Burghley Voices takes its name from Burghley House, the Elizabethan mansion of William Cecil, near Stamford, one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan Age. It was built for Lord Burghley between 1558 and 1587, and is now run by the Burghley House Preservation Trust, a registered charity. Its park was laid out by Capability Brown.
William Cecil was born around 1520. He first became a member of King Henry VIII's household, and in 1547 entered the service of the uncle of Edward V, the Lord Protector of England, Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, quickly becoming his secretary. When Somerset fell, Cecil was imprisoned in the Tower for a time, but was pardoned, served under Mary Tudor, and latterly supported Elizabeth Tudor. Cecil was made Secretary of State by Elizabeth. A consummate policitician, Cecil was Elizabeth I’s chief councillor, and served her from her accession in November 1558 until his death in August 1598. He was raised to the Peerage as Lord Burghley in 1572, and appointed Lord High Treasurer.
In 1575, two towering Elizabethan composers, William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were jointly granted a patent by Cecil for the printing of music and ruled music paper for 21 years, one of a number of patents issued by the Crown for the printing of books on various subjects.