· 2 June 2016 ·
I haven’t any new poems ready, so I thought I’d give you some history, in the guise of time travel. Show you how closely connected the 21st century is to my era. Elizabeth’s reign was only yesterday. Generations succeed generations in the blink of an eye. Centuries fly on wings. Once you too have been around for 466 years, you won’t need to take my word for it.
There were no Exeters in the ranks of the nobility during the years I was breathing, but the Exeter title looms large in my work and life.
The Exeter you find first in my history plays is the Duke who began his acting career in Henry V, informing his sovereign in early 1415 that the Dauphin’s gift was a box full of tennis balls. Henry, affronted by this Gallic trollage, sailed an army across the Channel and annihilated the Dauphin
in straight sets at Roland-Garros with longbows at Agincourt.
– Tennis-balls, my liege. –
The Duke of Exeter (Brian Blessed) in Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film Henry V. Historically, Exeter wasn’t made Duke until after Agincourt. Dramatic licence.
This Exeter was Henry V’s paternal uncle, Thomas Beaufort – illegitimate half-brother, though subsequently legitimised by royal and papal decrees, of Henry IV. I’ll spare you the complicated romantic history of John of Gaunt, which resulted in the Beaufort line of fractious Lancastrians, from which sprang the Tudors. If you think that wealthy Brits having affairs with their childrens’ nannies is a modern foible, you’ll find that it was happening in the 14th century too. There is nothing new under the sun.
Duke Thomas also appeared in Henry VI, part 1. After Henry V’s early death in 1422, Thomas was guardian and councillor to the half-witted child king, his great-nephew. Anton Lesser played Exeter in the adapted-by-chainsaw series The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses recently shown on BBC2. (I believe it’s coming soon to PBS in the States. Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III. Let’s just say that I prefer him as Sherlock Holmes.) In reality, Beaufort died in 1426, so he wasn’t around for the mid-century Temple Garden rose-plucking contretemps (more dramatic licence by me), nor the chromatic hostilities which followed.
A different Exeter – Henry Holland, 3rd Duke – appears in Henry VI, part 3. Lots of people miss this. Even my go-to reference at Open Source Shakespeare assumes that it’s still Thomas Beaufort, despite the fact that Beaufort had been dead for more than thirty years by this point, and in the text I had Halfwit Henry refer to this Exeter, three times, as cousin (they were both great-grandsons of randy old John of Gaunt). OSS also incorrectly describes Thomas Beaufort as Henry IV’s uncle, not his half-brother. I give up.
Now we jump ahead, leaving my plays and the 15th century behind.
In the first part of the 16th century there was a Courtenay Marquess of Exeter, but we won’t bother with him. (A marquess ranks below a duke but above an earl.) From 1539 until 1605 there were no Exeters at all. (I was around from 1550 to 1604.) Now we’ve reached the early days of the 17th century. Elizabeth’s successor, Scotsman James I, recreated the Exeter title, bestowing an earldom upon my brother-in-law Thomas Cecil.
But rather than continue from 1605, we’re going to jump again, forward four centuries to the present Marquess of Exeter, then we’ll travel back through the generations to return to Brother Tom and his father. We can do this because the title remains within the Cecil family, 411 years on.
Coat of arms of the Marquess of Exeter.
If you’re into heraldry, it’s described as: Barry of ten
Argent and Azure six escutcheons Sable 3, 2, 1 each
charged with a rampant lion Argent langued Gules.
William Michael Anthony Cecil (Michael)
8th Marquess of Exeter (held title 1988 – )
• 1 Sept 1935 – (still living) – Canadian, resides in the USA
• Lord Burghley from 1981 to 1988 – this is the style that designates the eldest son while his father is Marquess. It derives directly from my father-in-law William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley. We’ll be getting to him.
• Inherited leadership roles in his family’s ranching and spiritual enterprises in Cariboo, British Columbia, which he left behind when he moved to the United States in 1996. See this article from 2003: Leader left Divine Light behind him (religionnewsblog.com)
• Presently a lifestyle mentor and ‘energy practitioner’ at the Ashland Institute in Ashland, Oregon.
• His ex-wife (mother of his heir) is the daughter of Lloyd Arthur Meeker. See following entry for 7th Marquess.
• Remarried in 1999
Michael is the eldest son of:
William Martin Alleyne Cecil (Martin)
7th Marquess of Exeter (held title 1981 – 1988)
• 27 Apr 1909 – 12 Jan 1988 – Anglo-Canadian
• Lord Martin Cecil until 1981
• As second son of the 5th Marquess, Martin emigrated to Canada in 1930 to run the family’s estate/ranch at 100 Mile House, Cariboo, BC.
• In the late 1940s, he became involved with Lloyd Arthur Meeker, an American travelling-salesman-turned-ecstatic-visionary. Think along the lines of Joseph Smith, minus the sacred undergarments. Martin assisted Meeker (known as ‘Uranda’) in establishing and then leading a quasi-religious organisation called the Emissaries of Divine Light. See link mentioned in entry for 8th Marquess. Martin became sole leader of the Emissaries after Meeker and four others were killed when the plane Meeker was piloting crashed in 1954.
• Inherited the title from his elder brother David, 6th Marquess, who died in 1981 without a male heir
Martin was the younger brother of:
David George Brownlow Cecil KCMG
6th Marquess of Exeter (held title 1956 – 1981)
• 9 Feb 1905 – 21 Oct 1981 – English (all are English from here back)
• Lord Burghley from 1918 to 1956
• Athlete, international sports official, and conservative politician
• Gold medallist in the 400-metre hurdles at the 1928 Olympics
• Inspiration for the character of ‘Lord Andrew Lindsay’ in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. The Great Court Run is basically true, although David was not beaten by another runner. (Even more dramatic licence.)
David was the eldest son of:
William Thomas Brownlow Cecil KG CMG TD
5th Marquess of Exeter (held title 1918 – 1956)
• 27 Oct 1876 – 6 Aug 1956
• Lord Burghley from 1895 to 1918
William was the only son (only child) of:
Brownlow Henry George Cecil PC DL
4th Marquess of Exeter (held title 1895 – 1918)
• 20 Dec 1849 – 9 Apr 1918
• Lord Burghley from 1867 to 1895
• Conservative politician
Brownlow was the eldest son of:
William Alleyne Cecil PC
3rd Marquess of Exeter (held title 1867 – 1895)
• 30 Apr 1825 – 14 Jul 1895
• Lord Burghley from birth to 1867
• Conservative politician
• Like his father, played first-class cricket (1847-1851)
William was the eldest son of:
Brownlow Cecil KG PC
2nd Marquess of Exeter (held title 1804 – 1867)
• 2 Jul 1795 – 16 Jan 1867
• Lord Burghley from birth to 1804
• Courtier and conservative politician
• First-class cricketer in 1817
• Inherited the title at age 8
Brownlow was the eldest son of:
1st Marquess of Exeter (held title 1801 – 1804)
10th Earl of Exeter (held title 1793 – 1801)
• 14 Mar 1754 – 1 May 1804
• The Honourable Henry Cecil from birth to 1793
• Father was the Honourable Thomas Chambers Cecil, profligate and dissipated second son of the 8th Earl
• Mother was allegedly a Basque dancing girl, whom his father married while living in exile in Belgium
• Raised from infancy as heir presumptive by his childless uncle Brownlow, 9th Earl, at Burghley House, the Exeter family seat
Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire. Built by William Cecil between 1558 and 1587. During most of my minority he was my legal guardian and financial controller. A significant portion of my inheritance found its way into this house. Touchy subject.
• Inherited the title as 10th Earl of Exeter, in 1793
• Was created (1st) Marquess of Exeter (second creation) by George III, in February 1801. A promotion at work from the CEO.
Henry was the nephew of:
9th Earl of Exeter (held title 1754 – 1793)
• 21 Sept 1725 – 26 Dec 1793
• Lord Burghley from birth to 1754
• Had no children
Brownlow was the eldest son of:
8th Earl of Exeter (held title 1722 – 1754)
• 4 Aug 1701 – 3 Nov 1754
• The Honourable Brownlow Cecil from birth to 1722
• Inherited the title from his elder brother John, 7th Earl, who died without an heir
Brownlow was the younger brother of:
7th Earl of Exeter (held title 1721 – 1722)
• 27 Feb 1700 – 9 Apr 1722
• Lord Burghley from birth to 1721
• Died, unmarried, at age 22
• Held the title for just three months
John was the eldest son of:
6th Earl of Exeter (held title 1700 – 1721)
• 15 May 1674 – 24 Dec 1721
• Lord Burghley from 1678 to 1700
• His second wife, by whom he had his sons the 7th and 8th Earls, was Elizabeth Brownlow. Thus the given name Brownlow, frequently used in subsequent generations. Elizabeth’s father, Sir John Brownlow, a baronet, was driven by gout to commit suicide in 1697, at the age of 38. I’ll venture a guess that Elizabeth named her second son in memory of her late father. That son inherited, and the tradition carried on from there.
John was the only surviving son of:
5th Earl of Exeter (held title 1678 – 1700)
• c. 1648 – 29 Aug 1700
• Lord Burghley until 1678
• Known as the Travelling Earl, for his European grand touring, including extensive travels in Italy. If you know even a little bit about my life, you’ll appreciate the irony in that.
• Was one of the nobles who deserted James II in 1688, pledging allegiance to William of Orange in the Glorious Revolution
John was the only son (only child) of:
4th Earl of Exeter (held title 1643 – 1678)
• 1628 – 18 Mar 1678
• Lord Burghley from 1640 to 1643
John was the son of:
3rd Earl of Exeter (held title 1640 – 1643)
• c. 1600 – 18 Apr 1643
• Father was Sir Richard Cecil, second son of Thomas, 1st Earl
• Succeeded his uncle William, 2nd Earl, in 1640
• Held the title for just three years
David was the nephew of:
William Cecil KG PC
2nd Earl of Exeter (held title 1623 – 1640)
• Jan 1566 – 6 Jul 1640
• Lord Burghley from 1605 to 1623
• By his first wife Elizabeth Manners he had one son (William Cecil, 16th Baron de Ros of Helmsley), who predeceased him
• By his second wife Elizabeth Drury he had three daughters: Anne, Elizabeth, and Diana
Diana brought Henry a dowry of thirty thousand pounds, in addition to her beauty. You’ll have to take my word for the money, but the beauty you can judge for yourself.
Two portraits of my daughter-in-law, Diana (née Cecil), Countess of Oxford. At left, in 1614 when she was 18, painted by William Larkin. At right, in 1638 when she was 42, painted by Anthony van Dyck.
In June 1625, Henry, a colonel in a volunteer regiment fighting in the Low Countries for the Elector Palatine, died of fever at the age of only 32. Sadly, Henry and Diana had no children during their short marriage. The Oxford earldom was thus inherited by Robert de Vere, a second cousin. Robert’s son Aubrey, a Royalist during the Civil Wars, became the 20th and last of the de Vere earls of Oxford. The line ran, without interruption, from 1141 to 1702. 562 years. A bit longer than the blink of an eye.
William was the eldest surviving son of:
Thomas Cecil KG – and here we’ve made it back to Brother Tom
1st Earl of Exeter (held title 1605 – 1623)
2nd Baron Burghley (held title 1598 – 1605)
• 5 Mar 1542 – 8 Feb 1623
• Eldest son of William Cecil, (1st) Baron Burghley, by his first wife Mary Cheke
• Older half-brother to my first wife Anne, her sister Elizabeth, and Robert the Hunchback
• ‘Hardly fit to govern a tennis court’ was his father’s (unusually) concise description. His father was correct. Tom was a fine fellow, but dumber than a bag of hammers. Little Brother got all the brains.
• Created (1st) Earl of Exeter by James I on 4 May 1605. Robert was created (1st) Earl of Salisbury on the same day. James owed the very fact of his English succession to the Cecils, especially Robert. A pair of earldoms for a throne? A bargain.
Thomas was the eldest son of:
William Cecil KG PC
1st Baron Burghley (also spelled Burleigh) (held title 1571 – 1598)
• 13 Sept 1521 – 4 Aug 1598
• Lord Great Treasurer and Secretary of State, the power behind Elizabeth’s throne
• Created (1st) Baron Burghley by Elizabeth I on 25 February 1571
• Builder of Cecil House in London, Burghley House in Lincolnshire, and Theobalds in Hertfordshire
The founder of the line. My legal guardian during much of my minority, then my father-in-law. It was not a happy relationship. Read this.
To conclude our genealogical journey, we go back to the future. The present Marquess’s only son is the heir apparent, who (barring mishap) will become the 9th Marquess of Exeter upon his father’s demise.
Anthony John Cecil
Lord Burghley (held title 1988 – )
• 9 Aug 1970 – (still living)
• Grandson of both the 7th Marquess and Lloyd Meeker, the two co-founders of the Emissaries of Divine Light
• Married in 1996
• Has one daughter
If Anthony has no son, the next in line to inherit the title after him is Hugh William Amherst Cecil, 5th Baron Amherst of Hackney (born 17 July 1968), great-great-grandson of Lord William Cecil, the third son of the 3rd Marquess. (There are people who figure these things out.) Hugh’s heir, in turn, is his son the Honourable Jack William Amherst Cecil (born 13 July 2001).
And we’re right back in the 21st century. See?