Sir William Cecil
(who in 1571 received the title of Baron Burghley) rose to
eminence under Somerset and became Secretary of State under
Northumberland. His discrete silence about his Protestant
sympathies enabled him to serve Mary I on several diplomatic
He served Elizabeth as Secretary of State from 1558 to 1572, and
as Lord Treasurer from 1572 until his death in 1598.
He was Elizabeth's chief adviser and supervised the whole of English administration.
Sir Francis Walsingham (1532-90)
was appointed Secretary of State in 1572 on Burghley's promotion
to Lord Treasurer. He held the post until his death in 1590.
Walsingham had chosen exile when Mary I became queen and he
always remained a fervent Protestant. He showed a particular
talent for uncovering Catholic plots against Elizabeth. He
played a key role in the exposure of Mary, Queen of Scots' part
in the Babington conspiracy and in her subsequent execution
Sir Robert Cecil (1563-1612)
was the second son of William Cecil. He was born slightly
deformed - short and hunchbacked. In the 1580s, he sat in
Parliament and acted as Elizabeth's envoy in unsuccessful
attempts to negotiate peace with Spain. During the 1590s he took
over the responsibilities of Secretary of State and was formally
appointed to the post in 1596.
He clashed with Robert Devereux, Earl
of Essex over who should become master of the Court of Wards
(a lucrative office): - Cecil won the appointment. After Essex's
fall, he became dominant in government and helped organize James I's unchallenged succession.
Sir Nicholas Bacon(1510-79).
He became Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1558 and a member of the Privy
Council; in 1559 he was authorized to act as Lord Chancellor and
retained the post until his death in 1579.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He was Sir Nicholas Bacon's son
and also became Lord Chancellor. A man of immense ability, Sir Francis
Bacon was the author of some of the finest essays in the English
language, wrote the first systematic exposition of the inductive
method in science, as well as being an important lawyer and
Sir Francis Knollys (1514-96).
His strong Protestant convictions helped him to rise at court under
Edward VI, but he moved to Frankfurt and then to Strasburg while Mary
ruled. He returned on Elizabeth's accession and she appointed him to
her Privy Council in December 1558. Knollys married Catherine Carey, (Mary
Boleyn's daughter by Sir William Carey) and therefore
first cousin to Queen
Elizabeth. For much of Elizabeth's reign he sat in Parliament and
acted as government spokesman there. In 1568-9 he was jailor to Mary,
Queen of Scots, and tried to teach her English and convert her to his
own Genevan brand of Protestantism.
Sir Walter Mildmay (1523-1589).
The son of a wealthy merchant, Sir Walter Mildmay married Sir Francis
Walsingham's sister, Mary, in 1546. Elizabeth appointed him to her
Privy Council and in 1566, made him Chancellor of the Exchequer. Like Knollys, he had strong puritan sympathies. In 1584, he founded
Emmanuel College, Cambridge with the specific aim of training learned,
||Robert Dudley (1532-88)
was a younger son of John Dudley,
Duke of Northumberland.
Robert was Elizabeth's most important favorite during the
early years of her reign. She made him Earl of Leicester, and
apparently seriously considered marrying him after the
(suspicious) death of his wife in 1560. He remained
influential at court and in 1585 was placed in command of the
English army sent to the Netherlands. In 1586 - without
Elizabeth's permission and much to her annoyance - he
accepted the title of governor of the Netherlands. Elizabeth
recalled him in 1587 and he died just after being appointed
general of the armies raised to repel the feared Spanish
|Sir Christopher Hatton
Hatton caught Elizabeth's eye by his skill at dancing. She
appointed him the captain of her bodyguard in 1572. He was
Elizabeth's spokesman in the Commons, ( for example, urging
the Commons to provide taxation to support Elizabeth's
foreign policy) until 1587, when the Queen made him Lord
Chancellor (despite the fact that he had little legal
training). He disliked puritans and was a patron of
Walter Ralegh (1552-1618)
arrived at court in 1581 - when he was twenty-nine and Elizabeth
forty-eight. She took a fancy to him and showered him with gifts
(until she learnt of his secret marriage in 1592), including the
right to take possession of land in the New World. He organized
the exploration of Virginia (named for Elizabeth - the virgin
queen) but did not go
The Privy Council and central
Elizabeth reduced the number of Privy Councilors to
nineteen and later to fourteen (by eliminating some of the noblemen).
Elizabeth generally left routine administration to the
Privy Council but occasionally intervened on apparently trivial
Elizabeth was firmly in control of major policies and
on many occasions obstinately ignored the Council's advice. The
Council conscientiously carried out the Queen's wishes even when it
had advised otherwise.
One of the Privy Council's duties was to advise
the Queen on policy matters, but it did not always speak with one
In the 1570s Dudley and Walsingham advocated sending
troops to help the Dutch fight the Spaniards, while Cecil (fearful of
the enormous expense involved) counseled caution.|
Dudley and Walsingham saw the Roman Catholic threat as
paramount and regarded the puritans as the queen's staunchest allies against
the Pope; Christopher Hatton believed that puritans threatened royal
control of the Church as much as Catholics
The Privy Council also acted as a judicial body,
especially when sitting as Star Chamber. In the 1590s it took
an active role in the suppression of the Presbyterian movement.
However, the Privy Council's primary role was
administration. It gave the Queen's wishes practical effect by
drawing up and sending orders to local officials (for example, Justices of the
Peace, military commanders, Lords Lieutenant) and to the institutions of
central government (Chancery, Exchequer).
The major Privy Councilors employed assistants who did
much of the spadework (for example,
Michael Hickes acted as secretary to the Cecils,
and grew wealthy on the gifts of those eager to obtain Cecil help.
Sir Francis Walsingham employed a number of spies
(including Christopher Marlowe) to
find out what was happening in foreign courts and to infiltrate
Finance and Patronage
Elizabeth was unwilling to adopt new financial
expedients. Despite inflation, she did not increase custom rates. Receipts
from wardships did not keep pace with inflation. Rents from
royal land fell in real terms, and Elizabeth sold land to pay for war
with Spain which decreased the base income.
Elizabeth made no real attempt to
overhaul the system. Instead, she reduced government expenditure,
rewarding officials so meanly that corruption increased, and diverted
revenues from the Church of England into state coffers.
Elizabeth's frugality did mean that
despite long and expensive wars with Spain and in Ireland, she left a
debt of only about
£300,000 to James I. (This can be
contrasted with Philip II of Spain, who repudiated his massive debts
four times during his reign).
early-modern states, England had neither a permanent paid
police-force nor a standing army; the only full-time paid employees
were in the tiny central bureaucracy. To enforce
her will, the monarch had to resort to other methods.
and ceremony reinforced the mystique of monarchy.
- disseminated largely through the church in homilies and sermons -
stressed the sinfulness of rebellion.|
is an intolerable ignorance, madness, and wickedness for
subjects to make any murmuring, rebellion, resistance, or
withstanding, commotion, or insurrection against their most
dear and most dread Sovereign Lord and King, ordained and
appointed of GOD'S goodness for their commodity, peace, and
importantly, the monarchy had powers of patronage that enabled the
monarchy to reward its servants without cash expenditure. Forms of
Titles of nobility and knighthoods
Discount leases of royal land
Stewardships of royal property
Offices in the church for royal servants and their relatives
Grants of patents and monopolies
|Elizabeth was as stingy with titles of
nobility as she was with cash.
Fulke Greville (left) was
one of many loyal servants who had to wait until James I's
reign before being rewarded for his services by promotion to
careful to dispense some patronage herself, and not to allow one
minister or favorite to control access to her favor. Sir William Cecil
and Sir Robert Dudley developed two major subordinate patronage
networks, but there were also other minor networks. Until Elizabeth
began to lose her grip in the 1590s, she exercised firm control over
her subordinates and ensured that conflict between the factions at
court remained muted.
distributing patronage widely, Elizabeth helped ensure political
stability, since everyone felt they had a chance to obtain
administrative unit of English government was the parish. The
parish was primarily the fundamental element of the English Church,
but it was also the basis for secular functions such as poor relief
and the upkeep of roads and bridges.|