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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally Excellent
Stephen Alford's "Burghley" strikes an excellent balance between being readable and engaging, and being scholarly enough to contribute meaningfully to the interpretation of Burghley's character and place in the history of the Tudor court. Alford writes with a great deal of skill, and the narrative he tells is as amusing as it is insightful.

Despite these high...
Published on 12 Jan 2009 by MetalMan

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2.0 out of 5 stars a deliberate whitewash
According to John Coleman, the Cecils have controlled the British monarchy since William Cecil became the lover of Queen Elizabeth I and her private secretary - a job title deliberately intended to hide the vast amount of power it carries; Sir William Cecil, aka Lord Burghley, was the most powerful non-royal in the land.

Cecil stayed in office until his death...
Published on 23 Sep 2010 by Lara Boyde


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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Generally Excellent, 12 Jan 2009
Stephen Alford's "Burghley" strikes an excellent balance between being readable and engaging, and being scholarly enough to contribute meaningfully to the interpretation of Burghley's character and place in the history of the Tudor court. Alford writes with a great deal of skill, and the narrative he tells is as amusing as it is insightful.

Despite these high praises, the second half (roughly) of the book does become less compelling: in the first half we are given a genuine insight into Burghley's development as an administrator and politician, as well as provided with what feels like a compelling portrait of an individual. The latter half of the book becomes dominated by politics - not unreasonably given Burghley's occupation and immersion in his work. But the result is to lose a little of the character that had been built up over the course of the book, and several occasions for fleshing out the details a little are passed over. Alford makes mention of libels and insults, and one feels a little sorry that the (repeated) attacks of a poet of the stature of Edmund Spenser are passed over without a word, despite the fact these attacks led to the 'calling in' and burning of the said works.

This said, there is much to commend this book, not least its resuscitation of a powerful and important figure who has occasionally been overlooked among the number of fantastic individuals ripe for biography in this period. Alford sets the scene well and gives us a more full and well-rounded Burghley than before - even if the work might have been more compelling if the man had not become secondary to a retelling of the politics of the time.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and thoughtful, 8 Feb 2009
This is a rich, thoughtful biography I would recommend wholeheartedly to anyone with an interest in Tudor England. Stephen Alford has succeeded in writing an account that is deeply analytical of Burghley and his times while remaining accessible to the general reader. Not least of its virtues is a strong, page-turning narrative.

Those with a working knowledge of Tudor history may find the chapters on Burghley's early years particularly revealing: his formative years at St John's College, Cambridge, his rapid rise at the court of Edward VI and his survival under Mary. A surprise to many may be Alford's account of his chameleon-like adaptation to Mary's regime.

To tell Burghley's story under Elizabeth is effectively to tell the entire story of Elizabethan government and politics, for, as Alford notes, he was the master of every detail of every policy. Choices need to be made to avoid an overlong and unwieldly account, and I felt Alford's decision to focus primarily on the politics of the succession worked well. It is a clearer, more sharply-focused book as a result.

There is much to enjoy here, too, for those who want to understand the man behind the politician. It is no easy task to tease this out at a distance of 400 years, and for a man who was perfectly placed to suppress material unfavourable to him. But Alford is always alive to the telling detail that might illuminate Burghley's character and motivation. Just one example that sticks in my mind was Burghley's passion for cartography, and how we can get a little closer to understanding it from his detailed annotations to a copy of the leading atlas of the day in his library.
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2.0 out of 5 stars a deliberate whitewash, 23 Sep 2010
According to John Coleman, the Cecils have controlled the British monarchy since William Cecil became the lover of Queen Elizabeth I and her private secretary - a job title deliberately intended to hide the vast amount of power it carries; Sir William Cecil, aka Lord Burghley, was the most powerful non-royal in the land.

Cecil stayed in office until his death. His remarkable career at the very top of Elizabethan politics spanned four decades and included the posts of Lord Treasurer and of Chief Minister - over the decades he held all the major posts. His son, Robert, was to have an equally successful political career under James I.

Coleman has a short monograph about the Cecils, called "King Makers, King Breakers" from which it will be obvious that this book is a whitewash, if even half of Coleman's monograph is true. If Coleman was able to identify the Cecils' true role behind the throne and down history, just how did this "master of the source material" manage to miss the real story? Naivety would be an inadequate reason so it must be whitewash, like most of what we are told is history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 23 April 2013
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T.R.SULLIVAN (OXSHOTT, SURREY United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I (Paperback)
This is very well researched and explains why Burghley was so very influential in Elizabeth 1's court. Well worth the read
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Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I
Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I by Stephen Alford (Paperback - 1 Feb 2011)
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