Sir Robert Naunton



Sir Robert Naunton, Fragmenta Regalia or Observations on Queen Elizabeth, Her Times & Favorites, ed. John S. Cerovski (Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., etc., 1985).


Sir Robert Naunton had a somewhat chequered political career, including a not entirely successful period as Secretary of State and a Privy Councillor. He is now chiefly remembered, however, for a single prose work, his Fragmenta Regalia, a series of character sketches of prominent courtiers and public figures in the time of Queen Elizabeth, a number of whom he had known personally. This was written, or at least completed, in 1634, during the lengthy period of illness which led to his death a year later. Although not published until 1641, the work enjoyed a huge circulation in manuscript copies, most of it evidently produced by commercial scribes, but possibly initiated by his family or someone else in his immediate circle. Today at least 41 manuscript copies are known. Without a formidable degree of collation it would be difficult to determine the quality of these texts, although one, owned by Robert Pirie (NaR 31), has a claim to special attention because it was clearly prepared for presentation to Charles I and includes marginal commentary for him not found in any other text. Whether it was actually presented to the King is not known. In any case, it failed to restore him to Charles's favour and Naunton's patent as Master of the Court of Wards was revoked just weeks before he died.

During his political career Naunton wrote numerous letters, besides official documents signed by him, many of which survive in the Public Records and in various libraries and collections, including the British Library, Folger, Huntington, Yale, and New York Public Library. Examples also surface occasionally in booksellers' and auction catalogues. These documents have not been given entries below.

A curious item ascribed to Naunton and which was last recorded in the eighteenth century is a quarto manuscript apparently entitled Opuscula Academica, Epistolæ, Orationes, Carmina, &c. per Dom. Rob. Naunton. This was once owned by Thomas Rawlinson (1681-1725) and was sold at auction by Ballard, 4 March 1733/4, lot 539, to ‘L. C.’

A printed book in the British Library apparently owned by Naunton is recorded below as *NaR 42.

Peter Beal