Frequently Asked Questions
17. Was the success of the Elizabethan age due to William Cecil rather than the Queen?
It certainly has been argued that the success of the Elizabethan regime was due to Cecil, Walsingham, etc, but I would say they contributed to the success rather than being a singular cause of it. For a machine to work, for example, all the pieces have to function and do their bit, and it was the same in Elizabethan England. A strong Queen alone would not have been able to achieve so much, but working with Cecil, Walsingham, Leicester, the "machine" was strong.
Cecil was a man of immense ability, intelligence, and was extremely hardworking. Elizabeth depended on him, and acknowledged her dependence on him, but it was always she who made the final decision. The basic fact is, I think, that Elizabeth and Cecil worked wonderfully well together. They were both hardworking, both committed to their country, their church, and both were moderates in an age of extremes, particularly in religion. Cecil kept a check on Elizabeth, and Elizabeth kept a check on him when he was tempted to be a little more zealous in religion or other matters than she would like. They were a team. Cecil said there was no greater sovereign than she, and she said no queen could have as great a minister.
Also, it must be remembered, that it was Elizabeth who appointed Cecil in the first place. She was a great judge of men. Elizabeth's abilities were perhaps exaggerated in her own lifetime, but she was, nonetheless, a political genius, and the euphoria surrounding her was just another example of how successful she and her ministers had been in promoting the royal image. But it was not image alone. Elizabeth was devoted to her country and people, and was, in Sir Walter Raleigh's words, "...a Queen of the poor as well as the rich." Respect has to be earned, and Elizabeth certainly earned the respect of her people, and this was solely down to her own determination and willingness to spend time travelling the south of England, and on occasions into the midlands, to make herself known to the people.