Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter

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Thomas Cecil.
File:Coat of arms of Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG.png
Arms of Sir Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter, KG - Barry of ten argent and azure over all six escutcheons sable, three, two, and one, each charged with a lion rampant of the first.

Sir 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 and soldier.


Thomas Cecil was the elder son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, by his first wife, Mary Cheke (died February 1543). He was the half-brother of Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, Anne Cecil, and Elizabeth Cecil.

His father, although fond of both his sons, recognised that only Robert had inherited his political gifts: Thomas, he said sadly, was hardly fit to govern a tennis court. He did however inherit Burghley House.


Cecil was educated privately and at Trinity College, Cambridge.[1]

He served in government under Elizabeth I of England, first serving in the House of Commons in 1563 and representing various constituencies for most of the time from then until 1593. He was knighted in 1575 and appointed High Sheriff of Northamptonshire for 1578. He accompanied the Earl of Leicester to the Dutch Republic, where he was distinguished for his bravery. In 1585 he served as governor of Brielle. He did not have good relations with Leicester, but he was very loyal to Sir John Norreys. In 1584 and 1586 he was Member of Parliament for Lincolnshire, and once more in 1592 for Northamptonshire. His father's death 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 made him a Knight of the Garter in 1601. He was created Earl of Exeter on 4 May 1605, the same day his 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 James I, which may suggest that James shared their father's low opinion of Thomas's political skills.

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.[2]

Marriages and issue

Thomas Cecil married, firstly, Dorothy Neville, the daughter of John Neville, 4th Baron Latimer, by his wife, Lucy Somerset, daughter of Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester; and, secondly, Frances Brydges, the daughter of William Brydges, 4th Baron Chandos, of Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire, and widow of the Master of Requests, Thomas Smith, of Abingdon, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), and Parson's Green, Middlesex.

By his first wife, Thomas Cecil had eleven children:

Lord Exeter is buried in the chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey.

Political offices
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
Title last held by
The Earl of Huntingdon
Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire
Succeeded by
The Lord Sheffield
Title last held by
Sir Christopher Hatton
Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire
Succeeded by
The Earl of Exeter
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Exeter
Succeeded by
William Cecil
Preceded by
William Cecil
Baron Burghley

See Also

Wimbledon Palace - The house Sir Thomas Cecil built


  1. "Cecil, Thomas (CCL558T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. William Casey (pub.), Alfredo Colman (pub.), Thomas Robinson: New Citharen Lessons (1609), 1997 Baylor University Press, Waco, Texas, ISBN 0-918954-65-7
  3. Foster 1883, p. 93.