Here’s a thing, I have stumbled across some paternal advice from the chief minister to Elizabeth 1 to his eldest son, which rings its good sense across five centuries right into my own life, since my sons are of that ‘coming-of-age’ time in their lives, and my three stepsons. Five boys between 18 and 23 between us, and I can say without turning a hair that I couldn’t be more proud of them. Nevertheless, some of these lessons ring true, and how do you start those difficult conversations? The answer is clear – let Lord Burleigh do the hard work, he’s wise and pithy and says most of the things I want to say. Besides, this is what Queen Elizabeth said about the man
“This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state.”
This is my modern day version of his sagely advice – I am producing one of my handcrafted books with both the original versions and the transcription, but you can read them here!!! Pass it on!
Choose your wife carefully , because your future depends on it and it is an occasion in your life, as in the strategies of war, that you cannot make any mistake. If you come from a decent background then choose from near home and take your time. If you come from a dodgy background go further away to choose and do it quickly. Ask around about her character and what her parents were like when they were younger. Don’t choose a poor wife no matter how sweet, because a man needs money to live, but don’t choose a vulgar or ugly woman just for money, as no one will respect you and you won’t respect her. Don’t choose a dwarf of a fool, because you will raise pygmies with one and a fool will disgrace you; you won’t tolerate her prattling and you will find nothing more irritating than a foolish woman.
About your household, be moderate entertaining, be generous rather than mean but don’t get carried away beyond the means of the estate. I don’t know anyone who grew poor by being careful, but some people have bad habits. Banish swinish drunkards, I have never heard anyone praise a drunk except for holding his drink, which is not a recommendation for a gentleman. Don’t spend all your income – save between a quarter or a third. Only spend a third of your expenditure on the house as the other two thirds will be easily spent on other living costs. If you fail to do this you will be continually in debt, dreading every disaster which threatens to bankrupt.
2. Educate your children and maintain a discipline but without being authortarian. Praise them openly and reprehend them privately. Spend on them what you can, because if you leave all your wealth till they inherit , they will be grateful to your death, and not to you. I am convinced that many parents make poor decisions because of either being too proud, or too stern, rather than being vicious. Arrange your daughters partners before they make their own choice. And don’t let your sons go off gallivanting in foreign lands, because they won’t learn anything valuable. And don’t send them into the army because I don’t think war is a good trade for a gentleman, and anyway we are going to have a time of peace so they won’t be needed.
3 .Don’t live in the country without keeping your own crops and animals. It’s expensive to buy in , and its better to understand how to live on what is in season. Don’t employ relatives or friends as they want a lot for not doing much. Avoid those who are in love because they don’t think straight, and employ too few rather than too many. Give them good terms and conditions and you can expect their service.
4. Welcome you relatives and friends to your home. Be generous and kind with them, they will repay your kindness with loyalty and defend you; but get rid of insincere acquaintances who will stab you in the back if times are hard.
5 .Be careful who you help out financially. It can lead to your own demise. Don’t borrow from friends or neighbours, only from strangers, and be careful to keep our promises of repayment.
6 . Don’t take a poor man to court – it’s not worth the trouble. Don’t get involved in any law suit unless you are confident you are in the right, and then be sure to get the best advice. Win a couple and less suits will follow.
7. Make sure you make a friend of someone of importance, but don’t worry him about petty things. Keep him close by complimenting him with small gifts, and if you can bestow a decent present, give something they will see every day. These are ambitious times and you don’t want to live in obscurity.
8. Be humble with your superiors and generous, and remain respectful and familiar with your equals. Be compassionate with those who are not in as fortunate a position as yourself. The first prepares you for advancement, the second shows you to be well bred, and the third gains respect. Don’t be scornful of popularity nor affected by celebrity.
9. Don’ t trust anyone with your life, your house or your money.
10 Don’t bad mouth and don’t be too satirical. One will make you unpopular and the other will provoke quarrels and bitterness amongst your friends. I have seen many keen to make a joke, and lose a friend rather than the jest.
Excerpts from ‘Anecdotes of distinguished persons, chiefly of … v.1. Seward, William, 1747-1799.’