Sir Thomas Lake (1561 – 17 September 1630) was Secretary of State to James I of England. He was a Member of Parliament in 1604, 1614, 1625 and 1626.
He was an MP for Malmesbury in 1593, New Romney in 1601, Launceston in 1604, Middlesx in 1614 and Wootton Bassett in 1626.
Thomas Lake was baptised in Southampton on 11 October 1561, the son of Almeric Lake. He attended King Edward VI School, Southampton as a day boy. This meant that he did not have the level of French language tuition accorded to boarders by his Belgian schoolmaster Adrian Saravia. He did, however, gain excellent fluency in Latin.
He became the personal secretary of Sir Francis Walsingham, the Secretary of State, and was nicknamed ‘Swiftsure’ for his speed and accuracy. Walsingham brought Lake to the attention of Queen Elizabeth I and he was appointed Clerk of the Signet in 1600. As one of the Queen’s favourites he travelled with her reading Latin texts to her on her progresses around the country.
On 28 March 1603, four days after the death of Elizabeth I of England the Privy Council sent him to Scotland with George Carew to inform James I of the current state of affairs and reiterate their urgent desire that the King should come to England. He was a protégé of the Howard family and became a favourite of James, who appointed him Secretary of the Latin Tongue and Keeper of the Records and then knighted him in 1603. He acted as the King's travelling secretary just as he had for Walsingham. His brother Arthur was one of the translators the King James Bible appointed in 1604—the year that the reversion of Great Stanmore Manor in Middlesex was granted to Lake although it seems that he never took possession for the lordship remained in the name of the Burnell family until his son Thomas assumed possession in 1631. The adjoining manor of Little Stanmore contained the lands known as Canons, which Lake also acquired in 1604 and on which he built the grand brick mansion called Cannons to a design ascribed to John Thorpe
Bribery was endemic at the time and Lake’s position with the King made him a target for many bribes (the Bishop of Llandaff offered Lake £80 for his help in securing a position) but he was not averse to bribery on his own behalf. When Lord Salisbury, Walsingham’s successor as Secretary of State, died in 1612, Lake desperately wanted the job and tried to bribe his way into it but James would not appoint Lake immediately and filled the post himself for a time.
It was also in 1612 that Lake came to regret not having boarded at his school. The King’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was betrothed to a German prince and Lake was chosen to read the contract of marriage. It was written in French and his accent was so bad and his translation into English so inept that he made a fool of himself. It did not do lasting harm to his career, however. On 29 March 1614/5 Lake was taken into the Privy Council and on 3 January 1615/6 James swore him in as one of the two principal royal secretaries so that both he and Sir Ralph Winwood were Secretary of State.
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