21 December 1545 – William Cecil Marries Mildred Cooke

Thanks to Nasim for reminding me of this ‘on this day in history’ on Twitter. Yes, on this day in 1545 William Cecil, the future Baron Burghley, married his second wife, Mildred Cooke (1526-1589), eldest daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, Edward VI’s tutor.

Mildred helped to bring up her stepson, Thomas Cecil, and had five children with William Cecil, although, sadly, she outlived all but one of them: Robert. Mildred died in 1589 and her eulogy, written by her husband, described her as “dearest above all” and “far beyond the race of womankind” and when he arranged her lavish funeral he said that it was “a testimony of my harty love which I did beare hir, with whom I lyved in the state of matrimony forty and tow yers contynually without any unkyndnes” – what beautiful words! In a letter to their son, Robert, Cecil wrote of “the virtuous inclinations of thy matchless mother, by whose tender and godly care thy infancy was governed, together with thy education under so zealous and excellent a tutor”. The couple were obviously happy together as Mildred wrote of her “everlasting comfort… living with this noble man in divine love and charity”. Definitely a marriage of love and mutual respect.

Mildred is known for being incredibly well educated. She was fluent in French, Greek and Latin and built up a huge library of Greek and Latin texts, which included works on medicine, religion, literature and history, as well as literature. It sounds like the Cecil marriage was a real meeting of minds!

Notes and Sources

  • Caroline M. K. Bowden, ‘Cecil [Cooke], Mildred, Lady Burghley (1526–1589)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004