the ambitious activities of the Elizabethan younger generation developed, not on the battlefield, but at court. The war years began in the middle 1580's; what we may call the bottleneck years of political ambition and rivalry at court began in the early 1590's. Both these trends outlasted the reign, though the impact of the war diminished, while political intrigue increased, as the reign drew to a close. The war had focused the idealistic aspirations of young men on the quest for honor. The bitter political competition of the bottleneck years, beginning in the next decade, concentrated the ambitions of a more mature generation in a driving lust for power. The single-minded, often ruthless striving for political dominion which characterized the generation of 1560 in the 1590's is nowhere better exemplified than in the early career of Sir Robert Cecil, Lord Burghley's son and the future Earl of Salisbury, Secretary of State, and Lord Treasurer of England.


i. An Elizabethan courtier in the political bottleneck years: Sir Robert Cecil

The education of Robert Cecil, second son of Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, was intended to make him both a successful politician and a highly moral man; if anything, the emphasis of his upbringing was on the latter goal. From the point of view of Elizabethan pedagogy, the educational regimen of his childhood was almost ideal. He and his older brother Thomas devoted several hours each day to religious instruction--the catechism, prayers, Bible readings.1 Under the direction of a private tutor, the boys composed Latin essays on such edifying themes as "'Omnes ad studium virtutis incitantur spe premii,' (all are incited to the study of virtue by the hope of reward)."2LordBurghley insisted

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1
P. M. Handover, The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563-1604, of Sir Robert Cecil . . . ( London, 1959), pp. 14-15.

-125-

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The Aspiring Mind of the Elizabethan Younger Generation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: A Generational Approach to Elizabethan England ix
  • I. a Burned-Out Generation 3
  • Ii. the Orthodox View of Ambition 24
  • Iii. a Generation of Phoenixes 51
  • Iv. the Bubble Reputation 87
  • V. a Lust for Dominion 125
  • Vi. Grand Schemes, Impossible to Accomplish 165
  • Vii. the Melancholy Malcontents 202
  • Appendix: Leading Courtiers and Writers of the Generation of 1560 244
  • Bibliography of Works Cited 245
  • Index 262
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