By that time Cecil had begun to trim his sails to a different breeze. He was in secret communication with Elizabeth before Mary died, and from the first the new queen relied on Cecil as she relied on no one else. Her confidence was not misplaced; Cecil was exactly the kind of minister England then required. Personal experience had ripened his rare natural gift for avoiding dangers. It was no time for brilliant initiative or adventurous politics; the need was to avoid Scylla and Charybdis, and a via media had to be found in church and state, at home and abroad. Cecil was not a political genius; no great ideas emanated from his brain. But he was eminently a safe man, not an original thinker, but a counsellor of unrivalled wisdom. Caution was his supreme characteristic; he saw that above all things England required time. Like Fabius, he restored the fortunes of his country by deliberation. He averted open rupture until England was strong enough to stand the shock. There was nothing heroic about Cecil or his policy; it involved a callous attitude towards struggling Protestants abroad. Huguenots and Dutch Were aided just enough to keep them going in the struggles which warded danger off from England's shores.
But Cecil never developed that passionate aversion from decided measures which became a second nature to his mistress. His intervention in Scotland in 1559-1560 showed that he could strike on occasion; and his action over the execution of Mary, queen of Scots, proved that he was willing to take responsibility from which Elizabeth shrank. Generally he was in favour of more decided intervention on behalf of continental Protestants than Elizabeth would admit, but it is not always easy to ascertain the advice he gave. He has left endless memoranda lucidly setting forth the pros and cons of every course of action; but there are few indications of the line which he actually recommended when it came to a decision. How far he was personally responsible for the Anglican Settlement, the Poor Laws, and the foreign policy of the reign, how far he was thwarted by the baleful influence of Leicester and the caprices of the queen, remains to a large extent a matter of conjecture. His share in the settlement of 1559 was considerable, and it coincided fairly with his own somewhat indeterminate religious views.
Like the mass of the nation, he grew more Protestant as time wore on; he was readier to persecute Papists than Puritans; he had no love for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and he warmly remonstrated with Whitgift over his persecuting Articles of 1583. The finest encomium was passed on him by the queen herself, when she said, "This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state."
From 1558 for forty years the biography of Cecil is almost indistinguishable from that of Elizabeth and from the history of England. Of personal incident, apart from his mission to Scotland in 1560, there is little. He represented Lincolnshire in the parliament of 1559, and Northamptonshire in that of 1563, and he took an active part in the proceedings of the House of Commons until his elevation to the peerage; but there seems no good evidence for the story that he was proposed as speaker in 1563. In January 1561 he was given the lucrative office of master of the court of wards in succession to Sir Thomas Parry, and he did something to reform that instrument of tyranny and abuse. In February 1559 he was elected chancellor of Cambridge University in succession to Cardinal Pole; he was created M.A. of that university on the occasion of Elizabeth's visit in 1564, and M.A. of Oxford on a similar occasion in 1566. On the 25th of February 1571 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Burghley of Burghley (or Burleigh); the fact that he continued to act as secretary after his elevation illustrates the growing importance of that office, which under his son became a secretaryship of state.
In 1572, however, the marquess of Winchester, who had been lord high treasurer under Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, died, and Burghley succeeded to his post. It was a signal triumph over Leicester; and, although Burghley had still to reckon with cabals in the council and at court, his hold over the queen strengthened with the lapse of years. Before he died, Robert, his only surviving son by his second wife, was ready to step into his shoes as the queen's principal adviser. Having survived all his rivals, and all his children except Robert and the worthless Thomas, Burghley died at his London house on the 4th of August 1598, and was buried in St Martin's, Stamford.
Burghley's private life was singularly virtuous; he was a faithful husband, a careful father and a considerate master. A book-lover and antiquary, he made a special hobby of heraldry and genealogy. It was the conscious and unconscious aim of the age to reconstruct a new landed aristocracy on the ruins of the old, and Burghley was a great builder and planter. All the arts of architecture and horticulture were lavished on Burghley House and Theobalds, which his son exchanged for Hatfield. His public conduct does not present itself in quite so amiable a light. As the marquess of Winchester said of himself, he was sprung from the willow rather than the oak, and he was not the man to suffer for convictions. The interest of the state was the supreme consideration, and to it he had no hesitation in sacrificing individual consciences. He frankly disbelieved in toleration; "that state," he said, "could never be in safety where there was a toleration of two religions. For there is no enmity so great as that for religion; and therefore they that differ in the service of their God can never agree in the service of their country." With a maxim such as this, it was easy for him to maintain that Elizabeth's coercive measures were political and not religious.
To say that he was Machiavellian is meaningless, for every statesman is so more or less; especially in the 16th century men preferred efficiency to principle. On the other hand, principles are valueless without law and order; and Burghley's craft and subtlety prepared a security in which principles might find some scope.
The sources and authorities for Burghley's life are endless. The most important collection of documents is at Hatfield, where there are some ten thousand papers covering the period down to Burghley's death; these have been calendared in 8 volumes by the Hist. MSS. Comm. At least as many others are in the Record Office and British Museum, the Lansdowne MSS. especially containing a vast mass of his correspondence; see the catalogues of Cotton, Harleian, Royal, Sloane, Egerton and Additional MSS. in the British Museum, and the Calendars of Domestic, Foreign, Spanish, Venetian, Scottish and Irish State Papers.
Other official sources are the Acts of the Privy Council (vols. i.-xxix.); Lords' and Commons' Journals, D'Ewes' Journals, Off. Ret. M.P.'s; Rymer's Foedera; Collins's Sydney State Papers; Nichols's Progresses of Elizabeth. See also Strype's Works (26 vols.), Parker, Soc. Publ. (56 vols.); Camden's Annales; Holinshed, Stow and Speed's Chron.; Hayward's Annals; Machyn's Diary, Leycester Corr., Egerton Papers (Camden Soc.). For Burghley's early life, see Cooper's Athenae Cantab.; Baker's St John's Coll., Camb., ed. Mayor; Letters and. Papers of Henry VIII.; Tytler's Edward VI.; Nichols's Lit. Remains of Edward VI.; Leadam's Court of Requests, Chron. of Queen Jane (Camden Soc.) and throughout Froude's Hist. No satisfactory life of Burghley has yet appeared; some valuable anonymous notes, probably by Burghley's servant Francis Alford, were printed in Peck's Desiderata Curiosa (1732), i. 1-66; other notes are in Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia. Lives by Collins (1732), Charlton and Melvil (1738), were followed by Nares's biography in three of the most ponderous volumes (1828-1831) in the language; this provoked Macaulay's brilliant but misleading essay.
M.A.S. Hume's Great Lord Burghley (1898) is largely a piecing together of the references to Burghley in the same author's Calendar of Simancas MSS. The life by Dr Jessopp (1904) is an expansion of his article in the Dict. Nat. Biog.; it is still only a sketch, though the volume contains a mass of genealogical and other incidental information by other hands.
(A. F. P.)
 This was the form always used by Cecil himself.