William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

Image credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Queen Elizabeth's first appointment when she ascended to the throne was to make William Cecil her principal secretary of state, making him the youngest member of her council. Throughout his life, he was the Queen's most influential minister, tempering her actions with cautious but decisive advice. As a result the Queen nicknamed Cecil her 'Spirit'. He was created Baron Burghley in 1571, and was Lord High Treasurer and Chief Minister from 1572. The only serious threat to his influence came from Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, whose great dislike he returned. The large number of contemporary portraits of Cecil still in existence testifies to the widespread recognition of his great political importance.

National Portrait Gallery, London



William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley


1560s (?)


oil on panel


H 95.3 x W 71.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased, 1928

Work type



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