I have found no evidence that Richard Lane visited Jersey before he arrived there with Charles II and his “entourage in exile” on September 17, 1649. Richard Lane could not have been part of Charles II’s entourage during his first visit to Jersey from April 17, 1646 – June 24, 1646. At the time of that earlier visit, Charles I was still alive, and Richard Lane was in Oxford, negotiating with parliamentary forces for the surrender of the King’s forces there.
After that surrender was concluded, I have found no subsequent record of Richard Lane’s whereabouts until he arrives with Charles II in September 1649. This was a tumultuous time – King Charles I had been executed earlier that year, and the nineteen year old Charles II was seeking any way to get himself at the head of an army to retake England by force. Although Richard Lane was reported to have been adamantly advising the young King against those plans, he would not live to see the disaster unfold. Eight months after arriving in Jersey, Sir Richard would die of bladder stones at age 66 in the Elizabeth Castle. A popular and respected man, he would be given a grand funeral, and would be laid to rest under the floor (yet to be proven) of the Town Church of St Helier.
My visit to Jersey was focused on trying to understand more about the place Richard Lane spent the last months of his life, to meet with the local historical community, and to see the Elizabeth Castle and Town Church of St Helier for myself. I wouldn’t have believed that my visit to Jersey could have rivalled the accomplishments of the London part of this trip, but I was wrong! In summary the accomplishments were:
- I had lunch with a number of people from the Societe Jersiaise’s History Section, including the current head of the History Section and a trustee of the Jersey Heritage Trust. This was a delightful way to meet, and gave us a great opportunity to discuss points of history, the impressive work of the Societe Jersiaise and where I hoped to take my project. Not surprisingly, there was a fair amount of curiosity about why I came all the way from Colorado to find the lost grave of an Englishman who lived 400 years ago. I get that a lot! : )
- In the company of Société Jersiaise members Jean, Sue and John, I toured, extensively photographed and surveyed the Town Church. I met the current reverend, and was shown a number of artifacts on display in the church. It is a warm, active place, and seems to always have at least a few people in the pews or an organist practicing!
- John met with me again at the church and provided an extensive discussion regarding archaeology work he had been involved in over the years. This discussion provided some significant findings! A subsequent article will provide the details, but in brief, this discussion provided some key insights into the soil conditions under the church, and a significant basis for hope that Richard Lane’s coffin might still be remarkably intact. If this is so, a non-invasive “ground-penetrating” radar (GPR) survey of the church floors would be very likely to help us locate probable candidates for the gravesite of Richard Lane.
- I was told about an underground furnace that had been installed at one point in the Southwest nave of the church. For many years, there was also a cannon shed that had been built into that same corner of the church. Apparently every church was ordered to build one to hold the cannon for the local militias.
- I hosted a “happy hour” event at the Merchant House which allowed me the chance to meet with a number of additional people from the Societe Jersiaise. I wished I could have had more time talking with everyone I met – I learned a great deal, and had a wonderful time! Among the people I met was Anna, who was my first contact at Societe Jersiaise. Anna first provided me the key passage about the funeral of “Milord Keeper” from Jean Chevalier’s diary two years ago!
- I was presented with a very poignant gift… Jean Chevalier’s diary (now in the museum of Jersey) was originally hand-written in archaic French, recording the events of the English Revolution on Jersey. In 1913, the Societe Jersiaise (which was founded in 1873) had an exact and complete (letter-for-letter) transcription of that thick diary made and captured in a set of thin published volumes which could be used for subsequent translation. I was presented a copy of #8 in that series – the volume that includes the account of the funeral of Sir Richard Lane. What a wonderful gift – Merci!
- I was also informed that a new, careful translation of that diary is being conducted, and that a review of the passage regarding Richard Lane’s funeral had turned up an important finding. I was told that although the current translation says that Richard Lane was buried “at the end of the church”, the review determined that what the diary really said was that he was buried “at the high end of the church”. This was a very important difference – I was informed the “high” end means the part of the church where the altar is located…
Continued in the upcoming “Summary Report of Jersey Visit (Part II)”.
Your comments and corrections are gladly welcomed. I admire great writing, but have little choice but to approach this task as one of slowly grinding a workable edge onto a rough blade – with my thanks for your generosity of spirit and firm critique in the meantime! – Greg Sherwood