An analysis of allusions reveals that Lord Burghley's ‘Ten precepts’ of advice for his son Robert has been misdated and consequently misunderstood by the two men's biographers. Rather than being addressed to a fledgling of eighteen, this important document was directed to Robert in his mid twenties, when he was already proving himself an adept protégé of his father. Burghley wrote the ‘Ten precepts’ not because he thought Robert needed political tutoring but rather because he questioned his son's readiness to enter ‘man's estate’, the world of male responsibility in which a paterfamilias must govern his household and secure his family's status.