Shortly after the new law was passed, a disappointed Robert Cecil discussed the result with his father. The hunchback with the semi-permanent frown sat uncomfortably in his armchair, his darting eyes studying his father’s wise but ageing face, shifting from eye to eye.
“I would not be too concerned,” said Burghley quietly. “In fact, this whole situation may well turn out to be to your advantage.”
“How is that?” asked Robert Cecil with surprise.
“You see, the Queen is rather annoyed with Francis for opposing her wishes in this matter. And she is appreciative of the support you gave to her. That is good. Now you are an ambitious man, Robert. I can see that. Well, I brought you up that way. And you want to rise to a position of real power in this country, don’t you.”
“Of, course. I want nothing more.”
“Do you want to know how I have maintained my influence for forty years?”
“By all means.”
“The first thing is to know the competition, and neutralise it. The next is loyalty to the Crown. Win the confidence of the monarch. The third is to make powerful friends. Do them small favours. From then on you just do what you have to do. Remember that the end justifies the means. No one else is going to be looking out for you, Robert. In your case, Francis Bacon and Lord Essex are the obstacles. They will do everything possible to keep you out of power. They want that for themselves,” said Burghley. “If either one of them succeeds Elizabeth, you can be sure you will be sent so far away from London that you will soon be forgotten. I don’t want to see that happen! Why do you think I have been holding back on Francis’ recognition suit all these years?”
“How?” asked Cecil jr.
“By nudging the Queen in the right direction. Emphasising the risk of a civil uprising sooner or later if she recognises him. Pointing out that she would have to share her power — the last thing she wants to do. Pointing out that Francis is a philosopher, a dreamer, too soft, not a man of action suited to be king. I also point out that Lord Essex is too unstable to rule. I encourage her to wait and see. And I remind her of her legacy as the ‘Virgin Queen’ which could easily be tarnished. You see, this is how you rule a country indirectly. You do not have to sit on the throne.”