William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

1 portrait on display at Montacute House

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, by Unknown artist, after 1587 - NPG 362 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

by Unknown artist
oil on panel, after 1587
44 1/2 in. x 35 7/8 in. (1130 mm x 911 mm)
Purchased, 1873
Primary Collection
NPG 362

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The only son of a wealthy Northamptonshire squire, Burghley was educated at St John's College, Cambridge. He served both Edward VI and Mary I but exercised most power when chief minister to their sister Elizabeth I. During his forty years as her principal advisor he only twice lost influence; once owing to the queen's infatuation with the Earl of Leicester and once over the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, an act sanctioned by Elizabeth but blamed on Burghley. John Clapham, who was a member of Burghley's household for seven years, described him as of 'a well tempered constitution of body, of stature rather comely than tall, in countenance grave but without authority'. This portrait of him differs from most others in its fine modelling of his features. Burghley wears his robes of a Knight of the Garter, with the George (the emblem of the Order) on his collar, and holds the white wand of office.

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