LAKE, Sir Thomas I (1561-1630), of Little Church Lane, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster and Canons, Little Stanmore, Mdx.
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Family and Education
bap. 11 Oct. 1561, s. of Emery Lake of Southampton, Hants, burgess and petty customer.1 educ. ?King Edward VI g.s., Southampton c.1571; G. Inn 1592; MA Oxf. 1592.2 m. 29 June 1591, Mary (bur. 25 Feb. 1642), da. and coh. of Sir William Rider, Haberdasher and ld. mayor of London 1600-1, 3s. 2da.3 kntd. 20 May 1603.4 d. 17 Sept. 1630.
Clerk to sec. of state Sir Francis Walsingham† by 1584-90; clerk of the Signet 1589-?14;5 kpr. of the recs., Whitehall 1603-11;6 commr. Union 1604;7 Latin sec. 1609-19;8 member, PC 1614-19;9 commr. to treat with agents from Stade 1614;10 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1605-at least 1613;11 sec. of state 1616-19;12 commr. sale of Cautionary Towns 1616,13 muster men, Tower defence 1616,14 inquiry, gold and silver thread 1618,15 exile and banish Jesuits and seminary priests.16
Clerk of castle and ct. of York (jt.), 1599-at least 1603;17 freeman, Southampton 1603;18 commr. sewers, Lea valley 1607, Coln valley 1609, 1624,19 subsidy, Mdx. 1608,20 musters 1608;21 j.p. Mdx. by 1608 (custos rot. by 1608-at least 1614), Hunts. 1614,22 Westminster 1619;23 woodward, Wallwood and Hamfrith Woods, Essex 1614;24 commr. new buildings, London 1615,25 oyer and terminer, the Verge 1615-at least 1617.26
Member, Spanish Co. 1605, French Co. 1611.27
A man of slender build, rumoured to be subject to the beatings of a domineering wife,30 Lake occupied a pivotal position at the Jacobean Court until his dramatic fall from grace in 1618/19. Born in the parish of St. Michael’s, in Southampton, the son of a minor customs official,31 he was reputedly educated at the local grammar school, whose headmaster was the refugee Walloon divine, Adrian à Saravia. He subsequently entered the service of Secretary Walsingham, for whom he initially carried out menial chores.32 His talents soon became apparent, being a gifted Latinist and performing tasks so quickly and efficiently that he earned the nickname ‘Swiftsure’, after the queen’s ship of the same name. By 1584 he had become Walsingham’s clerk, and in 1589 was appointed a clerk of the Signet. On Walsingham’s death in 1590 he attached himself to the Cecils, through whose kinsmen he secured seats in the Parliaments of 1593 and 1601. When Elizabeth died in March 1603, he was dispatched to Edinburgh with instructions to acquaint King James with the state of affairs in his new realm.33 His patron, secretary of state (Sir) Robert Cecil†, expected that he would resume his normal duties at Whitehall soon thereafter, but Lake so ingratiated himself with the king’s Scottish courtiers, from whom he demanded no fees, that James was persuaded to keep him on hand and accordingly employed him about ‘some French affairs’. This allegedly displeased Cecil who, fearing a diminution in his own role, tried unsuccessfully to have Lake replaced.34 Lake himself proved anxious not to offend his patron, notifying Cecil in mid-April that although James had ordered him to make out letters of credence for a diplomat he would not do so until he had heard from Cecil.35
Lake enjoyed considerable favour at the beginning of the new reign. In May 1603 he was knighted and given a minor Chancery office in reversion.36 The following month he was granted an annuity of £50 for ‘keeping, airing and digesting’ the state papers at Whitehall, a job which he had been discharging unpaid in a semi-official capacity since 1597.37 His servant, Edward Anthony, also obtained a reversionary grant of one of the clerkships of the Privy Seal.38 In June 1604 Spain’s envoy observed that James trusted Lake more than anyone except Cecil.39 This was not entirely surprising, as Lake spent a considerable amount of time with James, who eagerly devoured the Court gossip with which Lake kept him supplied.40 Whenever James went on one of his frequent hunting trips he was accompanied by Lake rather than Cecil, who was obliged to remain in London, for as both secretary of state and master of the Wards he could not afford to be absent from the capital for long.
Lake was elected senior burgess of Launceston to the first Jacobean Parliament. As Launceston was a borough which was amenable to Cecil influence, Lake probably owed his seat to his patron Cecil, who for the time being was prepared to overlook the fact that he had insinuated himself so closely with the king. During the first two weeks of the opening session, Lake regularly attended the Commons, where he was appointed to several committees, on various subjects: Sir Edward Montagu’s motion concerning religion (23 Mar.); the expiring laws continuance bill (24 Mar.); Sir Henry Neville I’s motion regarding treason (26 Mar.); the drafting of a message for the Speaker concerning the Buckinghamshire election (27 Mar.); and the examination of a prisoner in the Marshalsea who maintained that any bishop requiring subscription to the ceremonies of the Anglican church was an anti-Christ (29 March). Lake was also appointed to attend a joint conference with the Lords on wardship (26 March).41 However, before the Commons rose for Easter, Lake accompanied the king to Royston on a hunting trip.42 Although the House reassembled on 11 Apr., Lake received no further mention in the Clerk’s Journal until the 19th, when he was appointed to a joint conference on religion. On the following day his name (mis-spelt ‘Lane’ in the Journal) was added to the list of Members appointed to attend a conference with the Lords regarding the Union, and on the 24th he was appointed to the committee for the free trade bill. He received only sporadic mentions in the session’s records thereafter, being twice required to read a message from the king to the House, as the clerk had difficulty in deciphering James’s handwriting (1 May; 26 June), and twice named to committees concerned with naturalization bills (18 and 30 May). The first of these bills concerned Scotland’s lord treasurer, Sir George Home, while the second dealt with Lady Kildare, daughter of lord admiral Nottingham (Charles Howard I†). On 4 June he was also appointed to the committee for considering two bills on pluralism.43
Towards the end of 1604 Lake served as a commissioner for the Union, and on 12 Nov. was appointed by his fellow commissioners to help draft a bond to prevent native goods that were supposed to pass between England and Scotland from being exported abroad.44 Lake took no recorded part in the brief 1605 sitting of Parliament, but was present when the Commons reassembled in January 1606. In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot the House was anxious to enact legislation to prevent further Catholic conspiracies, and a bill for this purpose was hurriedly given two readings. Lake was named to the committee (21 Jan.), and was appointed to two more bill committees on the following day, one of which aimed to ensure that the penal statutes were properly enforced.45 Over the next three weeks he continued to attend the Commons regularly. He made what may have been his only speech of the Parliament on 25 Jan., when he helped defend the warden of the Fleet from the charge that he had permitted members of the public to occupy seats on the scaffold reserved for Members during the trial of the Gunpowder plotters.46 He was also nominated to legislative committees concerned with the college residence of married men’s families (25 Jan.); the provision of water to north London (31 Jan.); the amendment of the highways (6 Feb.); and leases made by Lord Spencer (Robert Spencer†) and his late parents (7 February).47 His inclusion on the committee to consider ways of preventing English Catholics from serving in the army of Flanders (6 Feb.) undoubtedly stemmed from his relationship with Cecil, now earl of Salisbury, who had engineered the discussion of this subject with the aim of obtaining legislative authority to bypass those clauses in the Treaty of London which allowed Catholics to enlist in Spain’s forces.48
Perhaps the main reason that Lake attended the Commons regularly at this time, however, was that he had legislation of his own to promote. In 1604 he had purchased from Sir Hugh Losse the Middlesex manor of Little Stanmore, known as Canons,49 but an earlier conveyance of the manor by Losse to one Ursula Randolph threatened the rights of Lake’s heirs.50 Towards the end of the 1604 session Lake had introduced a bill to secure his title, but the measure had not even been granted a first reading.51 Now, in January 1606, Lake’s bill was rapidly accorded two readings and committed (24 and 25 January). Reported on 7 Feb. with just one minor amendment, it received an unchallenged third reading four days later and was subsequently sent up to the Lords. There it quickly completed all its stages without further changes, and soon after 22 Feb. it was enacted.52 Following the reporting of his bill in the Commons, Lake’s interest in parliamentary affairs evidently waned. In mid-March he was appointed to committees concerned with the extortions of customs officials (15 Mar.), the letters patent of Oriel College, Oxford (18 Mar.) and the Muscovy trade (20 March). Furthermore, in early April he was appointed to help consider another free trade bill (3 Apr.) and a measure to enable Sir Christopher Hatton* to sell some of his lands (4 April). Thereafter, however, Lake does not feature in the records of this session, which was not prorogued until 27 May. During the first half of May at least, Lake attended the king at Royston and Newmarket.53
It is unclear how far Lake’s official duties interfered with his parliamentary responsibilities during the third session. Before Christmas the House sat for four weeks, but during that time Lake was appointed to just one joint conference, on the Union (24 Nov.) and a solitary committee concerned with a bill to prevent the erection of new buildings in and around London (8 December).54 He was almost as invisible when the Commons reassembled in mid-February. On 24 Feb. he was ordered to help make preparations for a forthcoming conference with the Lords regarding naturalization. Four days later he was named to the committee for investigating the complaint that English merchants had been mistreated by the Spanish. On 3 Mar. he was nominated to help consider what measures could be taken to relieve those western counties which had recently suffered severe flooding, but for the rest of March he received no further appointments. The Commons did not meet for most of April, but did sit throughout the first three weeks in May, during which time Lake was named to consider the bill to confirm the title of the lands belonging to the London livery companies (4 May). He was named to no more committees until after the Whitsun recess, when he was appointed to help consider the bill to ensure better attendance of the House (28 May). Whoever named him apparently had a mischievous sense of humour.55
During the lengthy interval between the third and fourth sessions, Lake and his father-in-law, Sir William Rider, became members of a syndicate which bought parsonages from the Crown and sold them on at a profit. By July 1609 he and Rider were also joint farmers of the impositions on sugars on behalf of the queen. These commercial activities undoubtedly provided Lake with a handsome supplement to the fees he charged as a clerk of the Signet, which were considerable. In 1604 Sir John Leveson* paid him £5 for procuring a Privy Seal, while in 1606 the London Grocers’ Company gave him £25 for obtaining the king’s signature to two bills.56 In 1611 Lake exacted £50 from the city of Coventry in exchange for helping it to obtain a new charter, although the town was initially unwilling to pay more than £20.57 Fees such as these, plus the money he derived from commercial activities and from various properties scattered throughout the country, many of which he had obtained from the Crown,58 meant that Lake initially had money to spare. Indeed, in 1600, and again in 1605, he was able to afford to donate £10 to the new library at Oxford founded by Sir Thomas Bodley†.59 However, by 1610 his finances were strained.60 The main reason was probably the costs he incurred in erecting a new a brick mansion at Canons, which was designed for him by John Thorpe, who lived next door to Lake’s house near Charing Cross.61
Relations between Lake and Salisbury, which had been strained in 1603, deteriorated again in 1609. Salisbury was now lord treasurer as well as secretary of state and master of the Wards, and in order to reduce his workload it was resolved early in November 1609 to divide some of his business as secretary between Lake and Sir Thomas Edmondes*. Lake was to have charge of home affairs while foreign policy was to be entrusted to Edmondes. On 11 Nov. James left Whitehall for Royston without Lake, who expected to be ordered to follow on shortly. Salisbury, however, was determined to send Edmondes instead, and to keep Lake at Whitehall to pursue his new brief. Lake was furious, and protested so loudly that Salisbury relented. At Royston he also pleaded his cause before a sympathetic James. In the aftermath of this debacle, Salisbury heard it rumoured that he was grooming Lake and Edmondes to succeed him in the secretaryship. This was not what he had intended at all, and he therefore shelved his plan to lighten his administrative load. 62 Perhaps by way of compensation, Lake was given, in December 1609, the additional office of Latin Secretary, which had been solicited by Sir George Carew II*.63
When Parliament reassembled in February 1610, Lake continued to play only a modest role in its affairs. On 15 Feb. he was appointed to the joint conference on supply, and four days later was named to the committee for the pluralism bill. During March he was included on the committees to consider bills concerned with piracy (3 Mar.), legal copies (13 Mar.), Davison (27 Mar.) and the restitution of (Sir) William Brooke*. He was also one of 14 Members who, on 1 Mar., were required to draft a message to the Lords on the king’s demand for both supply and support.64 After the Easter recess, Lake was appointed to the committee for the bill to naturalize Salisbury’s secretary, Levinus Munck, who was now a clerk of the Signet like Lake himself. A short time later James left London for a two-week hunting trip around Royston and Newmarket. On this occasion Lake did not accompany him, but neither did anyone else as Salisbury had no wish to refight a battle he had previously lost. Indeed, the lord treasurer expressly forbade Munck from following the king and made him surrender his papers to Lake.65 While James was away hunting, Lake was appointed to two legislative committees. The first concerned bishops’ leases (25 Apr.) and the second sought to naturalize the foreign-born children of England’s ambassadors, a measure which was introduced by Edmondes.66 During the remainder of the session, Lake was named to committees to ascertain the religious persuasion of Sir John Davies (18 May) and to confirm Salisbury in possession of the land on which Britain’s Burse had been erected (23 June), a bill whose passage he presumably supported. He was also appointed to a committee concerned with Lord Abergavenny’s debts to the king (7 July) and the naturalization of six of the king’s Scottish servants (16 July).67
So far as can be established, Lake was largely absent from the Commons during its final session. It is true that on 17 Nov. he read to the Commons the king’s message terminating the negotiations for the Great Contract and justifying James’ earlier, private consultations with various Members of the House. (The Speaker, Sir Edward Phelips, did not read the message himself because he was unable to decipher James’s interlinings).68 Soon afterwards, however, Lake journeyed to Royston, where he handed the king proposals for a scaled-down version of the now discredited Great Contract. James was suspicious that the purpose of this mini-Contract was merely to prolong the life of the Parliament, and he therefore instructed Lake to write as much to Salisbury, who was in fact behind these fresh proposals.69 Over the next few weeks, Lake maintained a correspondence with Salisbury, from whom he discovered the latest developments in Parliament and to whom he communicated the king’s orders and opinions.70 While at Royston, Lake and James naturally discussed parliamentary business. On learning that the Commons had been adjourned early on the morning of 29 Nov., when there were only a handful of Members in the House, the king invited Lake to speculate as to the likely reason. Lake offered various suggestions, but most of them failed to satisfy James, who could not see why the Speaker had not waited until the House had been fuller. At this point, Lake remembered that, before leaving Westminster, Salisbury had told him that he had privately heard that some Members were intending to draft a petition informing James that they would not consider voting supply until the king sent home his Scottish courtiers. Lake himself had dismissed this story as fanciful after he had questioned several leading Members of the House about it, but he now realized that if Salisbury had discovered that such a petition was indeed about to be drafted it would explain the sudden adjournment. James was concerned that Lake’s deduction might be correct, and subsequently required Salisbury to explain what had happened. However, Salisbury denied ever telling Lake that he had received intelligence of a plan to draft an anti-Scottish petition. Instead, he merely admitted to having had a ‘loose speech’ with Lake in which he had expressed his intention to use the king’s power to dissolve the Parliament to prevent ‘any intemperate body that might safely (at parting) use any particular bitterness against your bounty or expenses’. This explanation sufficed to satisfy James, who concluded that Lake had made a mountain out of a molehill.71
Following Parliament’s dissolution, Lake surrendered his keepership of the records at Whitehall. Why he did so is unclear, but as the office was subsequently conferred on Salisbury’s servants, Levinus Munck and Sir Thomas Wilson*, it may be that he was attempting to mollify Salisbury, whom he desperately desired to succeed as secretary of state. Indeed, if the rumours were correct, he had been angling for the job ever since 1605.72 His ability to support the costs associated with high office was improved upon the death of his father-in-law in August 1611, as he thereby came into a fortune rumoured to be worth more than £20,000.73 By February 1612 Salisbury was gravely ill, and Lake, supported by the lord privy seal, the earl of Northampton, began lobbying hard to succeed him.74 Salisbury initially baulked at the prospect of Lake as his successor, and signalled as much by shifting some of his administrative duties onto the shoulders of his client Lord Carew (Sir George Carew I*). However, by late April Lake had apparently won him round, for on setting out for Sir Walter Cope’s* house Salisbury not only entrusted the Signet to Lake but also commended him to James.75 Lake still held the Signet when Salisbury died, and shortly thereafter orders were issued that all packets were to be addressed to him.76 These arrangements did not, however, signify that Lake was about to be installed as secretary, as he faced strong competition both from Sir Henry Neville I* and Sir Ralph Winwood*. Unable to choose between the competing candidates, James declared that he would act as his own secretary until such times as he tired of the office.77 In fact, the principal functions of a secretary were rapidly assumed, not by James himself, but by his Scottish favourite, Robert Carr, Viscount Rochester, who may have taken possession of the Signet. Though he continued to receive all packets, Lake was obliged to hand them over to Rochester, who answered their contents as directed by the king.78 Lake was naturally dissatisfied with this arrangement, and under pressure from his wife he offered to purchase the secretaryship for £15,000. This was refused, but at the beginning of July he raised his bid at the suggestion of the newly arrived Spanish ambassador, Zuniga, who may have promised to provide him with additional funds. However, he was once again rebuffed, and by mid-July he so despaired of achieving his ambition that he instead contemplated purchasing the chancellorship of the duchy of Lancaster from its aged incumbent, Sir Thomas Parry*.79
Chamberlain believed that there were two main stumbling blocks to Lake’s advancement. The first was his domineering wife, whom Chamberlain described as ‘a principal bar to his preferment’. The other was his religion. Although he conformed in public,80 successive Spanish ambassadors, like almost everyone else, were well aware that Lake was secretly Catholic. Indeed one of them described him as ‘zealous for the Catholic religion’.81 The king was far from ignorant of Lake’s true religious leanings, and when it suited him to do so he exploited them for his own purposes, as in February 1612, when he ordered Lake to approach the leaders of the English Catholic community with an offer of immunity from prosecution if they would provide him with a substantial sum of money.82 Religion and a difficult wife, however, were not the only impediments to Lake’s advancement. James may also have doubted Lake’s ability to handle foreign affairs competently, an essential requirement in the king’s principal secretary. He had never been abroad, and apart from a mastery of Latin his linguistic abilities were said by Archbishop Abbot to be slight.83 Nevertheless, Lake continued to delude himself that he would soon be promoted secretary, interpreting the smallest addition of responsibility to his duties as clear evidence that his promotion was imminent, as when he was briefly permitted to enter into correspondence with England’s ambassadors abroad.84 In late December 1612 he became eager with anticipation after he was instructed to perform the secretary’s duties at the betrothal of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine. The manner in which he carried out this task hardly inspired confidence, however, for he ‘translated the words of our communion book into French so badly, and pronounced them worse, that it moved an unseasonable laughter’, forcing Archbishop Abbot to interrupt him.85
The king’s decision to summon another Parliament in 1614 served briefly to revive Lake’s hopes, as it was now imperative that a secretary be appointed to manage the forthcoming Parliament. By now Lake enjoyed not only the support of Northampton but also of Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk, whose position at Court had been immeasurably strengthened by the marriage in December 1613 of his daughter, Frances, to Rochester, now earl of Somerset. Like Suffolk, Lake supported a Savoyard marriage for Prince Charles rather than the French Match then being pursued by the king.86 Indeed, it was Lake who provided the Savoyard agent in London with inside knowledge on the state of the French negotiations, information which he presumably obtained from Suffolk.87 By mid-March Suffolk finally persuaded James to advance Lake to the secretaryship, but at the last moment Winwood was appointed instead. According to the Spanish ambassador, Sarmiento, the Protestants on the Council had warned James, who desperately needed a generous vote of parliamentary supply, that if Lake rather than Winwood were appointed the forthcoming Parliament would prove unsuccessful.88 Lake’s only compensation was to be appointed a privy councillor without portfolio.
Lake was elected junior knight of the shire for Middlesex in March 1614, though not without some difficulty, as the Council was obliged to instruct Sir Francis Darcy not to oppose him.89 He was bitterly disappointed to have missed the secretaryship, especially as it had so nearly lain within his grasp, and when Parliament opened his earnest wish was that Winwood, whose Protestant fervour he hated, would stumble in his new role.90 Indeed, despite being one of only four councillors in the Commons, he did little to second his rival, who had never before sat in Parliament. When Winwood and Sir Julius Caesar laid out the government’s case for supply on 12 Apr., they received no support from Lake, who seems to have said nothing at all in the Commons until after Easter. However, as a privy councillor he was duty-bound to support Winwood whenever the latter spoke for the king, and he seems belatedly to have realized this fact. On 5 May, after proposing that James be invited to attend the forthcoming joint conference on impositions, he advised the House to debate supply rather than defer the matter as Edward Alford proposed.91 On 23 May both he and Winwood endeavoured to prevent the Commons from discussing the abolition of the newly created order of baronet by arguing that a debate would call into question both the king’s prerogative and honour.92 Four days later both men denied that the king had been misinformed about the Commons’ earlier decision to suspend all committee business in protest at the words allegedly spoken by Bishop Neile.93 Moreover, in early June, Lake and Winwood mounted a last-ditch attempt to force the Commons to debate supply.94
It was not only on matters of government policy that Lake and Winwood apparently shared common ground. On 12 May Lake spoke in favour of a measure more normally associated with zealous Protestants like Winwood, Perrot and Fuller. This was the bill to stamp out clerical non-residence and pluralism, which Lake declared to be ‘a means to further the growth of religion’. It is perfectly possible, of course, that Lake was sincere in his expression of support for the bill, for there was no intrinsic reason why a closet Catholic like him should not be as vehemently opposed to non-residence and pluralism as a fervent Protestant like Winwood. However, it seems much more likely that he was secretly opposed to the bill, as he also suggested that it should go forward with additional clauses opposing the use of bishops’ commendams and the holding of spiritual livings by laymen.95 What better way was there to sabotage this piece of puritan legislation than by attaching to it clauses which were guaranteed to arouse the ire of the bishops in the Upper House and the wrath of the gentry in the Lower, few of whom would have been prepared to surrender revenues which had formerly belonged to the Church? Many of those listening to this speech can have been in little doubt that this was Lake’s true purpose, especially as Lake himself had only recently been involved in buying and selling Crown parsonages.
The bill against pluralism and non-residence was one of two measures which Lake is known to have supported, the other being the bill to ban the export of iron ordnance, which he thought would hinder the arming of the Dutch.96 On 18 May Lake’s name headed the committee list for the bill to confirm a Chancery decree concerning the will of Dr. Thomas Lakes and involving Dr. Stephen Lakes, the former commissary-general of Canterbury diocese. Lake himself was apparently unrelated to either man.97 This was Lake’s only committee appointment during the Parliament, although on 14 Apr. he was named to the joint conference on the bill for the Elector Palatine and his wife.98 In addition, he informed the Lords on 19 May that the Commons wished to debate impositions with them, and on 23 May he also carried six bills to the Upper House.99
On 10 May the Commons debated how to punish Sir Thomas Parry for the abuses he had committed in connection with the Stockbridge election. Lake seconded Nicholas Fuller, who proposed that Parry should first be heard in his own defence.100 In refusing to join in the general condemnation of Parry, Lake was expressing support for a fellow privy councillor, but he may also have been trying to serve his own ends, for having failed to obtain the secretaryship his thoughts had turned once again to succeeding the beleaguered Parry as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Parry, though, would not be induced to resign his office, least of all to Lake, whom he disliked.101
A further opportunity for advancement presented itself in mid-September, upon the death of the master of the Rolls, Sir Edward Phelips. It was widely and correctly assumed that Phelips would be replaced by Sir Julius Caesar, the chancellor of the Exchequer. Lake set his sights on succeeding Caesar as chancellor,102 and looked to Suffolk, who was now lord treasurer, to secure his appointment. However, at the beginning of October, Lake was furious when the office was bestowed instead on Suffolk’s ally Sir Fulke Greville*. His sense of outrage can only have increased later that month when the mastership of the Wards, which had been vacant since the end of July, was conferred on Suffolk’s son-in-law, Lord Knollys (William Knollys†).103 Anger at being overlooked by his patron consequently drove Lake into the arms of the anti-Howard faction. In May 1615 the Howards and their enemies publicly competed with one another in display and magnificence in a procession to Windsor to invest Lords Fentoun and Knollys with the order of the Garter. Lake rode with the supporters of the anti-Howard Lord Fentoun rather than those of the pro-Howard Lord Knollys, as did Winwood, although as the two men still detested each other they ‘rode not together’.104
By August 1615 Suffolk had apparently realized his mistake in failing to secure high office for Lake, for rumours began to circulate that Lake would shortly be appointed junior secretary of state. On the fall of Somerset in November 1615, which heralded the temporary eclipse of the entire Suffolk clan, these did not die down, for as unlikely as it may seem Lake speedily attached himself to the strongly Protestant 3rd earl of Pembroke, who had succeeded Somerset as lord chamberlain. Winwood was mortified, and tried to persuade the king not to advance his bitter rival,105 but James was unperturbed by Lake’s Catholicism, and may even have regarded Lake’s private devotion to the Catholic faith as an asset now that he was beginning to contemplate pursuing a Spanish Match in earnest. Winwood’s protests therefore went unheeded, and on 3 Jan. 1616 Lake was sworn in as junior secretary and given responsibility for domestic affairs.106 Predictably, however, Lake’s association with Pembroke did not last, for with the revival of Suffolk’s fortunes in March 1616 Lake resumed his former allegiance.107 Nevertheless, Lake and Pembroke were not always enemies thereafter, and may even have worked together on occasion. In April 1616 they were the only members of the Council who argued against selling the Cautionary Towns.108
Soon after he was appointed secretary of state, Lake had his daughter, Anne, marry William Cecil, Lord Roos, who shared his Catholicism.109 This alliance served to cement Lake’s renewed friendship with Suffolk, as Roos’s sister, Elizabeth, was married to Suffolk’s younger son, Sir Thomas Howard*. It also served to strengthen Lake’s pro-Spanish credentials at a time when James was about to abandon all further pursuit of a French marriage for Prince Charles in favour of a Spanish Match. These credentials were already considerable, for Lake enjoyed friendly relations with the Spanish ambassador, Sarmiento, and since 1614 he had been in receipt of a Spanish pension worth £500 a year.110 In April 1616 Lake underlined his commitment to a Spanish Match by having his new son-in-law appointed extraordinary ambassador to Spain. This was a significant coup, as it threatened to allow Lake to encroach on the affairs of his colleague Winwood, who had left with him with little to do. However, Lake’s plan went awry even before Roos left England, as the marriage between Roos and Anne quickly foundered amid suspicions that Roos had been unfaithful.111 For Winwood, the breakdown in Roos’s marriage provided too good an opportunity to miss, and he quickly befriended Roos who, by the time he left for Spain, was said to rely more heavily upon Winwood than Lake.112
Lake attended the Council meeting of 28 Sept. 1615 at which the summoning of another Parliament was debated. Like everyone else on the Council apart from Suffolk, Lake argued that a new Parliament was essential, not merely to arrest the decline in the royal finances but also to restore the king’s reputation, both at home and abroad. The widespread perception that James and his people were at loggerheads was so damaging, he argued, that the king should be eager rather than reluctant to call another Parliament, even if the Council was able to find other means to pay his debts. However, before doing so James should first prepare the ground by curbing his extravagance and by addressing various issues connected with trade, especially the problem posed by impositions.113 This wise advice, which demonstrates the depth to which even Catholic Englishmen like Lake were wedded to parliaments, ultimately went unheeded, although for a while it was rumoured that James would summon a fresh Parliament. Indeed, in December 1615 Lake was offered a senior burgess-ship by the corporation of his native Southampton.114
At his own request, Lake accompanied the king to Scotland in 1617.115 On the death of Winwood in October, Lake offered to purchase the office of principal secretary, but James evidently did not regard him as clever enough to master the complexities of foreign policy,116 and in January 1618 the office was conferred instead on (Sir) Robert Naunton*. It may have been to soothe Lake’s injured pride that in that same month the king rashly offered to ennoble him as Baron Lake. However, as the patent was being drawn up James was informed that a barony would give Lake precedence over all the other barons in England by virtue of his office, which would be inappropriate given the lowliness of his birth and breeding. James accordingly told a horrified Lake that if he wished to be ennobled he would first have to relinquish the secretaryship. Not surprisingly, Lake hastily declined the peerage.117 Before long, however, he was again seeking advancement, for in late January he asked to succeed the terminally ill (Sir) John Dackombe* as chancellor of the Duchy.118 He might have obtained this office had not a crisis of gigantic proportions then proceeded to engulf both him and his immediate family.
The trouble stemmed from the failed marriage of Lake’s daughter Anne to Lord Roos, who had allegedly been unfaithful. Lady Roos and her mother, Lady Lake, harboured a strong sense of grievance against Lord Roos, and went to extreme lengths to exact reparation and revenge. Roos had mortgaged his Essex manor of Walthamstow to his father-in-law, and when the marriage disintegrated the Lakes attempted to force Roos to make this property over to his wife for her sole use. Indeed, before Lord Roos left England for Spain in October 1616 he had been warned by his father-in-law that he would receive no money from the Exchequer to offset the cost of his diplomatic mission unless he agreed to surrender the Walthamstow estate. Roos bowed to this pressure, but the deal was aborted when his grandfather, Thomas Cecil†, 1st earl of Exeter, refused to give it his assent. Lady Roos and Lady Lake thereupon directed their anger at the young countess of Exeter, whom they believed had persuaded her husband to obstruct the Walthamstow transaction. They accused her of having carried on an incestuous relationship with Lord Roos and also of trying to poison Lady Roos when she had discovered the existence of the affair. These charges, which were made in Star Chamber and Chancery in November 1617, were supported by written confessions. However, the countess’s supposed confession was soon exposed as a forgery, and in February 1618 Lady Roos was committed to the custody of the bishop of London.119 Although soon released, her exposure as a liar did nothing to further the power or reputation of her father. Indeed, on 5 May Chamberlain, whose fears concerning Lake’s wife had been proved well founded, reported that Lake had had ‘so many feathers pulled from him that he fears to be left bare’.120
Over the following few months, Lake came perilously close to losing office for an offence which, outwardly at least, had little to do with the misdoings of his wife and daughter. His patron, Suffolk, was now under attack for taking bribes and for excessive peculation. James blamed Suffolk’s wife, and banished her from the capital, but she grew bored at being kept away from London and came up without permission. When James learned of this he flew into a rage, and in Lake’s hearing declared that if necessary he would have the countess carted back to her husband’s seat at Audley End. It would have been better for Lake to have feigned deafness at this point, but instead he reported James’s outburst to Suffolk. When James found out he accused Lake of a gross breach of confidence and in effect suspended him from office by barring him from entering Whitehall. Moreover, Dudley Carleton*, ambassador at The Hague, was now permitted to come over to England to seek office as Lake’s replacement. Lake was mortified, and went to see the royal favourite, the marquess of Buckingham, to whom he offered £15,000 if he would effect a restoration to the king’s favour. However, Buckingham was enjoying the discomfiture of the Howard faction and initially refused to act on Lake’s behalf. In desperation, Lake sought out Buckingham’s mother, Lady Compton, who prevailed upon her son to listen to Lake,121 who was now granted a reprieve of sorts. Carleton was sent back to The Hague empty-handed, and Lake received an assurance from both James and Buckingham that he was in no immediate danger.122 However, it was also made clear to Lake that he would not be restored to favour until he and his family had cleared themselves of the charges of defamation which the countess of Exeter now intended to bring against them.123 Over the next few months, Lake desperately tried to strengthen his position before the case came to trial. He offered the king £20,000 to be restored, and reportedly explored with Buckingham the possibility of matching his daughter Lady Roos to Buckingham’s brother, Christopher.124 However, it was all to no avail. In February 1619 Lake was found by Star Chamber to have abused his office as secretary by imprisoning servants belonging to Lord Roos and the countess of Exeter in order to persuade them to incriminate their employers, and was accordingly fined £5,000. He was also stripped of the secretaryship, which was immediately conferred on (Sir) George Calvert*, and his wife and daughter were fined a further £15,000 between them. All three defendants were then imprisoned in the Tower at their own costs. Lake immediately appealed for his fine to be reduced, but James considered the request presumptuous and he was rebuffed.125
Lake initially refused to admit his guilt, and so remained a prisoner until late July 1619 when, having fallen ill of scurvy, he was temporarily released on bail. He was due to return to confinement in September, but unable to face the thought of doing so he signed a document drafted by Buckingham and the two chief justices acknowledging his fault and expressing contrition. This was not enough to satisfy James, however, and early in the new year Lake was forced to make a further humiliating submission before Star Chamber.126 By May 1620 Lake seemed set to recover his seat on the Council through the persuasions of the Spanish ambassador, but although he was permitted to kiss James’s hand and come privately to Court he made no progress, possibly because his wife still refused to acknowledge her guilt and remained a prisoner.127 Talk of his restoration to office was revived in January 1621 when Secretary Naunton was placed under house arrest. Lake doubtless helped to fuel these rumours, having his train borne after him at Court as though he were still a privy councillor. However, though his wife was subsequently released and he was visited by Buckingham,128 he was never restored to office.
Lake languished in obscurity for several years thereafter. In January 1626 he was elected junior burgess for the Wiltshire seat of Wootton Bassett, perhaps with the assistance of his Middlesex neighbour, Sir John Franklin, who took the junior seat and whose father-in-law lived near the borough. His decision to stand was almost certainly prompted by the prospect of participating in the forthcoming parliamentary attack on Buckingham, whom he undoubtedly blamed for not restoring him to office. A desire for revenge would certainly explain why, by March 1626, he had resumed his earlier, brief connection with the earl of Pembroke, whose clients in the Commons were engaged in spearheading the attack on the duke.129 Evidence that Lake was involved in the earliest attacks on Buckingham is wanting. However, on 21 Mar. he, Earle and Coryton were dispatched to view certain records in the Exchequer with an eye to gathering evidence against the duke, and on 3 Apr. he spoke in committee during a debate in which comparisons were drawn between Buckingham’s rule and the earl of Suffolk’s misgovernment of the kingdom in the late fourteenth century. Lake himself seems to have regarded these comparisons as entirely appropriate. It was not until 21 Apr. that Lake emerged as one of the ringleaders of the attack on Buckingham, on which date he and 11 other Members were appointed to manage the business. On 9 May he was one of the 20 Members appointed to consider how to persuade the Lords to order Buckingham’s imprisonment. His help was also sought on 6 June, in drafting a letter to the University of Cambridge protesting at the university’s recent election of Buckingham as its new chancellor. Eight days later he was ordered to help pen the main points which were to be included in the Speaker’s introduction to the proposed Remonstrance against the duke. 130 Lake clearly succeeded in irritating Buckingham, for on 22 May one newsletter writer reported that the duke had contemplated having him imprisoned, ‘but now that doubt is past’.131
The pursuit of Buckingham was undoubtedly Lake’s main preoccupation in the Parliament, but it was not his only concern. On 9 Feb. he was appointed to the committee for privileges, in acknowledgment perhaps of his former parliamentary service. Two days later he was appointed to consider the bill regarding the Charterhouse. At the committee for religion on 13 Feb. he proposed that if the House wished to discover how many livings were worth less than £50 p.a. they should consult the clerk of the First Fruits rather than order each Member to investigate their own shires and report. On 7 Mar. he was nominated to attend the joint conference on defence, and on 16 and 17 Mar. he was required to consider the petitions of those western merchants whose goods had been embargoed by the French and to help draw up the principal points to be discussed with the Lords at a conference on the subject. On 15 Apr. his assistance was required in drafting a law concerning shipping. His penmanship was also required on 25 May to help reduce to order the various grievances reported to the House by Edward Whitby, many of them connected with trade and impositions, which were to be laid before the king. On 13 May, during the debate on the imprisonment of Sir Dudley Digges, who had allegedly implied that the king was involved in the death of his father, Lake seconded the suggestion that every Member should swear an oath that he had not heard Digges say any such thing. He also proposed that each Member should take an additional oath stating that they had not informed the king that Digges had spoken such words.132 Following the dissolution, Lake and the other members of the committee which had managed the attack on Buckingham were summoned to the chambers of attorney-general (Sir) Robert Heath* on the orders of the king. Charles wished to know what evidence the committee had gathered to maintain the charges laid against the duke, but the former committeemen declined to co-operate and were discharged.133
Lake died at Canons on 17 Sept. 1630, and was buried in his local parish church on 19 Oct. following. So far as could be discovered he left no will, nor would his widow, who obtained letters of administration, give leave to anyone to search for such a document. Lake’s eldest son, Sir Thomas Lake II, was returned for Gatton in 1628. His youngest son, Lancelot, represented Middlesex at the Restoration.134
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Andrew Thrush
Bk. of Architecture of John Thorpe ed. J. Summerson (Walpole Soc. xl), 5.
- 1. Third Bk. of Remembrance, iii. ed. A.L. Merson (Soton Rec. Soc. viii), 33, n. 2.
- 2. C.F. Russell, Hist. of King Edward VI Sch. Southampton, 97; GI Admiss. 81; Al. Cant.
- 3. Reg. St. Christopher le Stocks ed. E. Freshfield, i. 24; G.E. Cokayne, Some Acct. of Ld. Mayors and Sheriffs of London, 3; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 152; D. Lysons, Environs of London, iii. 413.
- 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 109, incorrectly described as being of Derbys.
- 5. Third Bk. of Remembrance, iii. 33; T. Birch, Mems. of Reign of Queen Eliz. i. 57.
- 6. C66/1624; M. Giuseppi, Guide to Contents of PRO, ii. 1; E214/605.
- 7. CJ, i. 208b.
- 8. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 575; T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 3, p. 89.
- 9. APC, 1613-14, p. 403.
- 10. Cott. Galba E.I, f. 432.
- 11. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 353.
- 12. C66/2059/7.
- 13. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, pp. 210-11.
- 14. PSO 5/3, unfol.
- 15. Archaeologia, xli. 251.
- 16. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 65.
- 17. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 42; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 43.
- 18. HMC 11th Rep. III, 22.
- 19. C181/2, ff. 50, 90; 181/3, f. 116.
- 20. SP14/31/1.
- 21. Add. 11402, f. 142.
- 22. C66/1988.
- 23. C181/2, f. 331.
- 24. C66/2041/14.
- 25. APC, 1615-16, p. 122.
- 26. C181/2, ff. 235, 287.
- 27. Spanish Co. ed. P. Croft (London Rec. Soc. ix), 96; Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. C.T. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 64.
- 28. A.F. Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram, 25; C66/1827/24; E214/611, 621.
- 29. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 524, 588; E403/2730, ff. 73v, 238v.
- 30. G. Goodman, Ct. of Jas. I, 181-2; Secret Hist. of Jas. I ed. W. Scott, i. 368. Goodman doubted that his wife beat him.
- 31. It has been falsely claimed that his fa. was Thomas Lake of Aston Clinton, Bucks., for which see G. Lipscomb, Hist. Bucks. ii. 76-7.
- 32. Secret Hist. i. 365.
- 33. H.V. Jones, ‘Jnl. of Levinus Munck’, EHR, lxviii. 243.
- 34. Secret Hist. ii. 189-90; Goodman, i. 176.
- 35. HMC Hatfield, xv. 31.
- 36. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 7. For reasons which are unclear, he surrendered this reversion six months later: E214/1462.
- 37. HMC Hatfield, vii. 431.
- 38. C66/1609.
- 39. A.J. Loomie, ‘Toleration and Diplomacy’, Trans. American Phil. Soc. n.s. liii. pt. 6, p. 54.
- 40. Secret Hist. i. 368.
- 41. CJ, i. 151b, 152b, 154a, 156b, 157b.
- 42. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 49, 50.
- 43. CJ, i. 178a, 180a, 183b, 193b, 213b, 229a, 231b.
- 44. Add. 26635, f. 12v.
- 45. CJ, i. 257b, 258a. The other was to assure a jointure for Dame Eleanor Cave.
- 46. Bowyer Diary, 10. He was mis-identified by the diarist as ‘Sir John Lake’.
- 47. CJ, i. 260a, 262b, 264a, 265a.
- 48. Ibid. 264b; P. Croft, ‘Serving the Archduke’, BIHR, lxiv. 289-304, esp. 299-300.
- 49. VCH Mdx. v. 115.
- 50. HLRO, O.A. 3 Jas.I, c. 39.
- 51. CJ, i. 1002b.
- 52. Ibid. 259a, 260a, 261a, 265a, 267a; Bowyer Diary, 27; LJ, ii. 375a, 376a-b, 379b.
- 53. HMC Hatfield, xviii. 128-31.
- 54. CJ, i. 324b, 328b.
- 55. Ibid. 340a, 344b, 346a, 368b, 376a.
- 56. AO3/1276, pt. 2, unnumb. acct. of Sir John Leveson; GL, ms 11571/9, f. 190v
- 57. Coventry Archives, BA/H/Q/A79/105.
- 58. For grants made under Elizabeth, see CSP Dom. 1581-90, p. 689; 1591-4, p. 138; E214/1355. For grants made under James, see C66/1637; 66/1699; 66/1738; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 313; xxiv. 94-5; VCH Mdx. ii. 397.
- 59. W.D. Macray, Annals of the Bodl. Lib. Oxford (2nd edn.), 419, 422.
- 60. SP14/57/44.
- 61. Bk. of Architecture, 5; VCH Mdx. v. 115.
- 62. HMC Downshire, ii. 177, 184, 187, 190, 191, 307-8.
- 63. Ibid. 194-5.
- 64. CJ, i. 393b, 396b, 403b, 404b, 410a, 415a, 417a.
- 65. CSP Ven. 1607-10; HMC Downshire, ii. 486.
- 66. CJ, i. 421a, 422a.
- 67. Ibid. 429b, 443a, 447a, 450a.
- 68. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 339-40.
- 69. Parl. Debates 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 138n; Procs. 1610, ii. 342, n. 4; CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 644-5.
- 70. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 647, 649.
- 71. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 262-5.
- 72. Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, ii. 59.
- 73. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 316; HMC Downshire, iii. 139.
- 74. CSP Ven. 1611-13, p. 298; Winwood’s Memorials, iii. 338-9.
- 75. Chamberlain Letters, i. 336, 346-7.
- 76. Ibid. 352; HMC Downshire, iii. 305.
- 77. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 134.
- 78. HMC Mar and Kellie Suppl. 40; HMC Downshire, iii. 344. Chamberlain, however, thought that Lake retained the signet, and that Rochester had some other ‘privy signet’ assigned to him: Chamberlain Letters, i. 372.
- 79. Chamberlain Letters, i. 367-68, 369.
- 80. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 15.
- 81. Loomie, ‘Toleration’, 54; Spain and the Jacobean Catholics, II: 1613-24 ed. A.J. Loomie (Cath. Rec. Soc. lxviii), 13 n. 4; A.J. Loomie, ‘Gondomar’s Selection of English Officers in 1622’, EHR, lxxxviii. 579.
- 82. Loomie, ‘Toleration’, 49.
- 83. HMC Downshire, vi. 349.
- 84. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 161.
- 85. Chamberlain Letters, i. 399, 403.
- 86. Add. 31111, f. 36.
- 87. Add. 32023B, ff. 186v-7.
- 88. HMC Downshire, iv. 342; Loomie, Spain and the Jacobean Catholics, 34.
- 89. Chamberlain Letters, i. 517; Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 10.
- 90. Chamberlain Letters, i. 523.
- 91. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 149, 152, 157.
- 92. Ibid. 322, 326.
- 93. Ibid. 371-3.
- 94. Ibid. 417, 423, 436, 443.
- 95. Ibid. 215, 220.
- 96. Ibid. 200, 207.
- 97. Ibid. 280. For the decree, see C78/146/9.
- 98. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 280.
- 99. Ibid. 288, 319, 325; LJ, ii. 706.
- 100. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 192, 198.
- 101. Chamberlain Letters, i. 532.
- 102. HMC Downshire, v. 22; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 347-8.
- 103. Holles Letters ed. P.R. Seddon (Thoroton Soc. xxxi), 75, 77; HMC Portland, ix. 142-3.
- 104. Chamberlain Letters, i. 599.
- 105. HMC Downshire, v. 383.
- 106. For the division of responsibility bet. Lake and Winwood, see CSP Ven. 1615-17, p. 104.
- 107. Stowe 176, ff. 5v-6; HMC Downshire, v. 459.
- 108. Chamberlain Letters, i. 620; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 360.
- 109. Harl. 7002, f. 199.
- 110. CSP Ven. 1615-17, p.234; Documentos Ineditos para la Historia de Espana, II: Correspondencia Official de Don Diego Sarmiento de Acuna de Gondomar ed. A. Ballesteros y Beretta, 178-89.
- 111. Goodman, i. 192-3.
- 112. Chamberlain Letters, i. 626; ii. 27.
- 113. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, v. 196-8.
- 114. Assembly Bks. of Soton ed. W.J. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xxv), 33. The offer was repeated on 22 Feb. 1616. For James’s abortive decision to summon a Parliament in 1616, see A. Thrush, ‘The Personal Rule of James I, 1611-20’, Pols. Religion and Popularity ed. T. Cogswell, R. Cust and P. Lake, 91-2.
- 115. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 45; HMC Downshire, vi. 138.
- 116. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 492, 497; HMC Downshire, vi. 318.
- 117. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 127, 132.
- 118. Fortescue Pprs. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. i), 44.
- 119. S.R. Gardiner, Hist. Eng. from Accession of Jas. I, iii. 189-92; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 144-5.
- 120. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 161.
- 121. Gardiner, iii. 188; R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 37; Birch, ii. 76; Documentos Ineditos, II, 38.
- 122. Add. 31112, f. 167v.
- 123. HMC Downshire, vi. 513.
- 124. Ibid. 515, 531.
- 125. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 213-16; Birch, ii. 135; Goodman, ii. 179-80.
- 126. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 249, 255, 284; Birch, ii. 188; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, vii. 65-6, 264-5; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 117. For Lake’s initial submission, see Soc. Antiq. ms 291, ff. 48v-9v.
- 127. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 303, 322; CSP Ven. 1619-21, p. 267; BL, HMC Trumbull transcript, B III/136, 151. Chamberlain thought that he failed to regain his seat because he sustained an injury when his coach toppled over.
- 128. BL, HMC Trumbull T/S, VIII/4; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 220, 254; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 390.
- 129. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 113.
- 130. Procs. 1626, ii. 336, 423, 445; iii. 38, 201, 377.
- 131. T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Chas. I, i. 105.
- 132. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 20, 28, 216, 297, 306, 446; iii. 255, 332, 377.
- 133. De Jure Maiestatis ed. A.B. Grosart, ii. 6-9.
- 134. Add. 29974, f. 138; C115/105/8180; Lysons, iii. 412; Index to Admons. in PCC VI: 1631-48 ed. M. Fitch (Brit. Rec. Soc. c), 246.