The Council

Authored by: Natalie Mears

The Elizabethan World

Print publication date:  September  2010
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415409599
eBook ISBN: 9781315736044
Adobe ISBN: 9781317565796


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In May 1598, a tense and fractious debate occurred in the Privy Council between those, led by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who favoured peace with Spain, and others, led by the Earl of Essex, who favoured war. According to William Camden, Burghley told the Earl that ‘he breathed forth nothing but War, Slaughter, and Bloud.’ After further ‘hot Dispute’, Burghley ‘drew forth a Psalm-book, and, saying nothing pointed him to this verse, “men of Bloud shall not live out half their days”.’ 1 Burghley’s actions were prophetic – Essex was executed less than three years later – but the incident illuminates some aspects of the Elizabethan Privy Council’s duties whilst raising questions about others.

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