Monday, September 28, 2015

GLORIANA! The ABC's of the Reign of Our Most Gracious Sovereign Elizabeth - C is for Cecil

Elizabeth I had trust issues.
It's little wonder, since her father (figuratively) stepped back and allowed her mother's execution, her step-mother's husband did his best to molest her, her half-sister had her arrested and held in the Tower (where the motto was, "Abandon hope, all who enter here")
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"No way out, no way out, oh, holy shit - how did I end up in the Tower of London!!"
 and even her much-loved half-brother slighted her in his order of succession to the throne.


When Elizabeth I found someone she allowed herself to trust, she seemed to compartmentalize just exactly what it was with which she placed her trust.
In the case of William Cecil, her Secretary of State, she trusted he would give her all information she required to make weighty state decisions.
At that, Cecil was brilliant.

A cautious man, Cecil's thought process allowed him to see all possibilities in different courses of action stemming from the same decision to be made.
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Able to lay out different courses of action and their potential consequences as logically as any flow chart, Cecil saw much, but decided little.
His job was not to influence, but to do due diligence Image result for due diligence

for decisions facing Elizabeth I.

Cecil's family had history serving the monarch; his father was Groom of the Wardrobe for Henry VIII; his grandfather, David, was serjeant-at-arms (provided security for and maintained order in the House of Commons) to Elizabeth I's father, Henry VIII.
Cecil was Secretary of State for Elizabeth I's half-brother, Edward VI; but when Edward VI made his 'Device for Succession' he named not his half-sisters as the next queen(s) of England, but instead, the male issue of his father's niece, Frances Grey.
Although he objected to the line of succession declared by the dying Edward VI, Cecil was pressed to endorse it, putting his signature down, saying "yup - that's how it ought to be."

No sooner was the teen-king's body cool than ambitious courtiers interpreted and re-interpreted the *actual* meaning of the document. 
Although Mary I, Edward VI's half-sister made short work of kicking that proposal to the curb as she settled herself on the throne, she didn't punish Cecil for having agreed to witness the document.
And, likewise, when Mary I died five years into her reign, her successor, Elizabeth I, let bygones be bygones. 

Cecil began secretly meeting with Elizabeth I while she was still Lady Elizabeth; before the death of her half-sister, Mary I.
That's how court careers worked; if one monarch was clearly circling the drain, their loyal courtiers didn't waste time switching allegiance to the incoming monarch.
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Got the old resume out; just need a sec to put on my current job responsibilities. Shame about the king. 

Once Elizabeth I became queen, she appointed Cecil as her Secretary of State.
Cecil's genius was seeing the possibilities and potential fallout of decisions made by nobility and politicians; it was this steadfast ability to lay out all actions that might result from choices were made - but never, ever influencing the decision-making process.
He had, perhaps more than any other person at court, an understanding of the diamond-drill mind of his queen, and a deep appreciation for the respect and sense of responsibility she felt towards her people in her service to them.

Cecil did, however, have a beef with Elizabeth I over her relationship with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
It's possible he sensed that on the topic of Dudley, Elizabeth I had the ability to behave impulsively, as one will do when the heart is involved.
A few days before Dudley's unfortunate wife went ass-over-teakettle down a steep flight of stairs, breaking her neck, Cecil repeated a rumor that Dudley was planning to off his wife through some kind of  in-home 'accident.'
Truth imitates rumor?
Although Elizabeth I immediately distanced herself from Dudley, the damage was done and to the end of her reign, she never entirely shook the stink of that still-unsolved mystery.
Was Dudley's wife helped down the stairs?
Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.
If so, by whom?

Marriage was front-of-mind for everyone at court - everyone, that is, with the exception of the intended bride.
Elizabeth I stood strong and unmovable in her opposition to marriage.
When her councilors spoke loudly enough on the topic, she appeared to listen, to nod in agreement, to even allow negotiations to take place - but that was it. 
Cecil, like the rest of Elizabeth's advisers, wanted a secure succession, as well as a strong male to make decisions they all thought a woman incapable of making.
He believed her 'nervous outbursts' as well as her red-hot temper were curable - and the cure was to (get this) have children
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Elizabeth I's reaction to all suggestions she should marry and have children. lol. 

In 1562, Cecil was, with others, meant to set up a face to face meeting between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, it never took place.
Cecil predicted Mary Queen of Scots would become a powerful figurehead for the Roman Catholic movement once she'd been bumped off the throne; he was dead right about that.
Roman Catholics rallied around the Queen of Scots, whose political acumen spotted a mantle of martyrdom right there, ready and waiting for her to use - which she did, very effectively, on an 'as-needed' basis.Image result for martyr meme

When Mary Queen of Scots was caught dead to rights (allegedly; there is still some question as to whether the 'proof' was forged) in a plot to off Elizabeth, then to take her throne, Elizabeth I had to face facts: unless the Queen of Scots were stopped by execution, Elizabeth I was at risk of assassination. 
Reluctantly, Elizabeth I gave a conditional okay to an order of death to anyone, anyone at all, who attempted to put themselves or their heirs on the English throne - but immediately made it clear nothing was to be done until she'd agreed the time was right.Image result for shit just got real
Image result for execution of mary queen of scots

Cecil, along with a couple of other security-conscious advisers to the queen, took the signed (conditional) order of death, rustled up a jury, tried Mary Queen of Scots, and pushed hard to get the execution done a.s.a.p.

When told of the execution (and it was a messy, nasty one that took more than two strokes of the axe - use your imagination) Elizabeth I flipped out.
She raged, she screamed, she cried, she threatened, she threw things, she wouldn't speak to the men she held responsible - but she had to have known there really was no other way.
After giving Cecil and a few others the cold shoulder for awhile, she thawed out and allowed them back in her service. 

Cecil's health began to fail a few years after the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and the defeat of the Spanish Armada the following year.
He collapsed from some devastating incident, heart attack or possibly had a stroke, in 1592.
Way to be remembered with panache! William Cecil's final napping spot. 
On 4 August, 1598, after a tough career serving a tough boss and doing it admirably, William Cecil died at his house in London.

Ever the cautious and steadfast servant, though, he'd trained his son, Robert, to step in and take over for him - so that Elizabeth I would have the closest thing to a seamless transition with her new adviser.