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Thomas Cecil | First Earl Of Exeter, Age, Star Sign, Family, Biography, Early Life, Career, Facts


IntroEnglish politician
FromUnited Kingdom, England
Birth5 May 1542, London, UK
Death8 February 1623, London, UK (aged 80 years)
Star SignTaurus
FamilyMother: Mary Cheke, Father: William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Siblings: Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Anne Cecil, Countess of Oxford, Children: Elizabeth Hatton, Richard Cecil, William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter, Hon. Thomas Cecil, Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledonun, known daughter Cecil, Lady Lucy Cecil, Lady Mildred Cecil, Lady Dorothy Cecilun, known son Cecilun, known daughter Cecilun, known daughter Cecil, Lady Mary Cecil, Lady Frances Cecil
EducationUniversity of Cambridge
AwardsOrder of the Garter 


Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG (5 May 1542 – 8 February 1623), known as Lord Burghley from 1598 to 1605, was an English politician, courtier and soldier.


Thomas Cecil was the elder son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, by his first wife, Mary Cheke (d. February 1543), daughter of Peter Cheke of Cambridge, Esquire Bedell of the University from 1509 until his death in 1529 (and sister of Sir John Cheke). He was the half-brother of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Anne Cecil, and Elizabeth Cecil.

It has been said that William Cecil considered Thomas to be, “hardly fit to govern a tennis court”. This quotation is both unproven and unfair. Whilst Thomas’s career may have been overshadowed by those of his illustrious father and half-brother, he was a fine soldier and a useful politician and had a good deal of influence on the building, not only of Burghley itself, but also two other important houses: Wothorpe Towers and Wimbledon Palace.


Cecil was educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1558, being admitted to Gray’s Inn in the same year. In 1561–62 he was sent with a guardian to Europe to improve himself, at first to Paris, where he applied himself more to social pleasures than to his studies. Eventually he was removed from this environment first to Antwerp and then to Germany, and might have proceeded to Italy but for the death of his stepbrother William, which led to his being recalled to England.

He served in government under Queen Elizabeth I of England, sitting in the House of Commons first for Stamford, Lincolnshire, in the parliaments of 1563, 1571 and 1572. He was knighted in 1575 and appointed High Sheriff of Northamptonshire for 1578. He accompanied Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester to the Dutch Republic, where he was distinguished for his bravery. In 1584 and 1586 he was Member of Parliament for Lincolnshire, and in 1585 was appointed governor of Brielle – an English Cautionary Town. He did not have good relations with Dudley, but he was very loyal to Sir John Norreys. In 1588, Cecil completed the building of Wimbledon Palace in Wimbledon Park, London, a leading example of the Elizabethan prodigy house. He returned again to the Commons as member for Northamptonshire in 1592 and 1597.

His father’s death, later in 1598, brought him a seat in the House of Lords, the 2nd Lord Burghley, as he then was, served from 1599 to 1603 as Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire and Lord President of the Council of the North. It was during this period, that Queen Elizabeth I made him a Knight of the Garter in 1601. During the early reign of King James I of England, he was created Earl of Exeter on 4 May 1605, the same day his younger half-brother, Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cranborne, was created 1st Earl of Salisbury. Unlike his brother, however, he did not become a government minister under King James’s rule.

He attempted to build up a family alliance with one of King James’s leading ministers, Sir Thomas Lake, by marrying his grandson, William Cecil, 16th Baron de Ros, to Lake’s daughter, Anne Lake, in 1615, but the marriage collapsed amidst a welter of allegations and counter-allegations of adultery and incest. The ensuing scandal fascinated the Court and dragged on for years, until in 1621, the Star Chamber found that Anne, her mother, and other members of the Lake family, had fabricated all of the original allegations.

The Cecil family fostered arts; they supported musicians such as William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Thomas Robinson. The latter, in his youth, was in the service of Thomas Cecil.


In Behind the Arras (2019) Deborah Defoe proposed that Thomas Cecil was the actual author of Shakespeare’s works.


Thomas Cecil married, firstly, Dorothy Neville, the daughter of John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer and Lady Lucy Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester; and, secondly, Frances Brydges, the daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos and Mary Hopton, and the widow of Thomas Smith, Master of Requests.

By his first wife, Thomas Cecil had ten children who survived to adulthood:

  • William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter.
  • Lady Lucy Cecil (d. October 1614), who married William Paulet, 4th Marquess of Winchester.
  • Lady Mildred Cecil (d. 23 December 1611), who married firstly, Sir Thomas Reade (d. 1595), and married secondly, Sir Edmund Trafford (c. 1560–1620).
  • Sir Richard Cecil of Wakerley.
  • Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon.
  • Lady Mary Cecil (d. 18 March 1638), who married Edward Denny, 1st Earl of Norwich.
  • Lady Dorothy Cecil (b. August 1577 – d. 10 November 1613), who married Sir Giles Alington of Horseheath, Cambridgeshire (1572–1638). Their daughter, Mary Alington, married Sir Thomas Hatton.
  • Lady Elizabeth Cecil, who married, firstly, Sir William Newport alias Hatton (1550–1597), and secondly, Sir Edward Coke of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire.
  • Thomas Cecil, esquire.
  • Lady Frances Cecil (b. 28 February 1580/1581 – d. 21 June 1653), who married Nicholas Tufton, 1st Earl of Thanet.

The Earl of Exeter was buried in the chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey, London.

Political Offices
Preceded by
Governor of Brill, The Netherlands.
bef. 1585 – aft. 1596
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Conway
Preceded by
The Lord Burghley
Custos Rotulorum of Lincolnshire
bef. 1594 – aft. 1608
Succeeded by
Lord Burghley
Preceded by
Kenelm Digby
Custos Rotulorum of Rutland
bef. 1594–1623
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Buckingham
Vacant Title last held by The Earl of HuntingdonLord Lieutenant of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
The Lord Sheffield
VacantTitle last held by Sir Christopher HattonLord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Exeter
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