The Funeral Procession of Lord Keeper Lane, May 1650

In a strange and completely unplanned coincidence, I leave for my trip to London and Jersey on the 367th anniversary of Lord Lane’s death in Jersey….

 Lord Keeper Lane’s whereabouts following his negotiations for the surrender of King Charles I’s forces at Oxford in the Spring of 1646 are unclear.  But, Lord Keeper Lane could not have been part of the entourage of Charles II when he first he arrived in Jersey for a two month stay in April 1646 – at that time, Lord Keeper Lane was still in Oxford.  Whether he returned to Middle Temple is possible, but might have been dangerous for him.  At some point in the next 3-1/2 years, Lord Keeper Lane seems to have joined Charles II in France.  When Charles II arrives back in Jersey on 17 September 1649, Lord Lane is specifically mentioned as being part of the group. 

After 5 months in Jersey, Charles II departed on February 13 1650 for Holland.  His party apparently planned to travel overland on horseback through France to Breda. But Lord Keeper Lane  became too ill to accompany them and was reported to have arrived back in St. Malo France in March 1650 hoping to take a ship to Holland instead.  But he became “grievously ill” and was forced to stay bedridden in St. Malo until Charles II’s brother, the Duke of York, arranged to have him brought the 36 miles back to Jersey.  Three months after originally leaving Jersey with Charles II, Lord Keeper Lane died in the Elizabeth Castle on Sunday May 12, 1650 at the age of 66. 

The funeral procession and interment of Sir Richard Lane would have occurred in the days following his death. Significant detail was provided in Jean Chevalier’s diary about the composition of the funeral procession and even a clue regarding the path  taken by that procession on the way to the internment at the Town Church of St Helier.


There are two seemingly obvious paths the procession could have taken:  By boat from the Castle Pier to the Old Pier and then North along the Pier Road to the church.  The alternative route is along the low-tide path from the North end of the Elizabeth Castle to the shore, and then into town approaching the church from the West.  These two possible paths are shown in the graphic labeled “Analysis of possible funeral procession paths”.  This graphic was built by overlaying key geographic features and roads from the 1691 map fragment of St Helier over a google earth view of modern St Helier.  This overlay includes the original coastline, which provides a fascinating perspective about how much the waterfront area of St Helier has been extended over the centuries!  Although using a boat to assemble the procession in the pier area might seem a likely choice, Chevalier’s diary indicates that the Duke escorted the body to the North end of the Castle.  From this area, there is only one obvious way to shore – along the low tide path to shore (used still to access the castle on foot).  Of course, it is possible the procession could have been carried to shore in small boats during higher tide phases.

There are several maps of St Helier available, and using the same overlay technique shows each of these hand-drawn maps is subject to a certain amount of perspective and scale errors, although they all seem to be in reasonable agreement about the streets available in St Helier at this time.  It is interesting to note that this overlay confirms that many of the streets shown in these maps are still in existence today. 


A second graphic provides a conceptual illustration of the funeral procession described in Jean Chevalier’s diary.  The procession is shown marching four abreast northward along the Pier Road, from from an elevated perspective (obtained from Google Street View) with the Elizabeth Castle in the background.  The procession is led by three drummers with their drums draped in black. Behind the drummers are 80 musketeers with arms reversed (a centuries old posture honoring the deceased), each wearing a black arm band.  Next, a hand-drawn bier is shown, conceptually pulled by two soldiers. Although it is easy to wonder if this cart might have been horse drawn, there is no mention of a horse in Chevalier’s account. Given the richness of his narrative, it would seem a natural thing to have mentioned had it been so.  Interestingly, the bier was travelling empty, as Chevalier describes that the coffin was being carried on the shoulders of four men.  Draping the coffin is a black cloth pall (as was common in important funerary ceremony of the time), bearing a total of 8 emblems of Lane’s family arms.  Interestingly, eight members of the Duke’s household marched on either side of the coffin, holding the edges of the pall in their hands.  This would have been a dramatic sign of respect.


There would have been other members of the court following the procession, and also along the route.  When Charles II fled to Jersey, around 300 people came with him, including a number of Lords. According to Chevalier’s account, Lord Keeper Lane was well respected, and even noted for having a “lively wit”, so it is likely the funeral involved a large number of people in total.

In Chevalier’s account, after a sermon in the Town Church, Lord Keeper Lane was interred “at the end of St Hellier Church, facing the tomb of Maximilliam Norreys”.  The referenced monument to Maximilliam Norreys can still be seen in the church today.  Although apparently originally part of the floor, it was made of limestone with Latin engraved writing.  This monument was apparently suffering significant wear by the time repairs were made the floors in the 1860s, and so it was moved in order to protect it.  It is said there is no record of its original location, and therefore no simple indication of the exact location of Lord Keeper Lane’s tomb site.  We will see…

This was an important event for St Helier. Lord Keeper Lane was the first Lord to be buried in the church.  Although a monument for his tomb (assumed also to have been located under the floor of the church) was paid for, in the chaos of the times, this task was not completed.  Eventually, the task and the grave itself was forgotten. This can be forgiven when we remember that the conflict was ongoing, and that the Royalists who controlled Jersey (and who had accommodated Charles II in exile there) would lose control of the island to parliamentary forces the next year! 

It will be interesting to see if any records indicate which parts of the floor were repaired in the 1860s, and also to review any archaeological records exist about unmarked graves in areas of the floor near the “end of the church”.  Perhaps a ground-penetrating radar survey of the floor of the church could be commissioned?  If it was indoors and suffering wear, the monument must have experienced significant foot traffic in its original location, so traffic patterns may be an worthwhile clue to consider.  It will be interesting to learn more about the practice of placing important graves under the floor of a church.  Was it to protect from grave robbers as well as a funerary honor? Perhaps the exact location of his grave can be determined by deduction?  If Lord Keeper Lane’s grave was indeed within the church walls, it would likely have been protected from any looting, preserving any evidence that might be used to definitively identify its occupant… 


3 thoughts on “The Funeral Procession of Lord Keeper Lane, May 1650”

  1. The churches were understood to be sacred ground where the Heavenly realm and the Earthlyrics realms meet at each liturgy.
    All of which is to say, only saintly (or occasionally politically powerful) people would be buried in a church…an indication of their Eternal destination.
    Monarchs were considered, at the time, to derive their authority from God. God->monarch->people.

    Martin Luther’s and the German princes’ revolution (the Reformation) along with Henry VIII’s land and power grab would lead to the later revolutions across Europe spurred on by the Enlightenment.

    Centuries of turmoil and upheaval. It’s no wonder Sir Lane’s grave was lost to history. How exciting to be in on the ground floor of rediscovering the lost history of an honorable and accomplished man!

    If you ask me, I think it would make a great movie someday.


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