Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury

by Unknown artist, after John De Critz the Elder
oil on panel, 1602
35 1/2 in. x 28 7/8 in. (902 mm x 734 mm)
Given by David Laing, 1860
Primary Collection
NPG 107

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Like his father William Cecil, Baron Burghley, Salisbury dedicated his life to politics. An MP for Westminster and then for Hertfordshire he was later made Secretary of State, an office he had held for six years when this portrait was painted. On the table beside him is bell, an embroidered seal bag and two letters, one of which details his various offices. His punning Latin motto can be translated as 'Late but in earnest'. Cecil was of small stature with some slight curvature of the spine and was referred to by Elizabeth I as her 'elf' and by James I as his 'pygmy' or 'little beagle'. His motto 'Sero, sed serio' is included in the portrait and can be translated as 'late but in earnest'. A similar face pattern to that used to produce this portrait was used in the depiction of the sitter in The Somerset House Conference.

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Current affairs

The Lord Deputy of Ireland Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy secures the surrender of the Spanish force sent to Ireland to assist the Catholic rebellion led by Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone.

Art and science

The full-length portrait of Sir Walter Ralegh and his son is painted by an unknown artist.
The Bodleian Library of Oxford University is inaugurated by the scholar and diplomat Sir Thomas Bodley.
Akbar, Mughal Emperor of India, constructs the Buland Darwaza ('Great Gateway') in Fatehpur Sikri, India, to commemorate his conquest of Gujarat.


Foundation of the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC) and the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The Dutch fleet arrives in Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and is welcomed as aid against the Portuguese.
Abbas I, Shah of Persia expels the Portuguese from Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and launches a campaign against the Ottoman Empire.

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Monty Kerr

23 June 2019, 15:56

The motto on the portrait 'sero, sed serio' is the motto of the Kerr clan, which was one of the border reivers.