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humbling himself at the confessional, and kneeling
before the altar of the real presence, constitute
such a confirmation. This outward demonstration
proved not to have been assumed in vain, for we
find the wily politician enjoying again the sunshine
of royal favour, and actually nominated, with
Lord Paget and Sir Edward Hastings, to
conduct Cardinal Pole, then invested with a
legatine commission, into England. In this
reign Cecil represented the county of Lincoln in
Parliament. Immediately upon the accession of
Elizabeth, however, with whom he constantly
corresponded, and on whose accession he was the
first person of whom the new Queen sought
advice, he became once more a staunch denouncer
of Popish errors ; the star of his fortune arose,
and few statesmen have been guided through a
more brilliant course. His first official employ-
ment was the resumption of the secretary-of-
stateship, and in that post, so sensible was his
royal mistress of his important services that
she elevated him to the peerage, by the title of
Baron Burghley, in 1571, although at this period
his private fortune does not appear to have been



58 TALES OP OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

much advanced; for by a letter written by
himself just after his elevation he says that he is
"the poorest lord in England." Soon after this,
however, he obtained a post of more profit as
well as honour, that of " Master of the Court of
Wards," which he held along with his portfolio
of State. A conspiracy was soon afterwards
discovered against his life, and the two assassins,
Barney and Natter, declared at their execution
that they were instigated by the Spanish
ambassador, for which, and other offences, his
Excellency was ordered to depart the kingdom.
As a consolation for these perils, the secretary
was honoured with the Order of the Garter in
June, 1572 , and in the September following, at
the decease of the Marquess of Winchester,
was appointed Lord High Treasurer, and was
Chancellor of the University of Cambridge for
forty years, from 1558 to 1598."

His mode of living, say contemporary writers,
was in keeping with his rank and the custom of
the times. " He had four places of residence
his lodgings at Court, his house in the Strand,
his family seat at Burleigh, and his own favou-
rite seat of Theobalds," near Waltham Cross, to
which he loved to retire from harness. At his
house in London, he (when free) supported a



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 59

family of fourscore persons, without counting
those who attended him in public.

" He kept a standing table for gentlemen, and
two other tables for those of a meaner condi-
tion," says Sir Bernard Burke ; and these were
always served alike, whether he was in or out
of town. Twelve times he entertained Elizabeth
at his house, on more than one occasion for some
weeks together; and as Royal visits are rather
expensive luxuries, and Elizabeth formed no ex-
ception to the rule, (for they cost each between
.1000 and .2000,) the only wonder is that his
purse was not exhausted, and that he was able
to leave his son 25,000 in money and valuable'
effects, besides 4000 a year in landed estates.
Be this, however, as it may, his son Thomas,
who was raised to the earldom of Exeter in 1605,
complained loudly of his poverty, which on one
occasion he urged as an excuse for declining the
honour of a step in the peerage, writing to the
Attorney-General, in 1606, that " he was re-
solved to content himself with the estate (degree)
which he had, of a baron, and that he found his
estate little enough to maintain the degree he
was in."

It is somewhat strange to add that two years
later he and his younger brother, Robert, were
both created earls, and on the very same day,



60 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

May 4, Lord Burghlcy taking the title of Exeter,
and his brother that of Salisbury. It is still
more strange that the younger brother on this
occasion should have taken precedence of the
elder, his patent having passed the Great Seal
in the morning, while that of Lord Burghle}',
it is said, did not take effect till the afternoon
or evening. This accident is reported to have
occasioned some ill blood between the brothers
at the time, though they were soon reconciled
by finding themselves obliged to make common
cause against the satirists of the age, who were
not slow to attack the twin earls of yesterday,
as mere courtiers and place-hunters, and men
of no great family pretensions.

On this subject the old Lord High Treasurer
had always been most tenacious ; and his sons,
it would seem, followed his example. At all
events, in the Harleian MSS. I find the following
curious letter from Lord Exeter, evidently writ-
ten at this time, which is well worth giving here
at length, on account of its bearing on the
mooted question of the difference between a
" Gentleman" and an " Esquire."

" There is some cause of late fallen out of one
that gives reproachful words to my brother, and
therewithal said that it was a strange thing that



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 61

such a one as he, whose grandfather was a sieve-
maker, should rule the whole state of England ;
and though the malice of the party was towards
him, yet I must be likewise sensible thereof
myself, both being descended from him ; there-
fore I have thought good to require you forthwith
to take the pains to make search in my study at
Burghley, amongst my boxes, of my evidences,
and I think you will find the very writ itself by
which my grandfather or great-grandfather, or
both, were made sheriffs of Lincolnshire or North-
amptonshire, and likewise a warrant from the
Duke of Suffolk, in King Henry VIII.'s time, to my
grandfather and old Mr. Wingfield, that dead is, for
the certifying touching the fall of woods in Clyff
Park or Rockingham Forest, by the name of
David Cecyle Esquire ; which title at those days
was not used but to such that were gentlemen
of note, where commonly they were entitled but
by the name of gentlemen. If you have any
record of your own to show the descent of my
great-grandfather, I pray you send a note there-
of likewise. My lord, my father's altering the
writing of his name maketh many that are not
very well affected to our house to doubt whether
we be rightly descended from the house of Wales,
because they write their names ' Sitsilt,' and our
name is written ' Cecyle ;' my grandfather wrote



62 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

it * Syssell ;' and so in orthography all these
names differ, whereof I marvel what moved my
lord my father to alter it. I have my lord's
pedigree very well set out, which he left unto
me. I pray you let this be secret unto yourself,
which my brother of Salisbury desired me so to
give in charge unto you ; and so I commend you
very kindly unto yourself and my good aunt,
your wife ; from London, this 13th of November,
1605.

" Your very loving cousin and friend,
" EXETER.

" To Hugh Allington, Esquire."

Lord Exeter, who always maintained an un-
blemished character among statesmen who were
not all free from blemish, was certainly a man
of high talents and good sense ; and he did well
in contenting himself with the reflected dignity
of his father's splendid name, and in leaving
it to his brother to emulate it in the exercise of
the higher offices of statecraft.

Robert, the younger brother, the Earl of Salis-
bury, though successively Secretary of State and
Lord High Treasurer as his father had been
before him married a sister of the unhappy
Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, and died, worn out
with the cares of public office and political life,



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 63

within six years after gaining his coronet. In
his last illness he was heard to say to Sir Walter
Cope, " Ease and pleasure quake to hear of death ;
but my life, full of cares and miseries, desireth to
be dissolved." He had some years previously ad-
dressed a letter to Sir James Harrington, the
poet, in pretty much the same tone. "Good
knight," saith the minister, " rest content, and
give heed to one that hath sorrowed in the bright
lustre of a court, and gone heavily on even the
best-seeming fair ground. 'Tis a great task to
prove one's honesty and yet not mar one's fortune.
You have tasted a little thereof in our good
queen's time, who was more than a man, and, in
truth, sometimes less than a woman. I wish I
waited now in your presence-chamber, with ease
at my food and rest in my bed. I am pushed
from the shore of comfort, and know not where
the winds and waves of a court will bear me. I
know it bringing little comfort on earth ; and he
is, I reckon, no wise man that looketh this way to
heaven."

His son and successor continued the younger
line of the Cecils as Earls of Salisbury through
six generations, when James, the seventh earl, was
raised in 1789 to the Marquisate by George III.,
on the recommendation of Mr. Pitt. The grand-
son of this nobleman (I may remark by way of



t>4 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

parenthesis) is the present Marquis of Salisbury,
who held high office under the Conservative
administration of Lord Derby, and is now
Chancellor of the University of Oxford. But to
return. Twelve years more were destined to
elapse before the like honour of a marquis's
coronet was extended to the elder branch of the
Cecils, of Burleigh, and of Exeter. Around this
elder house, however, there is a great halo of
romance.

I have already acquainted my readers that the
two sons of the great Lord Burleigh were raised in
one day by James I., to the earldoms of Salisbury
and Exeter, and that in 1789 the younger line,
that of Salisbury, exchanged an earl's coronet
for that of a marquis. The same good fortune
befell the head of the elder house in 1801, when
Henry, tenth Earl of Exeter and eleventh Lord
Burleigh, was advanced one step in the peerage
of the United Kingdom, by the favour of George
III. and Mr. Pitt, by the " name, style, and title"
of Marquis of Exeter. There is really not much
to say about the intermediate earls, except that
they were severally born, succeeded to the family
coronet and pew in church, married, begot
children, died, and " slept with their fathers."
But the case was far different with Earl Henry,
who, probably without ever intending or even



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 65

dreaming of snch a thing, suddenly found himself
the hero of a romance of real life, or rather the
actor of the protagonist's part in a drama of rural
and peasant existence.

Born in the year 1754, the only son, and,
indeed, the only child, of the Hon. Thomas
Chambers Cecil, by his marriage with Miss
Charlotte Gardner, Henry Cecil, at the age of
nineteen, found himself at once an orphan and
presumptive heir to the titles and estates of an
old uncle who did not care for him a rush, and
towards whom probably he felt very little
affection 01 regard. At all events, no love was
lost between them ; so while the old earl lived
the young man kept pretty clear of Burleigh and
all its belongings, and travelled through various
parts of England, rather enjoying a life of quiet
and homely adventure than otherwise. He did
not join the gipsies, as did Bampfylde Moore
Carew; nor did he elope with an actress or
seme foreign duchess, as many young men
would have done had they been left their own
masters at an equally early age, and been known
to have good pecuniary prospects. On the
coutrary, he married, quietly and soberly, into
a good county family of the west of England,
choosing as his bride the pretty Miss Vernon,
only child of the squire of Hanbury Hall, in

VOL. i. F



66 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

Worcestershire. But the young lady did not
answer his expectations; and in June, 1791,
when he was just seven and thirty, he petitioned
for and obtained a divorce. This judgment made
him again a free man ; and he resolved, having
been once " taken in and done for," to look about
for a second wife at his leisure, and to choose no
one of whom he was not sure that he could mould
her to his own tastes and ways, and that he
would' find in her a pattern of conjugal affection
and domestic virtue. *' Courts, and courtiers, and
coronets," he would say, at all events to himself,
" are all very well in their way ; but their way is
not my way; and, if I can only find a plain,
homely, and truly virtuous maiden, in whatever
sphere of life I discover her, in hall, in manor-
house, in parsonage, or in cottage, then I swear
with King Cophetua,

" This beggar-maid shall be my queen."

How far he was true to his oath the sequel will
serve to show. I must ask my readers to accom-
pany me mentally of course to a charming
country village in Shropshire, nestling among
green lanes and fruitful apple orchards, and
called Bolas Magna ; it is not far from Wellington
and Newport, and within six or seven miles of
that well-known inland beacon, the Wrekin.



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 67

It was a fine evening in the month of July,
1791, when the grass had been all mown and the
hay had been made, and when the harvest had
not commenced, that a stranger, apparently
between thirty and forty years of age, stopped at
the gate of a small farmer and shopkeeper in the
village of Bolas. It was by no means a very
usual thing to see a stranger in so retired a place,
and at first the good man and his wife, who
stood at the door, were inclined to refuse the
hospitality which he asked. He certainly looked
like a gentleman, at all events like a decent
person ; but what could a gentleman or any person
be doing, wandering about a strange village, five
miles at least from the nearest town, at such an
hour ? In spite of the evident suspicion of his
bona fides, which was entertained by both of the
old folks, the stranger urgently yet courteously
pressed his demands, begging that at least he
might be allowed to stay in their cottage till
morning, even if he had only a chair to " rest
upon in their lower room." He did not require a
bed ; but it was clear that a heavy thunderstorm
was coming on, and surely they would not force
him to go on his way in the midst of the rain and
storm. At last the boon was granted, though
it must be owned somewhat grudgingly ; and
next morning the guest who had thus forced

F 2



68 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

himself upon them in their little " castle" made
the formal acquaintance of honest Thomas
Hoggins and his wife. Ah ! it is not only in the
olden time, or only in the regions of the dis-
tant East, that "strangers have entertained
angels unawares." The stranger's pleasure in
the society of Mr and Mrs Hoggins no doubt was
enhanced by the appearance at the breakfast
table of their daughter, Sarah, a rustic beauty of
seventeen, a distant sight of whom on the previous
evening, as she washed up "the things" in the
kitchen, had fairly enchained his eyes and his
heart. The adventure of an hour, connected with
crooked roads and coming night, was about
suddenly to affect the wanderer's future life, and
still more so that of the village maiden who
alternately sat beside him and waited on her
parents and their unknown guest.

Breakfast was over; but from that humble
cottage where he had slept in a chair in the
parlour, from those fields where Sarah Hoggins
milked the cows, and from that dairy where her
fair hands churned the cream into butter, Mr.
Jones for so the stranger styled himself could
not be persuaded to stir. He was a puzzle and a
mystery ; and there was no CEdipus at hand to
solve the riddle of his being who he was and
where he came from. In answer to all inquiries,



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 69

he spoke vaguely and unsatisfactorily ; at last
he said he was an " undertaker," or something of
the kind, taking refuge in the vagueness of the
term. Possibly such a vocation might serve to
account for the air of tender melancholy which
seemed to surround him ; or possibly the word
might have been meant as a gentle hint to Sarah
Hoggins that, stranger as he was, he was ready
to undertake any office, however new to him or
he to it, in which she herself bore a part.
Tennyson, who has made the story which I am
about to tell familiar to most English readers, true
to the poetic art, makes him out as calling
himself not an " undertaker" but a " landscape
painter."

A week or two passed, and by the arrival of
harvest time the presence of Mr. Jones in the
village had already become a fixed idea. The
inhabitants looked upon him with a respectful
fear. As weeks went on he made occasional
absences from Bolas ; these were always short,
and confined to two or three days ; and on his
return he seemed to abound with money. The
natives of Salop are not dull. They put the
money and the absences together, and they
whispered the result to one another. They felt
sure Jones was a highwayman, and possibly the
tortuous and tree-darkened lanes, and the stories



70 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

of highwaymen and footpads on the roads around
Bolas Magna may have made the robber idea
unpleasantly credible. Probably they did not
reflect that such a sparse country, so rarely
visited by strangers, would not support a single
footpad unless he possessed a large capital and
could afford to abide the event.

After awhile, Mr. Jones, or Mr. Cecil we may
as well drop the alias became the avowed suitor
of Sarah Hoggins ; but the notion that he was a
highwayman still clung to her mother's mind,
and she sturdily set her face against the connec-
tion. The father's logic was simple, and ulti-
mately prevailed : " Why, my dear, he has
plenty of money."

He showed his easy circumstances, indeed, by
taking land, and by buying a site, on which he
erected the largest house in the neighbourhood,
now called Burleigh Villa. It stands amongst
fields, facing the Wrekin, some seven miles
distant from that landmark.

The wooing and the love-making of Mr. Cecil
was brief; for on the 3rd of October, just as
harvest was over, and the orchards were being
stripped of the apples for cider, he and Sarah
Hoggins were married in the little church of
Bolas. But still who Henry Cecil was, and
what was his parentage, remained a mystery to



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 71

all, even to Sarah herself. They still continued
to live on in the village it is said in the old
folk's house. Next year a little daughter was
born to them, but died when only a few days
old. She was buried in the little churchyard ;
but the grave is now forgotten.

A little more than two years passed by, and,
in spite of the mystery which surrounded him,
the respectability of Mr. Cecil's manners and
conduct began to inspire the villagers of Bolas
with confidence, so that they even appointed him
to a post of trust as overseer, or churchwarden,
or parish-constable. During this time, he was
careful to supply by education all the accom-
plishments which might be supposed to be want-
ing in a peasant girl, who had become a wife
and a mother.

He was thus circumstanced, when towards the
end of December, 1793, when he had been
married a little over two years, he read in a
country paper the tidings of the death of his
uncle, the old earl. His presence, he knew,
would now be required at Burghley :

"Burghley House by Stamford Town."

and though it was the depth of winter, he
resolved to travel thither, taking his wife with
him, and to give her an agreeable surprise.



72 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

From Bolas, accordingly, one fine morning in
January, having said goodbye to Mr. and Mrs.
Hoggins, Henry Cecil and his wife, now just
nineteen years of age, set out on horseback for
a destination of which she was ignorant. Her
husband merely told her that he was called on
business into Lincolnshire, and that she must
accompany him. Like a good and trustful wife,
she at once obeyed his wish, and made the jour-
ney seated, as was the fashion of the day, on a
pillion behind him. They rode on through
Cannock Chase, past Lichfield and Leicester,
stopping at various gentlemen's and noblemen's
seats on the road, till at last they came within
sight of a noble Elizabethan mansion situated
in a lordly park.

Sarah Cecil gazed in admiration, and quietly
remarked, " What a magnificent house !"

" How should you like, my dear Sally, to be
mistress of such a place ?' was her lord's reply.

" Very much indeed, if we were rich enough
to live in it."

" I am glad that you like it ; the place is yours.
I am Earl of Exeter, and you are not plain Mrs.
Cecil, but my Countess."

She could scarcely believe her ears; but she
could not mistrust the fond and honest words
of her husband. The mystery of the last two



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 73

years was solved at last to her at least. Mr.
Cecil was no highwayman, that she knew
already ; but a painter of landscapes he might be.
It was, however, indeed strange news to her that
he was one of the proud peers of England, and
that she had the coronet of a countess for her
own. In a few minutes they reached the great
entrance ; and there was a fresh trial for her
nerves, as a crowd of powdered servants carne
forward to recognise their new lord and master,
who lost no time in presenting to them their
future mistress.

This journey has been immortalised by Tenny-
son in his ballad of " The Lord of Burleigh :"

" Thus her heart rejoiceth greatly,

Till a gateway she discerns,
With armorial bearings stately,
And beneath the gate she turns ;

" Sees a mansion more majestic

Than all those she saw before ;
Many a gallant gay domestic
Bows before him at the door ;

" And they speak in gentle murmur

When they answer to his call,
While he treads with footstep firmer
Leading on from hall to hall.

'' And while now she wonders blindly,

Nor the meaning can divine,
Proudly turns he round and kindly,
' All of that is mine and thine.'



74 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

" Here he lives in state and bounty
Lord of Burleigh fair and free,
Not a lord in all the county
Is so great a lord as he."

The news of the romantic story spread like
wildfire throughout the neighbourhood, and the
curiosity of the three counties of Lincoln, Rutland,
and Northampton, which all meet within a few
miles of Burleigh, was soon gratified by witnessing
the entry of the peasant girl of Bolas upon the
new sphere of life to which providence had raised
her without her own seeking.

The happiness of the Earl and his Countess was
unalloyed: she did ample justice to his choice,
and became the partner of his joys and of his
sorrows. But their married life was brief. Be-
sides their first-born, who lies buried at Bolas,
Sarah Hoggins had three children a daughter
and two sons. The younger son, Lord Thomas
Cecil (after giving birth to whom she died in
childbed) lived till 1873 ; the elder son inherited
his father's earldom, and also the marquisate
conferred on him in 1801, as already stated; the
daughter married the late Right Hon. Henry
Manvers Pierrepont, by whom she was the mother
of Lady Charles Wellesley, who is again the
mother of the heir to the honours of the house of
Wellesley. Thus strangely enough the future



THE NOBLE HOUSE OF CECIL. 75

Duke of Wellington is the great-grandson of the
peasant girl, who in 1791 milked cows and
churned cream in the village of Bolas Magna.

A friend of mine, who a few years ago travelled
in Shropshire, sent me at the time so graphic a
description of a pilgrimage which he then made
to the scene of this romance, that I venture to
give part of it in his own words to my readers :

" Whilst on a visit, a fortnight since, in Shrop-
shire, in sight of that cynosure of neighbouring
eyes, the Wrekin, I found myself near the scene
of one of the most romantic pages in the history
of the English Peerage. On a pleasant Septem-
ber afternoon, when the sunlight was bathing the
broad pastures, tinging the apples and damsons
on the heavily-laden trees, and falling ruddy on
the sides of red stone quarries, I bent my steps in
the direction of the little village of Bolas Magna
not without somo misgivings of losing my way
among the little-frequented country roads which
lead thither. But a story that Moore has sung,
and which has furnished Tennyson with the sub-
ject of one of his best poems, was inducement
enough to make me strive against my terrible
want of topographical acumen, to pace the very
spot so consecrate to love, and, if possible, converse
with the remaining few who still recall persons
and events dating more than seventy years ago.



76 TALES OF OUR GREAT FAMILIES.

After telling the story, much as I have told it
to my readers, my friend proceeds :

" My walk led me past Burleigh Villa. It is


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