Page 3, 18th September 1959

18th September 1959
Page 3
Page 3, 18th September 1959 — Robert the Devil

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Robert the Devil


R. G. D.


THE SECOND CECIL, by P. M. Handover (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 42s.). BURGHLEY'S son, Robert Cecil, later Lord Salisbury. was far from being the popular idea of an "Elizabethan". He was a Macchiavenial] statesman; for his whole life was devoted to answering the question raised. ill " The Prince ": how shall a ruler get and keep power ?

Cecil answered it thus: by always being earlier and better informed than his opponents; by inscrutability and keeping them guessing; by sustained thought and work at all hours, day and night; by keeping out of the expense and misery of war; by striking hard, when necessary.

No tS onder that. !toting ruled Friglimil for nearly 20 years, Cecil died before he was 50. No wonder that to many he was the universal spider. if not Old Nick himself.


age, full of faction. envy, and malice between the Queen's courtiers. A landless second son, and moreover a hunchback of diminutive size. might seem an unlikely victor in the contest at court.

But, though Elizabeth gave her tilVOUT to desliing cavaliers. she kept serious husinese for serieux men and none was more serieux than Cecil. So he was her Principal Secretary when just 33.

And he achieved great things. He planned the social legislation of 1597, which was the basis of our poor law for over two centuries. Fie calmed the Commons, exasperated over monopolies, in 1601. (It was unfortunate for King Charles that his father removed Cecil to the lords. For only Cecil could perhaps have reconciled the monarchy and the rising pretensions of the Commons.) And he so carefully prepared the ground that James succeeded Elizabeth without the least trouble.

Good reading

M ISS Handover's book makes 1'1 good reading. It is not the definitive life of Cecil. There is manuscript material that she has not, yet tackled and she stops at the peace with Spain in 1604. So we get nothing yet on the Gunpowder Plot. 1 shall look forward to another volume on Cecil's latter years.

Of special interest to Catholics

is the chapter on Co. re handling of them in 1602. lames. whose succession Cecil was ensuring, was for buying Catholic support with a promise to wink at unobtrusive Catholicism.

But Cecil would not tolerate Papists. The country must be united by one religion, He had seen the havoc wrought by two religions in France and the Netherlands.

Subtle intrigue

BUT neither was he a willing persecutor. in the sense of sending priests to torture and death. though quite prepared to usc that method to get information.

His method in 1602 was to die credit the spiritual leaders of the Catholics by exploiting the angry differences between the seculars and the Jesuits, releasing the delegates of the former to go to Rome to denounce the latter and secure a brief limiting the Archpriest's powers in England. Cecil then got out a proclamation banishing all priests who did not "submit to the Queen's mercy."

Cecil thus sossed confusion among the English Catholics and broke the back of a Catholic resistance to the Protestant succession.

IT was a fiercely competitive

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