Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wake, Isaac
WAKE, Sir ISAAC (1580?–1632), diplomatist, was the second son of Arthur, son of John Wake of Hartwell, Northamptonshire, a descendant of the lords of Blisworth (Harl. MS. 1533, f. 2b; Bridges, Hist. of Northamptonshire, i. 336). His father, a canon of Christ Church and master of St. John's Hospital in Northampton, was rector of Great Billing in Northamptonshire until 1573, when he was deprived for nonconformity; he afterwards lived for many years in Jersey (Foster, Alumni Oxon. 1500-1714; Archbishop Wake, Mem. of the Family of Wake, p. 61). Isaac is said by his kinsman, Archbishop Wake (Memoirs, p 62), to have been born in 1575; but he is entered as only twelve years old at his matriculation on 25 May 1593 (Clark, Reg. Univ. Oxon. II. ii. 196). He entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1593, and graduated B.A. in 1597; he was elected fellow of Merton in 1598, and graduated M.A. in 1603 (ib. ii. iii. 204; Brodrick, Memorials of Merton College, p. 277). In 1604 he became a student at the Middle Temple, and on 14 Dec. in the same year he was elected public orator of Oxford University (Foster, Alumni Oxon.; Clark, ii. i. 251)'. He took part in the reception of King James in 1605, delivering an oration 'at the Hall-stair's foot in Christ Church' (Nichols, Progresses of James I, i. 546). The king seems to have thought his oratory polished, if soporific (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 345).
In 1609 Wake travelled in France and Italy, and soon afterwards became secretary to Sir Dudley Carleton [q. v.] at Venice. In March 1612 his leave of absence from Merton College was extended for three years (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-18, p. 125); but in the following November he came to England for a few months, during which he pronounced a funeral oration on Sir Thomas Bodley [q. v.] He returned to Venice in March 1613, and stayed there, and afterwards at Turin, as Carleton's secretary until the latter left for England in July 1615 (Addit. MS. 1864O, f. 11). Wake then became British representative at the court of Savoy, and retained that office for nearly sixteen years. In 1617 he went to Berne, at the request of Charles Emmanuel, to mediate an alliance between Savoy and the Swiss states (ib. f. 39). At the end of 1618 he came to London, being 'much courted' by the French ministers on his way through Paris (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-18, p. 603), and was knighted on 9 April 1619 at Royston, where the king lay ill in bed (Nichols, iii. 533). Immediately afterwards he was sent back to Turin with an offer of support to the duke in his candidature for the imperial crown, and at the same time with an informal mission to the elector palatine, whom he saw at Heidelberg on his way out Gardiner, Hist. of England, iii. 292; Letters and Documents, ed. Gardiner, i. 75, 87, 167). On the death of Sir Henry Savile [q. v.], in February 1622, Prince Charles tried to secure Wake's election as warden of Merton; but he was beaten by (Sir) Nathaniel Brent [q. v.],the influence of the Abbots, combined perhaps with Wake's constant absence from England, proving too strong (see the archbishop's apology in Stowe MS. 176, f. 221).
Wake was in England again in December 1623, when he married Anna, daughter of Edmund Bray of Barrington, and stepdaughter to Sir Edward Conway, the secretary of state (Harl. MS. 1556, f. 146; Birch, Court and Times of James I, ii. 441). He was returned M.P. for Oxford University in January 1624 (Members of Parliament, i. 459), and attended parliament closely until his departure in May as ambassador to Savoy and Venice, with special instructions to endeavour to gain the assistance of those states for the recovery of the palatinate (Gardiner, Hist. v. 174, 248). Towards the end of 1626 he was employed on a mission to Berne and Zurich on behalf of the Grisons (Addit. MS. 34311, ff. 25-32b); and in 1627 he endeavoured to mediate, at the king of Denmark's request, between that monarch and the Duke of Savoy (Harl. MS. 1583, ff. 163, 165). After narrowly escaping the plague which ravaged Piedmont in 1630, he was appointed ambassador to the French court, and had audience of Louis XIII in May 1631 (Birch, Court and Times of Charles I, ii. 93, 105, 117). Wake was spoken of as likely to succeed Dorchester as secretary of state when the latter died in February 1632 (Birch, ii. 169); but before the appointment was made he died himself, from an attack of fever, at Paris in June 1632. His body was brought to England with the ceremony due to his rank, and buried in the chapel of Dover Castle (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1631-3, p. 374; Archbishop Wake, Memoirs, p. 63). His widow petitioned the king for a pension, and for the payment of about 1,400l. due to her husband at the time of his death, representing herself as destitute (Egerton MS. 2597, f. 112). The arrears at any rate seem to have been paid ultimately, for in 1633 Lady Wake bought an annuity from her half-brother, Lord Conway, for 1,450l. (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1633-4, p. 52).
Wake's published works are: 1. 'Rex Platonicus,' Oxford, 1607, and frequently reprinted. It is a description, in Latin, of the king's entertainment at Oxford in 1605, and is referred to by Farmer and later annotators of Shakespeare, because of a performance described in it which perhaps suggested the subject of Macbeth (Shakespeare's Plays and Poems, ed. Malone, 1790, iv. 436). 2. 'Oratio Funebris' on John Rainolds, delivered on 25 May 1607; published in the same volume with Rainolds's 'Orationes Duodecim,' London, 1619, and separately in 1627; it is included in Fuller's 'Abel Redevivus,' London, 1651, p. 492. 3. 'Oratio Funebris' on Sir Thomas Bodley, Oxford, 1613; included by Bates in 'Vitæ Selectorum aliquot Virorum,' London, 1681, p. 416. 4. 'A Threefold Help to Political Observations, contained in three Discourses,' London, 1655: the discourses are (1) 'Of the Thirteen Cantons of the Helvetical League,' written about 1625; (2) 'Of the State of Italie,' also written in or soon after 1625; (3) 'Upon the Proceedings of the King of Sweden,' written in 1631. An epitaph on James I, in English verse, was attributed to him by Chamberlain (Birch, Court and Times of Charles I, i. 23).
Wake's despatches are among the foreign state papers at the record office. His letter-books from 1615 to 1630 are in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 18639-642, 34310 and 34311, the last two autograph), and so are a few of his letters to Buckingham, Carlisle, and others (Harl. 1581, ff. 178-190; Egerton, 2592-7; Stowe, 176, f. 162; Addit. 33935). Some of his despatches are printed in 'Cabala,' 3rd edit. 1691, pp. 358-364, and others in 'Letters and Documents,' ed. Gardiner, i. 87, 107, 167, ii. 181.[Authorities cited; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1611-33, passim; Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 539; Lloyd's State Worthies, ed. Whitworth, 1766, ii. 218.]