William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, (13 September 1520 – 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.
Albert Pollard wrote, "From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England."Cecil set as the main goal of English policy the creation of a united and Protestant British Isles.
His methods were to complete the control of Ireland, and to forge an alliance with Scotland.
Protection from invasion required a powerful Royal Navy.
While he was not fully successful, his successors agreed with his goals.
Cecil was not a political genius or an original thinker; but he was a cautious man and a wise counsellor, with a rare and natural gift for avoiding dangers.
In 1587, Cecil persuaded the Queen to order the execution of the Roman Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots, after she was implicated in a plot to assassinate Elizabeth.
He was the father of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury and founder of the Cecil dynasty (Marquesses of Exeter and of Salisbury) which has produced many politicians including two prime ministers.
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