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Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter

Henry Cecil, 1st Marquess of Exeter (14 March 1754 – 1 May 1804), known as Henry Cecil from 1754 to 1793 and as The Earl of Exeter from 1793 to 1801, was a British peer and Member of Parliament and inspiration for Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem, The Lord of Burleigh. His private life was the subject much society chatter and reads like the plot of a Georgette Heyer novel. He has, undoubtedly been the inspiration for countless tales of romance and intrigue.

Henry Cecil 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1803, a year before his death, painted by Henry Bone.
Henry Cecil 1st Marquess of Exeter in 1803, a year before his death, painted by Henry Bone.

Exeter was the son of the Hon. Thomas Chambers Cecil, second son of Brownlow Cecil, 8th Earl of Exeter. Thomas Chambers Cecil led a profligate life, and although for a time an MP he was forced to live abroad in Brussels, where he married Charlotte Garnier, a lady of uncertain origin, said by some to be a Basque dancer. When Henry was born in 1754 he was the heir presumptive to his uncle Brownlow Cecil, 9th Earl of Exeter, and for this reason was sent when still a baby to Burghley House to be brought up.

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