Edward Nicholas

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Sir Edward Nicholas.

Sir Edward Nicholas (4 April 1593 – 1669) was an English office holder and politician who served as Secretary of State to Charles I and Charles II. He also sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1621 and 1629. He served as secretary to Edward la Zouche and the Duke of Buckingham and became a clerk of the Privy Council. He supported the Royalist cause in the English Civil War and accompanied the court into exile, before assuming the post of Secretary of State on the Restoration.

Life[edit]

Nicholas was the eldest son of John Nicholas of a Wiltshire family. He was educated at Salisbury grammar school, Winchester College and Queen's College, Oxford.

After studying law at the Middle Temple, Nicholas became secretary to Edward la Zouche, 11th Baron Zouche, warden, and admiral of the Cinque Ports, in 1618. In 1621, he was elected Member of Parliament for Winchelsea. He was re-elected MP for Winchelsea in 1624 for the Happy Parliament. When Zouche resigned his office of lord warden to the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke, upon Lord Zouch's recommendation, made Nicholas his secretary for the business of the Cinque ports on 9 December 1624 . In 1625 Nicholas became secretary to the admiralty; shortly afterwards he was appointed an extra clerk of the privy council with duties relating to admiralty business. In 1628 he was elected MP for Dover and sat until 1629 when King Charles decided to rule without parliament for eleven years. Appended to a copy of Charles's speech at the dissolution of this parliament on 10 March 1629 is a poem of twenty-four verses in Nicholas's hand, beginning:

The wisest king did wonder when he spide
The nobles march on foot, their vassals ride
His majestie may wonder now to see
Some that would needs be king as well as he.

From 1635 to 1641 Nicholas was one of the clerks in ordinary to the council. In this situation he had much business to transact in connection with the levy of ship-money. When, in 1641, Charles I went to Scotland, he remained in London and was responsible for keeping the king informed of the proceedings of the parliament. When Charles returned to London, Nicholas was knighted, and appointed a privy councillor and a Secretary of State, in which capacity he attended the king while the court was at Oxford, and carried out the business of the Treaty of Uxbridge.

Throughout the Civil War Nicholas was one of Charles's wisest and most loyal advisers. He arranged the details of the king's surrender to the Scots, although he does not appear to have advised or even to have approved of the step. He also had the duty of treating for the capitulation of Oxford, which included permission for Nicholas himself to retire abroad with his family. He went to France, being recommended by the king to the confidence of the Prince of Wales.

After the king's death Nicholas remained on the continent concerting measures on behalf of the exiled Charles II with Hyde and other royalists, but the hostility of Queen Henrietta Maria deprived him of any real influence in the counsels of the young sovereign. He lived at The Hague and elsewhere in a state of poverty which hampered his power to serve Charles, but which the latter did nothing to relieve. Charles appointed him secretary of state while in exile in 1654. As an enthusiastic Royalist, in a letter dated 10 September 1657 and directed toward Sir Edward Hyde, Nicholas speaks of Cromwell;

... I conceive his Majesty should do well to set a good price on his head and all the heads of the chief commanders in Ireland and also in Scotland...

[1]

Nicholas returned to England at the Restoration and duly took office as Secretary of State along with William Morice, a former parliamentary supporter. Nicholas was soon retired, much against his own wishes, in favour of Charles's favourite Henry Bennet. He received a grant of money and the offer of a peerage, which he felt too poor to accept. He retired to a country seat in Surrey which he purchased from Carew Raleigh, son of Sir Walter Raleigh, and here he lived till his death in 1669.

Family[edit]

Nicholas married Jane Jay, a daughter of Henry Jay, an alderman of London and had several sons and daughters. His younger brother Matthew Nicholas (1594–1661) was successively dean of Bristol, canon of Westminster and dean of St Paul's. His country seat was at Sunninghill in Berkshire.

Correspondence[edit]

The collected correspondences of Nicholas were published in three volumes by the Royal Historical Society in 1920.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'The Nicholas Papers, Vol IV' p.13, London : Offices of the Society, 1920
Attribution

Further reading[edit]

Parliament of England
Preceded by
William Binge
Thomas Godfrey
Member of Parliament for Winchelsea
1621-1624
With: Thomas Finch 1621-1622
John Finch 1624
Succeeded by
Roger Twysden
Preceded by
Sir John Hippisley
John Pringle
Member of Parliament for Dover
1628-1629
With: Sir John Hippisley
Succeeded by
Parliament suspended until 1640
Political offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Falkland
Lord Privy Seal
1643–1644
Succeeded by
The Earl of Bath
Preceded by
Sir Peter Wyche
Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex
1643–1646
Succeeded by
Interregnum
Preceded by
Interregnum
Custos Rotulorum of Middlesex
1660–1669
Succeeded by
The Earl of Craven
Preceded by
Secretary of State for the Southern Department
1660–1662
Succeeded by
The Lord Arlington