The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563-1604 of Sir Robert Cecil, Late First Earl of Salisbury

The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563-1604 of Sir Robert Cecil, Late First Earl of Salisbury

The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563-1604 of Sir Robert Cecil, Late First Earl of Salisbury

The Second Cecil: The Rise to Power, 1563-1604 of Sir Robert Cecil, Late First Earl of Salisbury

Excerpt

The Great Earl of Salisbury . . . to whose memory, if mankind hath not paid . . . regard, it is only because they were unacquainted with his merits.' Those words were written in 1725, more than a hundred years after his death, by the editor of the Winwood Papers, the first collection of Robert Cecil's letters to be published. What were these 'merits' of Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury? Or was he only a cruel and cunning hunchback, his mind as deformed as his body;

A monster sent by cruel Fate
To plague the country and the State.

to quote the words of an anonymous rhymster in the year of his death in 1612.

The achievement for which, in part, he received his earldom was the Peace Treaty with Spain, signed in August 1604. For the purpose three Spaniards and three Walloons 'half Espagnolised,' as he described one of then, from the Spanish Netherlands, came to London. They met five English representatives at Somerset House in the Strand. There, on a summer day, while the light wind gently stirred the purifying leaves within the tapestried chamber, their portraits were painted.

The three Spaniards on the left side of the table, at the window end, do not enter Cecil's story at this date; but he had a long acquaintance with the plump and gouty Count d'Aremberg who sits next to them, and with Aremberg's neighbour, the aristocratic, immensely dignified, immensely astute Jean Richardot, President of Artois. Cecil had also met the third, Louis Verryken, auditor to the Spanish Council in Brussels, whose bluff appearance is misleading, for he was a master in bluffing.

The two patriarchs on the English side, Lord Buckhurst and the Earl of Nottingham, respectively Lord Treasurer and Lord Admiral, sit on the right of the window. Both are of ancient blood, Nottingham a Howard, and are themselves ancient, unventuresome, dependent . . .

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