Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Mildred Cecil (1526–1589)

Mildred Cecil (1526-1589)Edit

Mildred Cecil, the Lady Burleigh was a noblewoman and scholar born in 1526. She was a keen political influence, devout Protestant and regarded advisor during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Cecil produced in her lifetime a notable library of works on the subjects of medicine, literature and religion, thirty-eight of which remain today. As well as this, she was also an artist, with her works available for viewing in the National Galleries.

BiographyEdit

Born in 1526,[1] Mildred Cooke was the child of Sir Anthony Cooke of Essex and Anne Fitzwilliam. She was the eldest of five daughters and four sons. Despite never attending university, Sir Anthony Cooke was self taught. He extended this teaching to all his children, providing them with a thorough education in both the classical and modern languages.[2] Mildred's father was a scholar and a humanist, whose academic focus largely influenced Mildred to later pursued a career in philanthropy and become a historically declared scholar.[1]

In December of 1545, Mildred married William Cecil, becoming his second wife. At the time of their marriage, William was 25 with no political standing. It was not until the reign of King Edward VI that William Cecil first politically emerges as a servant of the Duke of Somerset.[3] The political influence of theCecil's grows as William becomes Principal Secretary, before being appointed the first Baron of Burleigh, the right-hand man to the Queen as her principal advisor.[2] The married couple first lived at Wimbledon Manor before moving into their newly built grand house, located in the Strand in London.[4] Mildred acted as stepmother to Thomas Thistle, William's first child from his previous marriage. While the Cecil's were married for nine years before Mildred gave birth to their first child, they had five children together in total, with only two surviving to adulthood.[2] Mildred was survived by her son Robert Cecil, who grew up to become the first Earl of Salisbury serving as the Secretary of State to both Queen Elizabeth the first and King James the first.[4] Mildred died at the Cecil house located in the Strand in London[1] during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the first, on the fourth of April 1589, at the age of 63.[5]

WorksEdit

Sir Anthony Cooke, Mildred's father, largely embraced the reformed faith. He was a scholar and humanist who provided his five daughters with an education equal to his four sons.[6] Mildred grew up to become a philanthropist and scholar, a rare occasion for a woman of her time. Seventeenth century biography scholar David Lloyd, found in his studies of Sir Anthony Cooke, that the main interest and goal in his lifetime was the intellectual achievements of his five daughters, namely Mildred. Lloyd largely draws attention to the quality of the education that his daughters received from their father, emphasising that his goal was to educate them to become 'complete women'; women that successfully acquired academic knowledge in conjunction to developing their traditionalised gender roles.[4] Mildred became a very influential woman in her era, through taking upon higher-class intermediary tasks, interceding between petitioners that wanted to gain the attention of her husband or step son.[6] Mildred personally corresponded with many important people and representatives of nation's, such as Scottish leaders, who interacted with her instead of her husband, when negotiating the Treaty of Edinburgh.[6]

Through her large correspondence activity, Mildred's work amplified a female’s detailed perception and contribution to the issues central to the Elizabethan politics.[2] Mildred's involvement in such activities explicitly highlights the contributions on a woman's part, to shape the narration of mainstream politics during the Elizabethan period.[2] Mildred's diplomatic activities and involvement were largely weighted on dependence and her husband's power and influence. However; it consequently created the misconception of her political correspondence activities as being solely motivated by kin hierarchy advancement, a narrow perception generated by social dominance and misogyny throughout history.[2] Such echoes throughout history of Mildred Cecil have named her alike to an accessory, an attachment to the historic political recount that involved her husband. Many have dismissed the variety of works that Mildred produced in her lifetime outside of her duties as Lady Burleigh.

Mildred was fluent in Greek, French, and Latin, producing a variety of works that amounted to an extensive library toward the end of her lifetime. These works included prestigious texts on subjects such as religion, medicine and literature.[3] Mildred became a philanthropist towards the end of her time and began donating many books and works from her personal, collective library that she had created over her lifetime. [1] There have been thirty-eight books recovered from Mildred’s donations, that are inscribed with Mildred’s name. [1] These books were recovered from educational institutions such as Christ Church Oxford University, Westminster School and St. Johns College – University of Oxford.[1] Historians are left with the thirty-eight books that have survived today. For a full list of her works please see attached the link below (Wiki-Book page includes link to the full library of Mildred Cooke Cecil).

Reputation/LegacyEdit

Mildred left behind a reputation that extends beyond her reputation as woman writer. She is regarded as a woman whose opinion were sought independently from her husband, and respected as a woman that commanded her privacy and maintained financial independence to pursue her own ends.[3] Jane Stevenson remarks that "as a group, the Cookes are among the most politically significant women in Elizabethan England who were not of the royal blood."[3] That they achieved this standing by their own merit is equally revered. The reputation of the intelligence and education of the Cooke sisters was regarded by poet George Buchanan in his poem To Anthony Cook, English Knight, and his very learned daughters, suggesting a widespread appreciation for the contributions of Mildred and her sisters.[3]

Cecil's reputation extended to being regarded as an excellent tutor, with unsubstantiated claims suggesting she assisted her father with the tutelage of the young King Edward VI.[2] Her husband remarked upon how "zealous and excellent a tutor" Cecil was in the education of their son Robert Cecil.[2] Mildred is recounted as the most politically orientated out of her sisters. Stated on record, Mildred and her husband agreed that the importance of staying in power was of such high significance, that it would come with the cost of their religious integrity, to conform under Elizabeth’s first act as the Queen which entailed restoring Protestantism as the official religion.[3][7]

Mildred Cecil née Cooke, Lady of Burleigh, left behind the legacy of her strong connections to the humanists of England during her time. Described as a noblewoman by Phineas Fletcher, he presented Mildred with the first ever Latin pastoral to be composed in England, dedicated in her name.[3] Through this dedication, Mildred Cecil was to be remembered as one of the most receptive and groundbreaking humanist writers of her time.[3] Mildred upholds a reputation as the praiseworthy wife to Lord Burleigh, beloved mother, very noble, well learned, strongly hierarchic, retired court patron and established skilful author. She remains a testament in history as to the lengths of academic accomplishment one woman could achieve during the Elizabethan era of their own merit.

ReferencesEdit

Allen, Gemma, et al. The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England, Manchester University Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4706763.


Bowden, Caroline. "The Library of Mildred Cooke Cecil, Lady Burghley." The Library, Oxford Academic, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 3-29. https://doi.org/10.1093/library/6.1.3

Burghley House Preservation Trust. History of the Family. Accessed 28 April. 2021.


Elizabethan Era. Elizabethan Era Religion and Religious Beliefs: Politics in the Era. Accessed 28 April. 2021.


Gibson, Jonathan. Early Modern Women's Manuscript Writing: Selected Papers from the Trinity/Trent Colloquium, edited by Victoria E. Burke, Taylor & Francis Group, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4817201.


Lloyd, David.The States-Men and Favourites of England since the reformation: Their Prudence and Policies, Successes and Miscarriages, Advancements and Falls; During the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, King James, King Charles I. Printed by J.C. for Samuel Speed, at the Rainbow Inner Temple-gate, Fleet-street London, 1665.


The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society. "Mildred Cecil, Lady Burghley - Far Beyond the Race of Womankind" YouTube, 28 April.


Westminster Abbey. Mildred Cecil Lady Burghley & Anne Countess of Oxford. Accessed 28 April. 2021.

Further reading:Edit

The Cooke Sisters: Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England. By Gemma Allen, Peter Lake, Anthony Milton, Jason Peacey, and Alexandra Gajda.

Early Modern Women's Manuscript Writing, Chapter 3: Mildred Cecil, Lady Burleigh: Poetry, Politics and Protestantism. By Johnathan Gibson and Victoria E. Burke.

Westminster Abbey. Mildred Cecil Lady Burghley & Anne Countess of Oxford. Accessed 28 April. 2021. [8]

Burghley House Preservation Trust. History of the Family. Accessed 28 April. 2021. [9]

Allen, Gemma, et al.. The Cooke Sisters : Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England, Manchester University Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4706763. [10]

Bowden, Caroline. "The Library of Mildred Cooke Cecil, Lady Burghley." The Library, Oxford Academic, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 3-29. https://doi.org/10.1093/library/6.1.3

Elizabethan Era. Elizabethan Era Religion and Religious Beliefs: Politics in the Era. Accessed 28 April. 2021. [11]

Gibson, Jonathan. Early Modern Women's Manuscript Writing : Selected Papers from the Trinity/Trent Colloquium, edited by Victoria E. Burke, Taylor & Francis Group, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4817201.

  1. a b c d e f Bowden, Caroline. "The Library of Mildred Cooke Cecil, Lady Burghley." The Library, Oxford Academic, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 3-29. https://doi.org/10.1093/library/6.1.3
  2. a b c d e f g h Allen, Gemma, et al.. The Cooke Sisters : Education, Piety and Politics in Early Modern England, Manchester University Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4706763.
  3. a b c d e f g h Gibson, Jonathan. Early Modern Women's Manuscript Writing: Selected Papers from the Trinity/Trent Colloquium, edited by Victoria E. Burke, Taylor & Francis Group, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4817201.
  4. a b c Lloyd, David.The States-Men and Favourites of England since the reformation: Their Prudence and Policies, Successes and Miscarriages, Advancements and Falls; During the Reigns of King Henry VIII, King Edward VI, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, King James, King Charles I. Printed by J.C. for Samuel Speed, at the Rainbow Inner Temple-gate, Fleet-street London, 1665.
  5. Westminster Abbey. Mildred Cecil Lady Burghley & Anne Countess of Oxford. Accessed 28 April. 2021.
  6. a b c The Anne Boleyn Files and Tudor Society. "Mildred Cecil, Lady Burghley - Far Beyond the Race of Womankind" YouTube, 28 April.
  7. Elizabethan Era. Elizabethan Era Religion and Religious Beliefs: Politics in the Era. Accessed 28 April. 2021.
  8. https://www.westminster-abbey.org/abbey-commemorations/commemorations/mildred-cecil-lady-burghley-anne-countess-of-oxford
  9. https://www.burghley.co.uk/about-us/the-family/history-of-the-family
  10. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=4706763
  11. http://elizabethanenglandlife.com/elizabethan-era-religion-and-religious-beliefs.html#:~:text=Elizabeth’s%20first%20act%20as%20the%20Queen%20was%20restoring,and%20were%20prepared%20to%20attend%20their%20parish%20churches.