Held at:





The English Historical Review, Vol. 75, No. 294 (Jan., 1960), pp. 54-76


Guest Contribution: Alltyrynys and the Cecils by A. L. Rowse

Place name:






This paper on Alltyrynys and the Cecils by A. L. Rowse is published in the English Historical Review by Oxford University Press and is held online by JSTOR at a stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/558800.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. This material is intended solely for non-commercial educational and research purposes and is subject to the JSTOR Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms


Ewyas Lacy Study Group



Alltyrynys and the Cecils 1


 A CERTAIN obscurity surrounds the origins of the most distinguished of English political families: it is not generally known, or appreciated, where they came from. The great Marquis of Salisbury, whose interests of mind were theological and scientific rather than historical, was in the habit of informing his family that they were descended from a pork-butcher at Stamford. Russell Lowell thought from the earlier form of their name-Sitsilt or Syssill (still represented by the proper pronunciation of the name)- that they must have a Sicilian origin and were probably Jews from Sicily! Catholics in Elizabeth's days, who even then consoled themselves with their own agreeable vein of Catholic snobbery, put it about that the great Lord Burghley was descended from an inn- keeper at Stamford. Sir Francis Englefield, who had been Master of the Court of Wards under Mary Tudor-a job in which Cecil later succeeded him-and who had gone into exile in the Nether- lands, assured Lord Burghley, without irony and with no doubt an intent to propitiate the minister, that for his part he did not believe the lies uttered against his parentage. Burghley's reproof of the anonymous author of such a tract confirmed 'what I had always believed and maintained. I knew your father living like a gentleman, and your grandfather, I hear, was no less.'2 It does not seem much to be able to say, and the great man sought comfort in a genealogical table showing the common descent of the earls of Worcester, Pembroke, Northumberland, and Westmorland, the duke of Norfolk, the Vaughans, Raglans, and Cecils from one Thomas ap Gwillym Herbert.3 Drawing up pedigrees was to Lord Burghley what Anglo-Saxon antiquities were to Archbishop Parker -a refuge from the crosses of this world. Nothing gave him more satisfaction than stringing the names together like beads on a rosary -indeed it was a more satisfying occupation than that-until his mind came to rest upon the fond thought that the family went back to an ' Owen Whyte who came with Harold that was Earl Godwin's son out of Cornwall '.4 To go back to before the Norman Con- quest-there was a consoling thought to hug against those uppish old Norman families, Fitzalans, Arundels, Percies, Devereux, who


1 I am most grateful to the Marquis of Salisbury for permitting me to consult his manuscripts from Hatfield House, to Miss Clare Talbot for help in regard to them, to Mr. Lawrence Stone for information from them, and to Miss N. McN. O'Farrell for help with original manuscripts. I am much indebted to Professor Idris Foster for his kind aid with the Welsh medieval background, and to Dr. W. G. Hoskins for information about Stamford.

2 Cal. Sate Papers Dom., EliZ., Add. 1566-I579, p. 479.

3 Ibid. p. 47.

4 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS. xiv. 75. 54



were so troublesome and apt to be so disdainful Elizabeth's first minister. The truth is that the Cecils go back to a Welsh origin. In more serious mood Lord Burghley liked to think that they stemmed from a follower of Robert Fitzhamon, conqueror of Glamorgan; and when David Powel, a fellow of All Souls, wrote his Historie of Cambria he put together a plausible account of the Cecil ancestry from the pedigrees and descents remaining, he said, in Lord Burghley's possession. ' And at this day William Sitsylt or Cecill Esquire cousin german to the said Lord Burghley, removed by one degree only, is possessed of the foresaid house of Alltyrynys in Ewyas land as the heir male of the house of Sitsylts and is descended of Philip Cecil, elder brother to the said David ', i.e. Lord Burghley's grandfather.' Evidently Lord Burghley had been uncertain of the name of his grandfather's brother and he set inquiries on foot.2 He was in fact a Richard, the son of Philip; and, being written sometimes Richard Philip in the Welsh manner, for Richard ap Philip, hence some confusion in the records. There is no reason in nature why the family should not go back to a follower of Robert Fitzhamon; though even David Powel says of his eponymous Robert Sitsylt that ' he had no part in the said lordship of Glamorgan that I can read of '.3 And that is the trouble with the genealogy that he and Lord Burghley in their enthusiasm constructed: it is not corroborated by any evidence external to itself. The name itself offers no trouble. Seisill is a personal name frequently occurring in Welsh medieval texts, and great was Lord Burghley's delight when, in a medieval manuscript of Giraldus Cambrensis given him by Richard Davies, bishop of St. David's, he came upon a ' Seissill filius Eudaf'. Seissill he wrote meditatively in the margin, before handing the manuscript over to David Powel for printing.4 And in one of his numerous fiddlings with his pedigree occurs the note, ' Syssyllte, a man's name from whom came the surname of Cecell '.5 It was Burghley himself, with his classical education, who fixed the name in the form Cecil, which led his eldest son to complain, 'my lord my father's altering the writing of his name maketh many that are not well affected to our house to doubt whether we are rightly descended of the house of Wales, because they write their name Sitsilt and our name is written Cecyll; my grandfather wrote it Syssell; and so in orthography all the three names differ. Whereof I marvel what moved my lord my father to. alter it.' 6


1 The Historie of Cambria, by H. Lhoyd, augmented by David Powel (ed. I 8 I), p. I i.

2 Cf. the facsimile of the pedigree, with Lord Burghley's annotations, in Edward Nares, Memoirs of Lord Burghley, i. 8.

3 Powel, p. 108.

4 I am indebted to Professor Idris Foster for the information above and a list of instances from the medieval texts.

5 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS. viii. 287.

6 G. R. Dennis, The House of Cecil, pp. 7-8,



It all goes back to Alltyrynys, which means the island of meadow and exactly describes the place: between the two streams, the Monnow and the Honddu. The ground rises gradually up all the way to the parish church of Walterston, on the hill with its prehistoric camp: this place called after Walter de Lacy, the country round all formerly part of the lordship of Ewyas Lacy that occupied the south-western corner, the Welsh- speaking part, of Herefordshire. In this sweet country just off the main road from Hereford to Abergavenny-Abbey Dore over the hills to the north, Llanthony priory to the west among the Black Mountains, Skirrid Fawr, the Holy Mountain, with its hawk-like outline to the south-this family of small Welsh gentry passed its un- noted existence, lived its life close to the soil, in the later Middle Ages. When we merge into the light of day with the Tudors-as the Cecils themselves did-we are on firm ground. Or perhaps even earlier, with the fifteenth century Thomas Sitsylt who married the daughter of Gilbert Winston and of whom David Powel tells us that he was a benefactor of the monks of Dore. He heads the last and most relevant page in Burghley's pedigree, with comments and additions in that familiar, idiosyncratic hand-' Here endeth ye old Roole in parchment.' This Thomas had a son called Philip, who married Margaret the daughter of John Philips. Their eldest son was Richard, who carried on the line at Alltyrynys, while a younger son was David, Lord Burghley's grandfather, who started the junior line upon its astonishing efflorescence. We know nothing for certain about the circumstances in which David Cecil, to give the name its later form, left the Welsh border. But since he became one of the picked men of Henry VII's guard, it is likely enough that, an able younger son with no prospects, he saw his fortune in Henry Tudor and marched with him to Bosworth field. He was already a man getting on for thirty. And since he turns up at Stamford in the following of Sir David Philips-one of his mother's relations, a close supporter of Henry Tudor, a trusted servant of the king's mother, the Lady Margaret, steward of her manor of Colley Weston near Stamford, and since David Cecil was an executor of Sir David Philips's will and succeeded to some of his offices, it is a clear inference that he came into Northamptonshire and laid the foundation of his family's fortunes there through that relationship. It so happened that Stamford turned out to offer exceptional opportunities to a newcomer of energy with a position at Court to turn it to profit. The town, admirably placed between forest and wold and where good arable meets improvable fen, was a prosperous place when the Cecils first got their foot in. South-west from the town lay Rockingham Forest with numerous Crown estates, which offered useful leases for a yeoman of the guard to pick


1 Nares, loc. cit.



up. To the east was the fen-country, improving in value as the land was drained, yielding rich soil. The town itself was full of medieval church foundations-small monastic houses, chantry chapels, lights for obits-all with lands lying round about convenient to hand when the golden opportunities of the Dissolution came. In Stam- ford the Cecils struck gold: a great contrast to impoverished Welsh valleys and hillsides with poor soil, families too thick upon the ground and life a scuffle and a scrabble for existence. We hear of no contacts between the two branches of the family in the heroic age in which the midland Cecils were establishing themselves: too much else to do. But when Lord Burghley came to be a leading personage in the country he began to take an interest in his family origins, to collect what information he could about them, let his antiquarian imagination frolic around the facts, and to renew associations with the old house of Alltyrynys. Anyone who was a Cecil was of interest to him. In the summer of 1550 Master Thomas Cecil of Oxford recommends himself to William Cecil- now in a key position at Edward VI's Court, between Somerset and Northumberland-though uncertain whether he is a kinsman: Cecil sends him a side of venison.' In Mary's reign we find a Thomas Cecil in his household at Wimbledon, 'to have a livery and badge of the best '.2 In 1569 Mr. Jenkins Gwynne recommends a Vaughan to him as a kinsman by blood.3 We shall see that the man in power extended his protection to his somewhat questionable cousins back at Alltyrynys, and gave them little favours. Interested in his grandfather's background and family, Lord Burghley procured a copy of Richard Cecil's will of 1508, noting at the end that this Richard was brother to David, his grandfather.4 This will tells us all we know of the family at that time in the old home. It was the estate of a very small gentleman with little to bequeath except the property of Alltyrynys upon which they lived. He left small sums for forgotten tithes to the church of Walterston in which he desired to be buried; a dorche (i.e. a chaplet or necklet) to the chapel of Trewyn, neighbouring Alltyrynys; half a crown each to the Grey Friars and Black Friars of Hereford, and to the Friars of Ludlow and Llynby; other sums for the friars to say masses for his soul. His best gown he left to Thomas Cecil, both his plain gowns to Watkyn Cecil. But most of this will-elaborate, devious, lacking in clearness of statement and partly illegible-is concerned with the devolution of the estate. Richard first makes provision for Maud late wife of Philip Cecil; but if '[John] ap Philip Cecil will not peaceably suffer the same Maude his mother to enjoy the said lands ' set aside for her, then she should succeed to Alltyrynys. With his mother provided for,


1 Lansdowne MSS., 2/46, 47,

2 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS. i. 142.

3 Lansdowne MSS. 12/5

4 Hatfield House, C.P. I41/28.



John ap Philip Cecil is to have Alltyrynys, with the exception of certain tenements to provide for his sister Margaret. We can only infer from this-though Richard does not say so-that his eldest son Philip died before him, leaving a widow with these children John and Margaret.' The young heir John as yet has no children and if it happen the said John Cecil to die without heir of his body lawfully begotten, that God forbid ', then the estate is to go to his sister Margaret. If her heirs fail, it is to go to David ap Richard - that would be the testator's next son, though he does not say so. Failing him and his heirs, Alltyrynys should go to Morgan ap Thomas Cecil. I do not know where he comes in the line. Nothing is said about the Stamford people: they are by now providing well for themselves. Richard left Margaret, who must be his grand-daughter,a silver pot and salt-cellar with half a dozen spoons, and John Hughes a cup and a salt-cellar with six silvered spoons Richard had mortgaged . All his household at Alltyrynys he bequeathed to John, except one chamber remaining to his mother. The will was witnessed by, among others, Watkin Winston. At the parting of the ways in the family, it does enable us to fill out the pedigree, sufficient for our purposes, to illustrate the relation between its two branches





This pedigree seems to be corroborated by David Powel's remark, which was within the knowledge of Lord Burghley, that William Cecil of Alltyrynys was his 'cousin german, removed by one degree only '. The next we hear of the heir is the trouble he brings upon his house by killing a man. In April I523 he was pardoned for the murder of John Griffith.1 But many years afterwards we learn from Paul Delahay, the man who married his granddaughter, that the chief decay of the house was upon the killing of a man by John Cecil-as a bearer would inform Lord Burghley.2 The story was that, upon the killing, the king's officers of the manor of Ewyas came to seize John Cecil's goods. His wife carried them into the lower parlour and stopped them from entering on the ground that that part of the house was held of the priory of Llanthony. Long after this Sir Nicholas Arnold-who had purchased the neighbouring lands of the priory upon the dissolution-pretended a title to the house and some part of Cecil's lands. Upon enquiry made, the copy land could not be found. Sir Nicholas was content with 5s., probably given by a Cecil ancestor for the maintenance of a light in the priory church. John Arnold's men later held that the copy land should be ' by the running of the water of Monnow '. The result was a prolonged feud between Cecils and Arnolds, which Delahay inherited. Nor was this the only trouble, or the only killing. Ten years later Sir William Morgan, one of the commissioners for the Marches of Wales, writes that John Cecil, Walter Herbert's servant, murdered one Roger David Tewe in Newport, and George ap Morgan, one of the officers, duly seized the murderer's goods as escheats to the king.3 On this Walter Herbert gathered his men together and made an attack on George Morgan, when another honest man, John Thomas, was murdered. Here we see John Cecil, one of the Herbert faction, caught up in the endemic feud of Herberts with Morgans. This did not affect his standing in the district-indeed one's standing would depend on belonging to a faction that could support one; and John Cecil continued to hold the office of master- serjeant-evidently a kind of keeper of the peace-of the lordship of Ewyas Lacy and forester there, with the herbage and pannage of the forest at the usual rent. To the year 15 51 belongs his will.4 He wished to be buried in the parish church of Walterston. He left Alltyrynys to 'Elizabeth Winston my wedded wife ' for life, and afterwards to his son William and his heirs for ever. For two years after his death the rents of his lands in Penbidel were to go to his daughters, Amice and Alice


1 Letters and] Papers of Henry VIII], iv. gt 2992.

2 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS. xiv. I25.

3 L.P. vi. no. I656.

4 P.C.C. Bucke 16.



Cecil, towards their dowry. For six years after lands were to go to Thomas Cecil, evidently his son though the relationship is not mentioned. All his goods and chattels were to go to his wife. For his son Philip £20 was to be raised within six years, during which his mother was to maintain him at school. Among the witnesses was Robert Winston of Trewyn. And thus William Cecil reigned at Alltyrynys for many years right up to 1597, within a year of his cousin Lord Burghley's death, with whom relations between the two branches of the family tightened.

Meanwhile, what had happened to the cadet branch begun by David who had left the Marches to follow his fortunes under the banner of Sir David Philips and Henry Tudor ? David Cecil is mentioned first in connection with Stamford in 1494, when he was admitted to the freedom of the town.' He fortified his position by marrying the daughter and heiress of the leading alderman of the borough, and by her death was fortunately freed to marry another small heiress in the locality, Joan Roos of Dowsby. With these early evidences of his competence it is not surprising that he became the leading man in Stamford, one of the upper 'twelve ', three times alderman (or mayor) and three times representing the borough in parliament. The outsider was apparently not popular with old townsfolk, but as Sir David Philips's protege, with the small offices he picked up at Court-the early Cecils were remarkably adept at picking up unconsidered trifles-and with these marriages he achieved a wider standing in Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, and Rutland. As early as I496 he was one of the commissioners appointed for Rutland to purvey corn for the army marching to the Scottish Border.2 From I503 he was a commissioner of sewers, regularly appointed to survey the dykes and river-banks in these fen-parts of Lincolnshire. The year 1506 was a good year for him. With his patron ageing, he was for his good service put in survivorship into Sir David Philips's grant of the office of keeper of Cliffe Park in Northamptonshire, one of the nearby tracts of Rockingham Forest, with the herbage and pannage in lieu of fees and wages-a profitable grant with its free pasture for his cattle and pigs. A few months later he got a larger grant for seven years and longer during pleasure of the keepership of Whittlesea-mere-the large lake that then


1 Cf. Conyers Read, Mr. Secretary Cecil and Queen Elizabeth, p. 8. But it is inaccurate to describe David Cecil as the younger son of a ' prosperous yeoman' (ibid. p. 17). The Cecils were not yeomen, but small gentry, and, as we see, they were very far from prosperous.

2 C[al.] P[at.] R[olls], 1494-1109, pp. 92, 358, 410, 467, 498, 514, 515.



existed in the fens near Peterborough-of the swans there, of the duchy of Lancashire lands in the neighbouring counties, and of the woods in Glatton and Holme. For this he paid £8 per annum. All these offices would, of course, be exercised by under-keepers: he was a man of business, he would take the profits. In November he was, on Sir David Philips's death, one of his executors. At the end of the year he was able, in gratitude, to found a chantry for a perpetual chaplain in St. Mary's Stamford to pray for the souls of the king and the late queen, for his father and mother and his wife, with licence to dedicate lands worth £9 to the purpose. A reasonable re-insurance: he was now a prosperous man. On Henry VII's death, whose funeral he attended as yeoman of the guard, the new king made him bailiff of the Uppingham and Essendine (a name that appears in Robert Cecil’s title a century later) in Rutland, and of Shillingthorpe in Lincolnshire.' Two years later his keepership of Whittlesea-mere is prolonged to thirty years and more during pleasure, paying a rent of £3 per annum. The point of the prolongation of such grants was that it obviated the necessity of purchasing,  or paying a fine, ontheir renewal: so it was a mark of favour, a profitable worth paying a regular rent for. Two years later, in 1513, he was made serjeant-at-arms for life, with 12d. a day. In 1517 he worked his son Richard, now page of the king's chamber, into his lease aa keeper of Cliffe Park in survivorship. That summer he was granted a lease of a considerable area of land in Essendine at £18 per annum with an increase of 3s. 4d., for twenty-one years. We may be sure he increased the return of it: one of the advantages of being keeper or bailiff of Crown lands was that it enabled one to spy out the best opportunities. His son Richard was now in a position to scramble up the ladder himself too. In 1520 he attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold at the head of the pages of the chamber.2 Next year he got the office of bailiff of the lordship of Torpel in Northamptonshire, with the herbage and pannage of the park and woods there for his animals at a rent of £5 I4s. per annum. In the new year he secured the reversion to the office of constable of Maxey Castle in the same county, and keeper of Bourne Park and of the swans there. Two years later he became bailiff of the lordship of Bourne. Meanwhile his father was not idle: in 1523 he got the chief stewardship of the lordship of Colley Weston. In the summer of 1524 the young Duke of Richmond, Henry VIII's bastard son, made a journey to his manor there, visiting on the way: he killed a buck himself in Cliffe Park, ' where David Cecil made him good cheer '. A physician was requested: the boy was in ill-health and did not reach maturity.


1 Ibid. i, gt 132/49, gt 804/38, gt 2535/13; ii, gt 3013, gt 3551.

2 L.P. iv. 244, gt 1451, gt 2074, gt 1230/I, gt 3289/I8, and no. I540.



Already the third generation of Cecils at Court had made its appearance with Richard's clever boy, William. Richard had followed in his father's prudent footsteps and picked up a local heiress: Jane, daughter and heir of William Heckington of Bourne -so Richard's bailiwick of the lordship was very convenient. This tough Lincolnshire lass lived-blind in her last years-right up to the year of the Armada: one sees her on her monument, with her devoted son's tribute to her virtues, in the Church of St. Mary at Stamford. William was born at Bourne, 18 September 1520. His father's job at Court was to be yeoman of the Robes. On New Year's day 1529 his boy William, aged eight, received a reward of 40s. as one of the three pages of the Robes.' We find traces of Richard, a prudent, silent man of whom we know little, in the privy purse expenses: handing out purple velvet for Mistress Anne (Boleyn), making payments to Morgan Phenwolf, evidently another Welsh- man, providing hose for young Weston and Mark, who were to die for Mistress Anne's sake. We see that the clever boy was intimate with the ways of a Court and all its knowledge, that he early learned to hold his tongue, to practice that extreme prudence that saw him sagely through a long life. We see, too, what we had not realized, that there were three generations of Cecils in service at Court at the same time. For old David was still spry and active. In I 5 3 2, on Sir William Spencer's death, he was appointed sheriff of Northamptonshire for the remainder of his year. He at once writes to Cromwell, with whom he is on friendly terms, asking him to see to it that he should suffer no loss from this. ' Sir William Spencer had a warrant from the King of £100 to bear his charges. I do not know where I can get a warrant or money, except by your help.' 2 With these words from his pen old David steps into life for us. Money may have been scarce-land was a more ready commodity; but the complaint was common form: the king's servants did not intend to be losers by his service. Meanwhile, Cromwell had been called in to press Christ's College, Cambridge, for a profitable parsonage that Mistress Cecil had for some time been after for her husband; i.e. the lease of the rectorial tithes.3 I think this must be Burghley's forceful mother. Two years before the rector had written to Mistress Cecil that he could not prefer her husband to the farm of the parsonage of Helpston, as Cromwell had asked, because the Master and Fellows of Christ's had promised it to another. (Helpston, near Peter- borough, lay very conveniently for these cuckoos in the Northamptonshire nest.)


1 L.P. v. 307, 747-

2 Ibid. no. 1130.

3 L.P. iv, no. 6678; v, no. I309.



Now old David returned to the charge, thanking Cromwell for his intervention with the gift of a couple of cygnets, and requesting that he would take the bearer into his service-a son of a servant of his, whom he had kept at school this twelvemonth. He writeth a good secretary hand and Romans, understandeth well and speaketh Latin well, to my understanding.' 1 It would seem that David Cecil himself knew no Latin; but it is nice to know that he was so literate in English-we did not know that before: evidently an all-round competent man of business. Next month, November 1532 he reminded Cromwell again to move the king according to promise that he should not be a loser as sheriff of Northamptonshire: he would be a great loser unless he might have the same office next year. Judge Montagu, a neighbour, wrote in to back up this plea. Lord Keeper Audley agreed that David Cecil had endeavoured himself uprightly for the king in the county and showed him that there was no doubt in the jury but the judges held that the king had been truly served. He had been sheriff there for not more than three months; but the judges held that he could not be put into the bill again, so Audley put him into the bill for Rutland. It appears, however, that Cecil got his way and went on as sheriff for the ensuing year.

He was no doubt a proficient government servant, the more valuable in those days when the central government had difficulty in making its wishes prevail in the localities and in finding competent agents to execute them. In I534 he wrote to Cromwell that one Merringe had a suit against him in Nottingham, ‘where the King’s laws are but smally regarded, except where they of the town bear favour '.2 The sum at issue was 20 marks and his defense had cost him £20. 'I desire you somewhat to ponder my truth, and poor honesty, for it was never disdained in the King's father’s days, when I was sometime put in trust, nor yet in this King's time until now.’ He asked Cromwell to remember him before the Lord Chancellor, who had the matter before him. These are the accents of an old retainer who feels that a generation has grown up that knows not David.

 His son was already taking the appropriate steps to make ready for his father's demise. In 1532 he got the reversion to his father's lease of the broad lands in Essendine, at the same rent and for no less a term than sixty years-that represented a very large consideration, by which the family would make fine profit.3 In 1536 he got the reversion to his father's office as bailiff of Whittlesea-mere, again with no fine or purchase price. In these years the opening moves of the Reformation were being made, and David Cecil's last jobs for the Government were to serve on the commission in Rutland to inquire into the tenths on spiritualties annexed to the Crown, and


1L.P. v, no. 1424, nos. 1516-18.

2 Ibid. vii, no. 451.

3 Ibid. v, gt 1370/7; x, gt 392/38; viii, gt I49/5I; X, p. 499



on that to survey the lands of the lesser monasteries taken into the king's hands. Shortly after this he died-Lord Burghley was not quite sure of the year, nor of his age: he thought that he was over eighty; he may well have been near it.

His will shows him to have been a man of substantial property. There was house-property in Stamford, including a share in the best inn-it was this no doubt that gave rise to the imputatio0n that made Lord Burghley so uncomfortable. Nevertheless he had reason to be grateful to his grandfather, who had bought the manor of Burghley upon which the grandson reared his lordly palace. There were lands at Nassington, where the soil was good, and elsewhere; ‘twenty kye and a bull', three beds and a quantity of plate to his wife, including 'a piece gilt with the wheat-sheaf at the bottom the which I gave her before our marriage’. The wheat sheaf is still the crest of the Exeter Cecils.) He left Richard two feather beds and his best gown; his second best gown, best do7ublet and velvet jacket to Anthony Villiers; to his younger son David his black gown of cloth lined with damask, a doublet of satin streaked, with a jacket and his green coats. All the residue of his goods and all his property after his wife's demise to his son Richard, ‘to the honour of God, and for the health of his soul after the most laudable manner that he can do or devise '.

For a moment the son, who is an even more taciturn figure than the father, comes alive for us, in the church at Stamford. In August I535 Richard Quiaenus was preaching Justification by Faith there, and on coming down from the pulpit some Dominican friars attacked him so fiercely that' unless Richard Cecil had defended the cause of faith, the effect of his sermon would have been desstroyed '.2 It was as well that Richard Cecil's sympathies were with the Reformation, for it was just about to prove a veritable conucopia to him. With the dissolution of the monasteries, and later of the chantries, an avalanche of desirable property - manors, farms, leases, messuages, tenements, strips, goods, tithes - showered upon the market for those fortunately placed to pick up. The rise of the gentry, about the fact of which there can be no doubt, was in considerable part attributable to it. Here is a famous case in point. In 1537 Richard Cecil got the lease of the nunnery at Stamford with St. Martin's rectory, i.e. the greater tithes. 3 In July 1540 he was able to buy outright for £433 5s. the site of the nunnery and its demesne lands (299 acres of arable land), the rectory of St Martin with the with the advowson, i.e. the presentation to the vicarage, and the manor of Worthorp with the advowson there, which had belonged to Crowland abbey. The reserved rent was a mere 69s. It was a

1 Collins' Peerage, ed. Sir Egerton Brydges (ed. 1812), ii. 587-8

2 L.P. ix no.611

3 L.P. xiii, pt. i, p. 580; xv, no. 942/46; xvii. 700; xviii, pt.1 p552; xvii. 567; xix. pt. 1, p. 164, no. 1035/27; xx. pt. 2, p. 455.



good bargain. In 1542 he got a twenty-one year lease of the White Friars at Stamford, and next year a lease of the lands that had belonged to Stamford priory. Nor did he neglect his secular opportunities at Court. In this last year 1542 he became steward of the lordships of Nassington, Yarwell, and Upton. In 1544 he served with the rest of the privy chamber in the King’s army invading France at Boulogne, with six archers and six billmen under him: nothing very grand. But that summer he was able to buy outright, for £373 9S. 4d., the manor of Essendine and the lands at Shillingthorpe formerly leased to him, plus a marsh - the Cecils had the art of making marshes pay - which had been taken from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Shortly after, upon his son William’s second marriage-of which he approved-he entailed this manor upon the couple and their heirs. In 1545 he surrendered the office he had obtained as keeper of Warwick Castle-no doubt he sold it to raise money for his purchases of property.' For in 1546 he bought part of the Almshouse belonging to Westminster abbey for a residence. Though we have no word from him, we have evidence of his activity in the King’s service. In the last year of Henry's life Richard Cecil delivers him  with his own hand ten loops of goldsmith's work with little stones-as we see them in Henry's portraits-taken from a Turkey gown of purple velvet new made for him. Then the King is dead and Richard Cecil, an intimate servant, is remembered in his will; for the king did ordinarily make himself ready in the robes (or chamber so called), where Mr. Cecil, being chief and a wise discreet man, was in great favour with the king, who gave him both countenance and living, as appeared by the port Mr. Cecil lived in. 2 The care of the robes was in his keeping, and Henry meant to leave him 100 marks though finally his bequests had to be written down - Cecil’s to £20. However, with a child on the throne who could defend the interests neither of the Crown nor of the country, courtiers could all look after themselves, and they did. In the next few years there was a grand shareout among the intimates of the Court-the traditional view of the 'rapacious oligarchy' of Edward VI is to that extent justified: it was the classic period for making a Reformation fortune. Five months after Henry died, 'in fulfilment of Henry VIII's will' and for £1,I60 10s. 3d., Richard Cecil made a fine purchase: the lordship and manor of Tinwell in Rutland, which had belonged to Peterborough monastery, the manor of Ducketts in Middlesex with properties in Holborn and in Essex, which had belonged to St. Bartholomew's Smithfield, the main part of the Almshouse in Westminster Abbey, and the rectory and advowson of Warfield, Berkshire, which he subsequently sold.3


1 L.P. xx. pt. i, pp. 655, 722; pt.

2, p. 87, nos. 634/i, 634/10. 2 Francis Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, i. 2-3.

3 C.P.R., Edward VI, i. 220, 241. VOL. LXXV-NO. CCXCIV  



It was time for young William to take a hand, and he was shortly in a position to do so on a large scale. It is an aspect of the great Lord Burghley that has not been studied. We all know what a virtuous, industrious apprentice he was at Cambridge, hiring the bell-ringer at St. John's College to wake him at four in the morning to study. In other respects too he was wide awake. In only one matter was he ever at fault: his early marriage to a dowerless bride, Mary Cheke, and even if she was a respectable party, who had the merit to die young, leaving him with a stupid son Thomas, from whom descend the senior line of the Exeter Cecils, and free to make a better match with clever Mildred Cooke, who became the mother of the brilliant Robert, ancestress of the Salisbury Cecils. There is a record of young William coming down from Gray's Inn to Court to see his father in Henry VIII's last years and meeting two of O'Neil's priests in the presence-chamber, with whom he had a disputation in Latin and whom he put to shame. It cannot have been difficult, but apparently the king was pleased, and 'willed his father to find out a suit for him '.1 The father can hardly have needed much encouragement, and shortly the young man got the reversion to the office of keeper of the writs of common pleas, with its large fees. This was merely a foretaste of the first-fruits of application and intelligence. Not long after Edward VI's accession the reversion fell in and young William was master of a large independent income, some £240 per annum. His father had not been behind hand. Educated men were at a premium in those uncouth days: Protector Somerset made him Master of his Requests and later his private secretary. So that by June I 549 it is the less surprising that he was able to put down £2, 129 2S. 71/2 d. for the purchase of a considerable number of chantry properties now on the market: the rectory and advowson of Corby, the manors of Hungerton and Wyvell belonging to Courteys's chantry in the church of Grantham, the chapel of St. Mary of Deeping, that of St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas the Martyr on the bridge at Stamford, and that of St. Giles at Stamford, with all their lands in the three counties.2 This large purchase included many small pieces of land that had been dedicated to keeping lights burning in the churches. At New Year 1550 Richard Cecil bought the manor of Knevetts with its lands near Stamford, late of Tattershall College.3 In August, ageing now, he did not neglect to get his son put in survivorship to himself as keeper of Cliffe Park. With Somerset's fall from supreme power at the end of 1549, William Cecil was in some trouble and even in the Tower-all the best people saw the inside of the Tower in those days. It was a


1 Peck, i. 5.

2 C.P.R., Edward VI, ii. 354.

3 Ibid., pp. 386, 291; iii. 236.



lesson that was not lost upon this very fly young man and in the complex manoeuvres that ensued for power between his patron Somerset and the rising Northumberland, Cecil moved unerringly to the winning side. Lining up with Northumberland and the majority in the Council, he was made one of the two secretaries of state in September 1550. At new year he was able to buy the manor of Bromley, Middlesex, late of Christ Church priory in London. In October I 551 there was a final show-down with Somerset and he was sent to the Tower. A few days before Cecil had received the honour of knighthood. Now in November, with Somerset safe by the heels and on his way to the scaffold, there was a grand share- out among the winners. Sir William got a free gift outright of the monastic manors of Bereham, Stowe, Deeping and Thetford hall; the manors of Thorpe and Achurch, late of the unfortunate Katherine's dower; the manor of Wotton in Staffordshire, late of the unfortunate Lord Admiral Seymour; with reversions to two more manors, and the rectories with advowsons of Lynwood and St. Mary's, Stamford; and with a free gift of all the issues since Michaelmas last.' The yearly value was £152 3s. 3 3/4d.; multiply by twenty or twenty-five for the capital value. This gift, from the possessions of the despoiled Crown, was for service, for prudence, for coming over to Northumberland at the right time. Naturally Sir William Cecil, who is so busy at Court, cannot attend in person to his duties now as recorder of Stamford: in June 1552 he gets licence to perform them by deputy.2 With the large fees of his offices he is able in December to buy the manor of Barholme in Lincolnshire and the house of the Austin Friars at Stamford. In March 5 53 he got the advowson of the rectory of Clennog with its chapels in North Wales. In May he got a grant of £50 per annum assigned upon the lands of a Lincolnshire ward, Arthur Hall, in the hands of the Crown, with the custody and marriage of this minor. Here begins the long chapter of Cecil's immensely profitable traffic with Crown wards, that led him to become Master of the Court of Wards and made him foster-father to so many of the nobility and gentry before the century was out. In June he was able to purchase from the Crown for £687 6s. 6d. in ready money-the Crown had no ready money, but its secretary had-a large number of small pieces of chantry land in Lincolnshire, with the extinction of most of the Crown rents upon lands granted to Cecil and his father in previous years. And 'this without fine or fee '. Observe that the bulk of these and other grants are in the neighbourhood of Stamford: we are watching an immense patrimony being built up, an octopus take shape.


1 C.P.R., Edward VI, iv. 197. He subsequently sold the outlying manor of Wotton, Staffs; C.P.R., EliZabeth, i. 408.

2 Ibid. iii. 337; iv. 427; v. 49, 136, i82.





Early that year Richard Cecil died, as noiselessly as he had lived.He only comes across to us at that moment in a letter that a clerk wrote to his son. Cecil's father had made a will disposing of his goods before he went to Boulogne: this 'might have been about the time he conceived displeasure ' against him for his first marriage.1 About Michaelmas last Richard Cecil had shown Mr. Digby some lines written on parchment, which he said was his will of goods and personal property, but he would make no one privy to it, saying that ' no man should know his mind before death '. He died as he had lived, prudent, taciturn, close; we may say that discretion, closeness were the prevailing characteristics of that family. In June I 5 5 3 Sir William got licence to enter upon the inheritance of Richard Cecil, esquire.2 We note that David Cecil was never described as ' esquire ', simply as ' gentleman '. The immense change that took place in the status of the family with Sir William's ascent to power may be seen in the licence he received this April to retain, besides officers, stewards, bailiffs, keepers, underkeepers, &c., fifty persons to whom he may give his livery. Even. then, with characteristic moderation, he seems to have confined himself to thirty-six. At the same time, 'the King judging it necessary to confer the office of Chancellor of the Garter upon a knight of gentle blood ' conferred it upon Cecil for life, with 100 marks per annum fee. We have seen that there was no doubt about the' gentle blood'; what was even more to the point was that he now had the foundation of wealth and property to support the superstructure.

Edward VI's approaching death and Mary's accession produced a crisis for everyone. It is not my purpose to describe Cecil's skilful navigation of it: he himself thought it a near thing. He bent his head and conformed, as did the Princess Elizabeth, to the retrograde course which, on the queen's insistence, became the law of the land. For appearances' sake he took a priest into his household at Wimbledon, but under Mary there could be no question of retaining as secretary one who was known to be a protestant. In October 1553 he prudently took out a pardon and waited for better days.3 His father had died before he could make declaration of his accounts at the Wardrobe office: Mary's government was perfectly willing to permit Cecil's business head to put them in order, and to allow his expenses in taking charge of the Robes since his father's death. But he made no more purchases of church lands from the Crown in Mary's reign. With Elizabeth's accession things looked up, indeed as her principal minister he was in clover at last. At once purchases were resumed. In February I56o he bought a house in St. Martin-in- the-Fields with a large meadow and pasture that had belonged to the


1 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS. i. II6.

2 C.P.R., Edward VI, v. 6, 42, 39.

3 Ibid. Philip and Mary, i. 453, 77.



monks of Westminster.1 That year he brought off his great triumph of the extrusion of the French from Scotland and sealed it with the Treaty of Edinburgh. He complained that the queen left him to foot his own bill-as later he was in the habit of complaining that she was less generous with her rewards than her brother or even her sister had been. No doubt she considered that he had done well enough out of the Crown. And indeed his complaints appear ungrateful, if not forgetful. For in January I56I he got the extremely lucrative office of Master of the Court of Wards; the fixed' remuneration was 200 marks a year with £100 a year for diets, but the real rewards were the fees that passed and the traffic in profitable wardships and marriages of heirs. Two months later he was able to buy the manor of Whissendine in Rutland from Maurice Berkeley, of the old medieval family going downhill as the Cecils came up. Then in May came a most generous gift from the Crown for his service: the great manor of Stamford Baron, for a rent of £35 9s. 2d., with its chief steward, understeward and bailiff, with its water mills, tolls and profits, with the markets and fairs of Stamford, as well as the castle and manor of Maxey and lands in Deeping. At Stamford the process was complete: in the second generation from David Cecil the whole place was theirs, an entire monopoly with its ramifications extending wide into the three counties round about. Apparently it was not much appreciated by the townspeople, old Stamford folk; but there was nothing they could do but submit: the position had been fairly won. We need not trace Lord Burghley's acquisitions any further; he had nearly forty years more of life before him and he was only half way through. For now that the family position in the Stamford area was secure beyond question, provided indeed the foundation for a palace for his heirs and successors, not content with that he proceeded to build up a comparable position for his younger son Robert in the south, with equally immense possessions in the three counties of Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Essex, and in London. (In time to come, these were to become more valuable and the Salisbury Cecils the richer branch of the family.) These southern possessions provided the foundation for a second palace which Lord Burghley proceeded to build at Theobalds-and which his son exchanged with James I for Hatfield. When we come to the possessions Lord Burghley had accumulated by the time of his death, the mere enumeration of them occupies seven folio pages in Peck's Desiderata Curiosa.2 Lord Burghley was a humble man, and in the habit of referring to himself as the poorest peer in England. When accusations were made of his extravagance in building, he replied, 'my house of Burghley is of my mother's inheritance who liveth and is the owner thereof; and I but a farmer.


1I C.P.R., Elizabeth, i. 336; ii. 44, 132, I65.

2 Ibid. i. 184 if.



And for the building there, I have set my walls but upon the old foundation. Indeed I have made the rough stone walls to be of square; and yet one side remaineth as my father left it me. I trust my son shall be able to maintain it, considering there are in that shire a dozen larger, of men under my degree.' 1 This was to carry humility to the point of disingenuousness.

When we turn back to the house of Alltyrynys we observe some contrast. There in that valley on the Welsh border time stood still. Things had not much improved: Lord Burghley's cousin and name- sake, William Cecil, had an only son Matthew, a poor type and moreover impotent; for the rest eight daughters to provide for. He clearly needed help, and Lord Burghley, whose family sense had a Welsh depth of loyalty, was not averse. With the first fragments to survive of the renewed intercourse between the two branches, we find William Cecil in 1582 resorting to Lord Burghley with his troubles; we get the impression that this was the pattern of their relations. William was having trouble with his son-in-law Paul Delahay, who had married his daughter Jane and was now suing for payment of her marriage portion.2 There was no money, certainly not for eight daughters-who nevertheless all found husbands. William had had to spend money on the repair of his ancient house, so that he asks that his accounts as sheriff of Herefordshire may be speedily settled. A writ had gone out upon his goods and possessions for the payment of moneys on his sheriff's account into the Exchequer, while there was an extent upon him for £300 at Paul Delahay's suit. A few months later William wants the lord treasurer's advice about a mining lease he has from the bishop of Hereford; it is only a tin-mine, but if there should be any ' metal royal', i.e. gold or silver, might he be a partaker with others as Lord Burghley should think good ? 3 The tone is deferential, dependent. In the last years of their lives dependence becomes so close and William Cecil finds difficulties so thick around him that he comes to the conclusion that the best thing is for Burghley's son Robert to succeed to the old family place at Alltyrynys, so that the name of Cecil might continue there. In May 1596 Herbert Croft sends a young Winston up to Sir Robert Cecil, asking to procure him a place as a clerk, to which his bringing up has entitled him; he is a kinsman, being a daughter's son of Mr. Cecil of Alltyrynys, and 'being a Winston should be


1 G. R. Dennis, p. 34. This was not true: Holdenby was the only rival to Burghley.

2 Cal. State Papers Dom., I81I-I19o, pp. 5I-2. A Paul Delahay from the Low Countries received letters of denization 13 May 1 577, Huguenot Society of London, viii. 69.

3 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., xiii. 204.



also a kinsman that way '1 In August William again presses upon Burghley and Robert Cecil his offer to leave them his inheritance - no doubt for a consideration, for help or support. Delahay is sent up to discuss the matter with them. In October William follows this up with a present to Robert of a pair of table knive, four cases of fruit trenchers and two dozen of meat trenchers. Matthew writes to Sir Robert complaining that he has been over- reached in the matter of a wardship and praying him to call the offender before him and require him to use the petitioner well in the matter. That same month old William Cecil was in London, lodging at the Swan in the Strand, whence he wrote asking Robert to prefer the bearer to be one of the queen's guard. 'Her Majesty lately taking the air in Islington fields noted this bearer then there being a shooting and of her goodness said he was a feat man to attend her service. He is strong and active and attended my very good friend Mistress Blanche Parry his aunt when he was a youth, and if God had pleased she would have preferred him to a better room.' 2 One recognizes the Welsh note. Blanche Parry had been the queen's lady in waiting all her life; she was now dead; Herefordshire Parrys and Cecils all belonged to the Welsh border cousinage that surrounded the Tudors. Few people have noticed that the queen's idiosyncratic appearance, that rare, sharp, oval face with the high cheek-bones and the deep-set eyes, is a recognizable, distinctive Welsh type. Back at Alltyrynys in May William writes asking for letters to Sir Richard Shuttleworth in favour of the cause of his son- in-law William Powell.3 A month later it is his youngest son-in- law Rowland Powell in whose behalf he writes. Sir Christopher Blount has delivered the privy council's letters to Owen Salusbury to recruit I50 soldiers, evidently for Ireland. Salusbury insists on taking Rowland, who has a wife and six small children. The commissioners, though written to by Lord Pembroke, the lord lieutenant, will not hear of accepting a supply for him. (We remember what Falstaff's supplies were like.) Old William requests Sir Robert to deal with Sir Christopher and Owen Salusbury to discharge Rowland and accept a supply. The interest of this is that Blount and Salusbury were leading members of Essex's faction against the Cecils. In August William wrote pressing the busy Sir Robert for letters to the Lord Mayor on behalf of a cousin, William Watkyns, to allow him the quiet enjoyment of certain tenements in Moorfields newly erected by him and now reformed according to the late order of Star Chamber.4 (The authorities were actively discouraging the spread of building on open spaces in London.)


1 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., vi. i88, 316, 454; vii. 170.

2 Ibid. vii. I8o.

3 Ibid. vii. I95, 250.

4 Ibid. vii. 366.



The lord mayor has committed the offending Watkyns to Newgate and threatens to bring him before Star Chamber again. One would expect that Robert Cecil was sick of the importunity of his Welsh relations by this time, but so far from being at the end of it, old William's death early in 1598 let loose a flood of troubles.

His funeral, however, was performed with greater honour than any Cecil had ever commanded before in the church of Walterston. Paul Delahay reports to Lord Burghley that' the church was hanged with black cloth and the assembly was such that the church could not contain them . . . and so in worshipful manner was the funeral celebrated to your lordship's commendations, for that to the credit of the house of Alltyrynys I gave out the charge to be yours, which amounteth to £100 and more.' 1 First went six poor men of the parish in gowns, followed by the preacher, a prebendary of Here ford, a Cecil by descent and a Parry uncle. Then came the coffin, with twelve scutcheons of Cecil, Parry, and Herbert arms upon it, carried by six of old William's men into the churchyard, and by six of his sons-in-law into the church. After followed Matthew’s wife, the eight daughters and William's sister Alice-the wife, William’s second, refused to be present: a small portent of the family quarrel shortly to explode in all directions. After dinner a dole of bread and money was given to 440 poor persons present; next day another dole to I40 poor. It all must have cost a pretty penny; now for the music.

Lord Burghley had himself written to Matthew not to oppose his father's will devising Alltyrynys to Robert Cecil and his heirs; but, though Matthew was dying, it was too much to expect that there would not be trouble, and of the most complicated. Perhaps old William's will affords us the best introduction to the state of affairs he left at Alltyrynys.2 He wished to be buried in the church of Walterston ' where my ancestors were buried '. He left 20s. for the repair of his parish church, and, with an obscure atavistic impulse, 2s. to the Cathedral of St. David's. He left to Matthew all his copyhold land in the manor of Llanthony ' to the end that my reputed son John begotten on the body of Jane Morgan, daughter of John Morgan of Michaelchurch Crickhowell may be in learning educated or otherwise decently brought up'. Paul Delahay was to have a house with gardens, &c., in Walterston until the said John was twenty-one. All implements and household stuff were to be Matthew's for life, 'if he be conformable to this my will'; and if he die without issue the same to go to Sir Robert Cecil. He left his daughter Katherine four oxen and four cows, his niece Blanche Delahay two heifers, his sister Alice 40s. a year for life, his servant Philip Cecil six sheep, his servant Walter Hughes ten


1 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., viii. 82.

2 P.C.C., Lewin, 14.



sheep, his servant John Harrys 40s.; the residue to his sons-in-law Paul Delahay and Hugh Monington; John Parry 'my loving brother-in-law' to be overseer.

There was at once an outcry against the will on the part of Matthew's wife's friends and her kin. No sooner was the funeral over than Matthew was persuaded to oppose the will. Paul Delahay, who was Sir Robert Cecil's servant and wore his livery, came to terms with Matthew in order to secure the evidences for the lands. We hear of a cup of silver gilt that Lord Burghley had given to old William and had been conveyed away along with 100 marks' worth of plate by one of the Powell daughters and the forfeiture of a bond in £1,000 for non-payment of £80 arrears of rent for her dowry. Now her son was lying dangerously sick, and if he died Delahay would lose the debt owed to his father-in-law's estate: wherefore he besought Burghley to grant him the wardship of the heir David Powell.

Then Matthew died, and Delahay reports to his master the trouble he is having with the widow and her kin. In order to get Matthew to agree to the copyhold lands of Alltyrynys descending with the demesnes, without dismembering, to Sir Robert, and on the understanding that Matthew would meet all heriots due by his father's death and pay his legacies, Delahay had released to him 500 marks' worth of goods.' On Matthew's death his wife's brother-in-law buried him, carried off all the oxen and kine and sold them without paying any of the heriots or legacies. Then he repaired to John Arnold's manor court at Llanthony to entitle Matthew's widow to the copyhold land. In the last year of old William's life they had openly opposed the queen's right to grant the wardship of James John Pritchard, of their family, to William Cecil. Now Delahay asked for the wardship, or an order for the payment of what William Cecil should have had for it.2 At the same time two other sons-in-law, William Winston and John Parry, protested to Lord Burghley that by his marriage-jointure old William had conveyed Alltyrynys to the use of himself, his wife and the heirs of their bodies, whereof there were eight daughters living and forty persons descended from him and his first wife; but ' wishing to continue the name of Cecil in that house ' he had conveyed the property to Sir Robert Cecil and his heirs to the disherison of his own issue.3 This intention on the part of the head of the old line seems a respectable one-in fact the more we know about his own family the more desirable and appropriate his action becomes. Nor was it necessarily much of a bargain for Sir Robert. Delahay at one point refers to his ' making full reckoning' for it. We know


1 Hatfield House, C.P. 204/72.

2 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., xiv. 122.

3 Ibid. viii. 175.



that, when old William went up to London in April I 597, he received £200 from Sir Robert in purchase for Alltyrynys1: that is not likely to have been the only sum he received from Sir Robert and his father, in addition to the presents exchanged, the favours, the wardships he got to keep him going. In spite of a mill-stone of a family round his neck, he was, with his office as steward of the lordship of Ewyas, in a better position than his father had been; and this, or his relationship to the lord treasurer, was recognized by the style 'esquire' accorded him. From the Saracen's Head in Fetter Lane Delahay wrote in June asking for the lord treasurer's picture to be placed in the old home, and improving the occasion by asking for a wardship for the benefit of his daughter Blanche.2 In July Delahay reports to Sir Robert that in spite of his letter to Matthew's widow to deliver up the household implements taken by her and to pay the heriots and legacies due, she refused to do so and has taken refuge with the Winstons, Matthew's eldest sister. 'Further to cross your honour, by raising unlawfully seed to Matthew Cecil, she has long lived incontinently with Thomas Winston', the son.3 Delahay desired him to 'have the offenders punished, without which, if she have a daughter, they will change it to a son '. Before the doubt was ended there was little purpose in taking any survey of the lands. To his fellows in Sir Robert's employ Delahay reports that the situation at Alltyrynys was more discouraging than he had confessed. There were more heriots to pay on old William and Matthew's deaths than he had informed Sir Robert: the queen's farmer and the mesne lord demand ten for Penbidel, Lord Abergavenny eighteen, Mr. Hopton eight which he had been paid for, John Arnold two. 'And so, being subject to my father-in-law's debts, the widow's dowries, Winston's copyhold, the present heriots, and the continued clog of service issuing out of the lands, with harbouring and relieving of many of my father-in-law's children and kindred, I shall have as good a bargain as an egg for a penny. As my father-in-law overreached me in many things in his lifetime, so now by death hath utterly plagued me and mine.' " Old William had been a true Cecil in his closeness, and when he sent Delahay up ' to conclude bargain with the Lord Treasurer for the reversion of his lands, and until after his death, I did no more know his state in living than yourself, but did give credit to his report'. The truth was less good: some lands Delahay had taken to be freehold, were only leasehold. Why had Lord Burghley been willing, for the only time in his life, to make a bargain that was better for the other man than for


1 Hatfield House, General 44/I6; Accounts 13/34.

2 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., viii. 232.

3 CaL. State Papers Dom. ify8-I60o1, p. 73.

4 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., viii. 272.



himself ? One can only conclude-family piety, the necessity to underwrite his antecedents from a family of respectable antiquity. He himself was now beyond reach of the troubles of Alltyrynys. These fell upon Delahay's shoulders, as the representative and lessee of Sir Robert. In November 1598 his botherations there detained him from his master's service until after the holidays, i.e. Christmas: he asked that' granting of dower to the supposed widow Cecil' might be stayed until his coming up 1 Any complaints that were made against his administration he asked to have put in writing. These were not slow in forthcoming. In June 1599 he could not attend upon Sir Robert to answer them for John Arnold's servants had been busy in assaulting his brother-in-law Walter George and his wife Catherine Cecil, great with child. Delahay begged for the wardship of John Ja, which Lord Burghley had given William Cecil, and which John William Harry had cozened from him-the only thing by which Delahay could offset what he had paid for his father-in-law's debts.

In April 1600 Delahay protested to Sir Robert that on the last Sunday in March 'I was assaulted and violently pulled out of the seat in church belonging unto this house, and where men living did see Richard Cecil your tresayle [actually his great-grandfather’s brother] use '-by the procurement of John Arnold. 2 To salve his wounds and his injured pride, Delahay begs yet another wardship. And this, it seems, he was granted. One would suppose that the wardships did duty for currency on the Welsh border; certainly with Burghley and his son Robert in succession presiding over the Court of Wards, here was an obvious (and cheap) means of support for the ancient house of Alltyrynys.3 With Essex's outbreak in London and his execution for treason, Delahay gained an opening he was quick to take advantage of against his enemy John Arnold of Llanthony; for the Arnolds and their friends belonged to Essex’s Welsh following, captained by Sir Gelly Meyrick. Delahay and witnesses from Walterston who deposed that Sir Nicholas Arnold’s widow and John Arnold, 'her son and reputed son unto Sir Nicholas’ had said openly that ' it was great pity that so brave a man as the Earl was should be put to silence or overthrown by such a base and corrupt fellow as Sir Robert Cecil was ' and a pity that Her Majesty should be so much ruled by him.4 If the earl should go to Court and kill secretary Cecil, it would be only a fillip matter-giving a fillip with thumb and finger. At dinner at Llanthony Lady Arnold broke out against the Court of Wards being ruled all by Cookes, Cookes and Cookes-meaning Sir Robert, being a Cooke by his


1 Hist. M.S.S. Comm., Salisbury MSS., viii. 447; ix. 206.

2 Ibid x. 97

3 In June 1601 Philip Cecil, who has been a servant in livery Alltyrynys for forty years, prays for a wardship in Herefordshire.

4 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., xi. 123 ff.



mother, Francis Bacon another and attorney-general Cooke. This sounds probable enough-and a fascinating budget of information as to John Arnold's doings in London at the time of Essex’s outbreak was appended.

The secretary, to his credit, took no action, and Delahay begged that the matter, for his own security, might be brought before the Council of the Marches.' In the end, Delahay outlived his old enemy, and at once took the opportunity to make representations to Robert, now earl of Salisbury, for the wardship of Arnold's son. That summer Delahay had to excuse himself from attendance on his master on account of the imbecility of his aged body, and that is the last we hear of him. The Delahays remained tenants of the Cecils at Alltyrynys for more than a century, until it was sold to Bennet Delahay in I712 for £1,350 2-the value of the holding had not much changed in all the years-and not long after it was sold to Guy's Hospital.3

In the last years of Delahay's life William George, a remote cousin of Lord Salisbury, wrote to him about his Welsh pedigree - he could not find Bleddyn's coat impaled, the ancientest of the five Princes of Wales-though fifteen years before he had come to London ' to acquaint your father therewith '.4 Lord Salisbury took up his pen and wrote across the foot of this missive, 'I desire none of these vain toys, nor to hear of such absurdities '. It was such a contrast to Lord Burghley, who had loved hearing of them. Sir Robert was content to remember, as he reminded Essex and the world at the earl's trial, that he was a gentleman born. However, the position had been won; henceforth politics was the only thing, would be all in all.


All Souls College, Oxford A. L. Rowse


I Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., xi. i62; xviii. 8, 135.

2 I owe this information to Mr. Lawrence Stone.

3 J. Duncumb, History and Antiquities of the County of Hereford, ii. 3 10.

4 Hist. MSS. Comm., Salisbury MSS., xvii. 595.


This document was transcribed using OCR in order to ensure that the full text could be searched through our website search engine. However, as a result despite our editing efforts it may contain some OCR artefacts and misinterpretations. In case of doubt about the content the original PDF version can be downloaded here for comparison.

Top - Back

Ref: rs_gdv_0173