Immediately on her accession in 1558, Queen Elizabeth I appointed William Cecil by her personal charge as her most trusted advisor. Thus began the most remarkable 40-year partnership in English history, both of them living to almost twice the life expectancy of the age. Cecil held the highest offices of state as Principal Secretary and Lord Treasurer continuously until his death in 1598.

Cecil was the most powerful man in England for almost the entire length of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. A power not derived from the church, nor from the battlefield nor from ancient lineage. The Queen called him her ‘Spirit’ her ‘Alpha and Omega’. The Spanish Ambassador called him ‘the man who does everything’. There was no aspect of foreign or domestic polity in which he was not involved. He was the man who made England work and was at the heart of all the drama of Elizabeth’s long reign.

Burghley was arguably a far more important figure in English history than Cardinal Wolsey or Thomas Cromwell, and yet he remains little-known in the wider public domain.

Now, when the whole concept of the nation state and its identity is being questioned, 2020 provides the ideal opportunity to introduce this unique figure in British history to a broader public audience and explore his place in history and in the context of our own times.

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