Robert Cecil was an important courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and renowned as a trailblazing spymaster. Although unimpressive in stature he had a keen wit and mischievous temperament leading the Queen to refer to him as “my elf” much to Cecil’s chagrin. Despite favour from the Crown, Cecil had his enemies who would besmirch his reputation with scandal and slander. In 1588, Motley’s History of the Netherlands described him thus: “A slight, crooked, hump-backed young gentleman, dwarfish in stature but thoughtful and subtle in expression. With reddish hair, a thin tawny beard and large, pathetic, greenish-coloured eyes.” When Elizabeth died in 1603, Cecil helped to orchestrate the change in ruling house from the Tudors to the Stuarts and James I duly elevated Cecil to the peerage for his obsequious loyalty. He enjoyed a fast-track which could never happen in a modern democracy (!) in 1603 he was Baron Cecil, the next year he was Viscount Cranborne and by 1605 the fully-fledged Earl of Salisbury. With such extensive involvement in matters of national security it should be of no surprise that Lord Salisbury is most remembered for his role in foiling Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot. However, conspiracy theorists claim that Cecil was not as white as white and he is said to have been variously involved in: the plotting, poisoning of witnesses, collusion and treason. Which (if any) of these are true may never be known but given his unpopularity in some quarters, it seems likely that he was merely a good man facing outrageous calumny.
For such an unassuming street, Cecil Court has an unusually proud history, the original boy wonder Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived here while touring Europe wowing the gentry of the day. In 1764 the young composer and his family were resident above Couzin’s Barbershop, here they dwelt and the eight year-old Mozart was befriended by Johann Christian Bach which, scholars agree, influenced the younger’s future compositions.