Robert Cecil: Earl of Salisbury, Minister of Elizabeth and James I

Cecil secured the peaceful accession of the Stuarts and strove with near success, Joel Hurstfield writes, to solve the vexatious problems that confronted the new dynasty in England and upon the European scene.

In his essay “Of Deformity,” first published in 1612: and the whole world knew that he was referring to his cousin Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, who had just died. “For as nature hath done ill by them,” he went on, “so do they by nature; being for the most part (as the Scripture saith) void of natural affection.”

This judgment by a contemporary has now lasted for over three hundred years; and on its journey it has picked up a long train of scurrility to which Bacon himself would never have subscribed. Even in Cecil’s own day, and in his own county, men spoke of him as:

“Not Robin Goodfellow nor Robin Hood But Robin the encloser of Hatfield Wood”

while his enemies fastened to his name the foulest charges of corruption. One lampoon went so far as to place him in the same category as Richard III;

“While two Rs both crouchbacks stood at the helm,

The one spilt the blood royal, the other the realm.”

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