Read the whole of the Christmas scene here
|My candidate for Christmas is Sir Thomas Cecil (1542-1623), eldest son of Lord Burghley and half-brother to Sir Robert Cecil.|
All sources agree that Thomas was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Despite the scrupulous and intensive education planned by his father he was a lazy student, and proved keener on women and drink than his books. He was returned for parliament while still underage (1563 )but made no impact. He tried court life, tournaments, a military career; nothing really worked. A disappointed Lord Burghley transferred his hopes to his younger son Robert, and not until 1599 did the dullard get his first public preferment in England. Sent away up north to be beastly to the papists Thomas did very well, happily boasting to his brother he had filled a little room with "copes and mass books". He also dragooned Catholics into attending protestant services, with the unhappy result that they made so much row during them that the godly couldn't hear themselves pray.
But if not bright Thomas was biddable, and during the Essex putsch he stoutly proclaimed the Earl a traitor, thus officially turning a noisy flop of a riot into open rebellion.
In 1605 Thomas became the Earl of Exeter and sired a dynasty which endures to this day, but even his biographer in the DNB admits he "was a person of very ordinary abilities, and ... if he had been born of other parentage we should have heard nothing of him."
| Christmas is the worst kind of smugly complacent squire. He has the wealth and status of a gentleman but the mind of a churl, with no understanding of the obligations his rank confers. He sneers at the notion of generosity and 'noblesse oblige'. To him, such behaviour is just lack of thrift.
There is a hint of puritan tendencies ('What, is't against thy conscience for to sing?') but that appears to be a blind. Religion is not at the heart of his boorish behaviour, just selfishness.
What has this to do with Thomas Cecil?
As his father's heir, Thomas already had his own fine house at Wimbledon and could anticipate inheriting the splendid Theobalds in due course. As the eldest son of Elizabeth's premier statesman he should have been a person of weight. Instead, an anonymous satirist attacking Sir Robert Cecil in the wake of the Essex execution sneered in passing at "his brother Burley clown" (their father being dead by this time, Thomas had succeeded to the title of Lord Burghley). A 'clown' to Elizabethans was not merely a fool but a particular kind of fool, a country bumpkin. It's just the old jibe against the Cecils varied. They were a family without nobility - despite their power the best efforts of the genealogists had not been able to push their ancestry further back than William Cecil's Welsh grandfather - and Thomas was little better than a peasant.
|Christmas is particularly boorish towards the impoverished Autumn. He dismisses the protest against his own ignoble attitude with the sneer "Aye, aye. Such wise men as you come to beg at such fools' door as we."|| James VI of Scotland had been receiving a pension from the English crown since 1586. It was never enough, and he constantly had to negotiate the amount with Elizabeth's chancellor, William Cecil.