court was out of town to despatch the business of the admiralty.’ In September 1625 Nicholas succeeded Thomas Aylesbury in the post of ‘secretary for the admiralty.’ In this capacity Nicholas was employed to delay the transfer of Pennington's ships to the French, 16 July 1626. Nicholas seems to have been proud of the part he had played, which was certainly a piece of double dealing (State Papers, Dom. Car. I, xxvii. iii.; Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. v. 384; and Gardiner, Documents relating to the Duke of Buckingham, Camden Soc.). It was doubtless in consequence of his zeal in this employment that Nicholas was recommended by Buckingham to the king to be one of the clerks of the council in extraordinary (1626), with the unusual permission to attend the council at all times so as to give answer concerning admiralty affairs (cf. Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. ii. 297).
In the parliament of 1627–8 Nicholas sat for Dover (ib. ii. 343). In Egerton MS. 2541, No. 24, there is appended to a copy of Charles's speech at the dissolution of this parliament (10 March 1628–9) 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.
Nicholas did not sit again in the House of Commons; his inclusion among the members of the Long parliament is an error (Nicholas Papers, Camden Soc. vol. 127, p. 4 n.; Carlyle, Cromwell, iii. 256; Masson, Milton, ii. 159; Return of Members, p. 493, n. 8). In 1628 Buckingham procured for Nicholas from Charles the reversion of the combined office of clerk of the crown and of the hanaper in Ireland. But he soon surrendered the grant for 1,060l. to George Carleton.
After the death of Buckingham, who left Nicholas 500l., Charles put the admiralty into commission, and appointed Nicholas secretary to the commissioners, and so he ‘continued till the Earl of Northumberland was made lord high admiral of England.’ His activity in business attracted Charles, but he declined the king's offer of the mastership of the wards; it was, he wrote, ‘too envious a thing for me at that time to hold two such places together’ (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. ii. 4). Three years later Nicholas carried on the correspondence respecting the ship-money difficulties (Council Register, 8 Nov. 1635; Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. viii. 92). On 9 Oct. 1635 Charles admitted Nicholas to be one of the clerks of the council in ordinary (Clarendon, Rebellion, vi. 395). In this position he remained till the summer of 1641.
On 9 Aug. 1641 Charles left London for Scotland. The principal secretary of state, Vane, went with him, and Nicholas was the chief official who remained in London. Before his departure (Nicholas Papers, i. 117) the king communicated his intention of conferring upon him the privy signet (cf. Egerton MS. 2541, f. 264; Hoare, Wiltshire, v. 89). Nicholas's position was powerless and irksome. He had to watch the proceedings of the parliament, forward intelligence to Edinburgh, and carry out instructions. The correspondence which ensued is printed in Bray's edition of Evelyn's ‘Diary,’ vol. iv.; it extends until Charles's return in November. Nicholas urged upon Charles a conciliatory policy in Scotland (Evelyn, iv. 52), and begged him, above all, to make a popular entry into London on his return (ib. p. 70). Nicholas was clearly ignorant of Charles's negotiations with the Irish rebels (Gardiner, Hist. of Engl. x. 8). On 26 Nov. Charles, on his return to London, knighted him at Whitehall (Harl. MS. 6832, ‘List of Knights’), and on the 27th formally conferred upon him Windebanke's secretaryship of state, and called him to the privy council. Soon afterwards Vane was removed from the other secretaryship, and Nicholas became sole secretary (Clarendon, iv. 100). When Charles finally quitted London, Nicholas accompanied him, being, along with Falkland, among the ‘excepted’ in the peace instructions of the Commons sent to Essex (22 Sept. 1642; Clarendon, vi. 50). He signed the protestation of the seceding lords of 15 June 1642, declaring that Charles did not intend to make war on the parliament.
Nicholas continued to act as principal secretary of state until Charles left Oxford. Pembroke College was his own headquarters for most of this period. On him fell the business part of the treaty of Uxbridge, and Charles censured him for yielding too much concerning the militia (see Dugdale, Short View; Clarendon, viii. 211; and Evelyn, iv. 135; Whitelocke, Memorials, p. 125). His function, like that of all members of the privy council at Oxford, was indeed very limited (Gardiner, Civil War, ii. 202; Addit. MS. 18982, f. 64). But in September 1645, on the surrender of Bristol by Rupert, Charles's orders for him to quit the country were directed to Nicholas, who had the sole control of the matter (Evelyn, iv. 163). In November 1644 his goods in London were ordered to be sold by auction, being assessed at 800l. (Cal. of Comm. for Compounding, i. 37, 483).
With the close of 1645 Nicholas lost hope