Page:The house of Cecil.djvu/174

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CHAPTER VIII

ROBERT CECIL, FIRST EARL OF SALISBURY

TURNING now to the Salisbury branch of the family, we are confronted with the enigmatical figure of Sir Robert Cecil, the only son of Lord Burghley by his second wife, Mildred Cooke.

Few great statesmen are so little known, and of few is it more difficult to form a satisfactory judgment. The private life of Lord Burghley lies open for all to read ; the character of Sir Thomas Cecil is simple and presents few problems. But the first Earl of Salisbury hid his real self behind a mask, and even the mass of papers at Hatfield throw only a confused light on his character. They tell us almost nothing of his private life, and perhaps the strongest impression we gain from them is the extraordinary affection shown by his friends to this man whose own reserve is so impenetrable. Yet many of those who knew him best seem always to have dis- trusted him. He was surrounded by enemies and detractors, and subjected to every form of personal vilification ; and much of the mud thrown both during his life and after his death has stuck to him. As Gardiner remarks, it was difficult for his contemporaries " to imagine that the man who succeeded whilst Essex and Raleigh,

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