appointment combined the characteristics of a pedagogue and a spy, and he could not decide which office was ‘the more odious or base, as well in their eyes with whom I live as in mine own’ (Harl. MS. 288, f. 127). Early in 1597 Naunton was in Paris, and Essex genially endeavoured to remove his scruples. ‘I read no man's writing’ (Essex wrote to him) ‘with more contentment, nor ever saw any man so much or so fast by any such-like improve himself. … The queen is every day more and more pleased with your letters.’ In November, however, Naunton was still discontented, and begged a three years' release from his employment so that he might visit France and Italy, and return home through Germany. Such an experience, he argued, would the better fit him for future work in Essex's service at home (ib. 288, f. 128). It is probable that he obtained his request, and Essex's misfortunes doubtless prevented him from re-entering the earl's service. At any rate, he returned to Cambridge about 1600, and resumed his duties as public orator. In 1601 he served the office of proctor. A speech which he delivered in behalf of the university before James I at Hinchinbrook on 29 April 1603 so favourably impressed the king and Sir Robert Cecil that Naunton once again sought his fortunes at court (cf. Sydney Papers, ii. 325). A few months later he attended the Earl of Rutland on a special embassy to Denmark, and, according to James Howell, broke down while making a formal address at the Danish court (Howell, Letters, ed. Jacobs, i. 294). On his return he entered parliament as member for Helston, Cornwall, in May 1606. He was chosen for Camelford in 1614, and in the three parliaments of 1621, 1624, and 1625 he represented the university of Cambridge. He sat for Suffolk in Charles I's first parliament. Although he never took a prominent part in the proceedings of the House of Commons, Naunton secured, in the early days of his parliamentary career, the favour of George Villiers. He retained it till the death of the favourite, and preferments accordingly came to him in profusion. On 7 Sept. 1614 he was knighted at Windsor. In 1616, when he ceased to be fellow of Trinity Hall, he was made master of requests, in succession to Sir Lionel Cranfield (Carew, Letters, p. 60, Camden Soc.), and afterwards became surveyor of the court of wards. The latter post had hitherto been held ‘by men learned in the law,’ and Sir James Whitelocke complained that Naunton was ‘a scholar and mere stranger to the law’ (Liber Famelicus, pp. 54, 62, Camden Soc.)
On 8 Jan. 1617–18 Naunton, owing to Buckingham's influence, was promoted to be secretary of state. Sir Ralph Winwood, the last holder of this high office, had died three months earlier, and the king had in the interval undertaken, with the aid of Sir Thomas Lake [q. v.], to perform the duties himself. But the arrangement soon proved irksome to the king, and Buckingham recommended Naunton as a quiet and unconspicuous person, who would act in dependence on himself. In consideration of his promotion, Naunton made Buckingham's youngest brother, Christopher Villiers, heir to lands worth 500l. a year. In August Naunton was appointed a member of the commission to examine Sir Walter Raleigh. Popular report credited Naunton with a large share of responsibility for Raleigh's execution on 29 Oct. 1618, and a wealthy Londoner named Wiemark publicly declared that Raleigh's head ‘would do well’ on Naunton's shoulders. When summoned before the council to account for his words, Wiemark explained that he was merely alluding to the proverb, ‘Two heads are better than one.’ Naunton jestingly revenged himself by directing Wiemark to double his subscription to the fund for restoring St. Paul's Cathedral, of which Naunton was a commissioner. Wiemark had offered 100l., but Naunton retorted that two hundred pounds were better than one (Fuller). ‘Secretary Naunton forgets nothing,’ wrote Francis Bacon (Spedding, Life, vi. 320).
Through 1619 Naunton was mainly occupied in negotiations between the king and the council respecting the support to be given by the English government to the king's son-in-law, the elector Frederick in Bohemia. Naunton was a staunch protestant, and such influence as he possessed he doubtless exercised in the elector's behalf. In May 1620 he wrote to Buckingham that he had not had a free day for two years, and that his health was suffering in consequence. In October Gondomar complained to James that Naunton was enforcing the laws against catholics with extravagant zeal. The king resented Gondomar's interference, and informed him that ‘his secretary was not in the habit of acting in matters of importance without his own directions.’ In the January following Naunton for once belied the king's description of his conduct by entering without instructions from James into negotiations with Cadenet, the French ambassador. He told Cadenet that the king was in desperate want of money, and, if the French government desired to marry Princess Henrietta Maria to Prince Charles, it would be prudent to offer James a large portion with the lady. The conversation reached Gondomar's ears, and he brought it to James's