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Edward Nicholas
Portrait by Peter Lely
Born4 April 1593
Wiltshire, England
West Horsley, England
SpouseJane Jay

Sir Edward Nicholas (4 April 1593 – 1669) was an English officeholder 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 in the Admiralty 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.


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.[1]

After studying law at the Middle Temple, in 1618 Nicholas became secretary to Edward la Zouche, 11th Baron Zouche, lord warden and admiral of the Cinque Ports.[1] In 1621 he was elected as a Member of Parliament for Winchelsea. He was re-elected as one of the Members for Winchelsea in 1624 for what became known as the Happy Parliament. Nicholas kept diaries of all the parliaments in which he sat. When Zouche resigned his office of lord warden to the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke, upon Zouche's recommendation, on 9 December 1624 appointed Nicholas as his secretary for the business of the Cinque Ports. In 1625 Nicholas became the first holder of the office of Secretary to the Admiralty; shortly afterwards he was appointed an extra clerk of the privy council, with duties relating to Admiralty business.[1] In 1628 he was elected a Member for Dover and sat until 1629, when King Charles decided to rule without parliament and in the event did so 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 King Charles I went to Scotland, he remained in London and was responsible for keeping the king informed of the proceedings of 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.[1]

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 on 5 May 1646, 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 on 24 June 1646, 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.[1]

In 1648 Nicholas wrote a pamphlet, An Apology for the Honorable Nation of the Jews, which called for the readmission of the Jews to England. It is one of the few examples of pro-admission writing that does not also call for the conversion of the Jews and is cited by Menasseh Ben Israel in his Humble Addresses, although Cecil Roth wonders whether the pamphlet might actually have been written by a Jew.[2]

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.[1] As an enthusiastic Royalist, in a letter dated 10 September 1657 to 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 ...[3]

West Horsley Place

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 (the manor of West Horsley) which he purchased from Carew Raleigh, son of Sir Walter Raleigh, and there he lived till his death in 1669.[1]


Nicholas married Jane Jay, a daughter of Henry Jay, an alderman of London and had several sons and daughters. His eldest son was Sir John Nicholas, a Clerk of the Signet and Clerk of the Privy Council. His daughter Susannah married as his second wife the Irish statesman George Lane, 1st Viscount Lanesborough: like her father, he spent years in exile with Charles II, and by 1659 the couple were almost destitute, but was well rewarded after the Restoration. Susannah died in 1671.

His younger brother Matthew Nicholas (1594–1661) was successively Dean of Bristol, canon of Westminster and Dean of St Paul's.[1] His country seat was at Sunninghill in Berkshire.


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


Paternal arms
Augmented arms

The arms of Nicholas’s father were: Argent, a fess wavy between three ravens sable, a differencing of the arms of Nicholas of Winterborne Earls, Wiltshire.[4]

In 1649, augmented arms were granted to Sir Edward Nicholas, blazoned Argent, on a cross gules an imperial crown or, which he bore in the 1st & 4th quarters, with his paternal arms in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Nicholas, Sir Edward". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 656.
  2. ^ Scult, Mel (1978). Millennial Expectations and Jewish Liberties: A Study of the Efforts to Convert the Jews in Britain, Up to the Mid Nineteenth Century. Brill Archive. pps.27.
  3. ^ 'The Nicholas Papers, Vol IV' p.13, London: Offices of the Society, 1920
  4. ^ a b Burke, Sir Bernard, The General Armory, London, 1884, p.732

Further reading

1893 text

Sir Edward Nicholas, Secretary of State to Charles I. and II. He was dismissed from his office through the intrigues of Lady Castlemaine in 1663. He died 1669, aged seventy-seven.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

8 Annotations

First Reading

anonymous  •  Link

Lady Castlemaine, who would later be created Duchess of Cleveland, was a homely trollop who manipulated King Charles II, gentlemen.

Pedro  •  Link


The Secretary of State was present at the public marriage of Charles in Portsmouth. He read aloud the marriage contract, before the marriage took place.

Pauline  •  Link

from L&M Companion
Kt 1641, bt 1653 (1593-1669). Secretary of State to Charles I (1641-9) and to Charles II (1654-62). A protege of the 1st Duke of Buckingham and secretary to the Admiralty Commissioners 1628-38. A strong Anglican and a man of high principles, his replacement in 1662 by Arlington was a blow to the Clarendonian old guard. His younger brother Matthew was Dean of St Paul's, 1660-d.61.

Kevin Nicholas  •  Link

Both my grandfather and my uncle are Edward Nicholas. It is good to see that our family namesakes carry on!

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

That, in Pursuance of that traiterous Intent, he hath, to several Persons of His Majesty's Privy Council, held Discourses to this Effect: "That His Majesty was dangerously corrupted in His Religion, and inclined to Popery; that Persons of that Religion had such Access and such Credit with Him, that, unless there were a careful Eye had unto it, (fn. *) Protestant Religion would be overthrown in this Kingdom." And, in Pursuance of the said wicked and traiterous Intent, upon His Majesty's admitting Sir Henry Bennett to be Principal Secretary of State in the Place of Mr. Secretary Nicholas, he hath said these Words, or Words to this Effect, "That His Majesty had given Ten Thousand Pounds to remove a zealous Protestant, that He might bring into that Place of high Trust a concealed Papist;" notwithstanding that the said Sir Henry Bennett is known to have ever been, both in his Profession and Practice, constant to the Protestant Religion.

From: 'House of Lords Journal Volume 11: 10 July 1663', Journal of the House of Lords: volume 11: 1660-1666, pp. 554-57. URL:…. Date accessed: 13 February 2006.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

Nicholas, Sir Edward, kt. Secretary of State (South) May 1660-c. 15 Oct. 1662.
-, Took oath 27 Feb. 1659 (PC 2/54, pt. ii, 42); assumed functions at Restoration May 1660. Left office by 15 Oct. 1662 (PC 2/56 p. 174).

From: 'Alphabetical lists of officials: K-Z', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 2: Officials of the Secretaries of State 1660-1782 (1973), pp. 85-119. URL:….. Date accessed: 13 February 2006.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

Sir Edward Nicholas was born the 4th of April, in the year 1593, and entered of the Middle-Temple in 1611. In 1622 he married Jane, daughter of Henry Jay, of Holston in Norfolk. Between the year 1611 and 1642, when he was made secretary of state; he was one of the six clerks in chancery, and successively secretary to lord Zouch, and the duke of Buckingham, in the office of high-admiral. It is remarkable that the latter was speaking to him when he was stabbed by Felton. He was afterwards clerk of the council, and continued in that employment till the seals were given him by the King. He attended his majesty to Oxford, and resided with him there till he went to the Scots army. On the surrender of Oxford to Fairfax, he retired to the prince of Wales in Jersey. From that time to the Restoration, he lived for the most part with Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, at Caen in Normandy.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1769.

Bill  •  Link

NICHOLAS, Sir EDWARD (1593-1669), secretary of state to Charles I and Charles II; matriculated from Queen's College, Oxford, 1611; entered the Middle Temple, 1612; became secretary to Edward, baron Zouch, warden of the Cinque ports, 1618, and to his successor, George, duke of Buckingham, 1624; M.P., Winchelsea, 1620-4, Dover, 1627-8; secretary to the admiralty, 1625, and to the admiralty commissioners after Buckingham's death; clerk of the council in ordinary, 1935; knighted and appointed secretary of state, 1641; conducted the treaty of Uxbridge and the surrender of Oxford, 1646; retired to Caen in Normandy; remained in name Charles I's secretary of state till the king's execution, and subsequently made vigorous efforts to serve his son in a like capacity, but was disliked by Queen Henrietta Maria and practically excluded from Prince Charles's counsels; directed to attend the Duke of York, 1650, and from 1650 to 1654 resided at the Hague; joined Charles at Aix-la-Chapelle, 1654, and was formally reappointed secretary of state, but was set aside and pensioned with 10,000l. on account of age and sickness, 1662.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.





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