The Dramatic Life of Sir Richard Lane’s Eldest (and Only Surviving) Son

Sir Richard Lane had a large family – 12 children.  But as I am discovering, many children did not survive to adulthood in the early 1600’s.  Although he had 4 sons in total (Richard, Parvulus, Bryan and one unnamed) only one  – Richard – lived beyond his first year.  What I have found out about Richard Lane the younger tells a dramatic story, but one that may explain some of the historical obscurity of his father, Sir Richard Lane.  I recently discovered the will of Richard Lane the younger, and it appears he was the last in his line to carry his father’s name…

I’ve always been curious to know:  what became of Richard Lane’s son? The obvious historical record is very thin regarding him, and I’ve found even his clearest legacy (being a Groom of the Royal Bedchamber to King Charles II) has also been historically attributed to another man of the same name.  Working out a reasonable level of detail about Richard Lane the younger has required some work, but I finally feel like I have a pretty solid grasp of his life…at least as one can of a minor figure with a very common name born over 400 years ago.  The coup de grace came after paying to download a set of digitally scanned wills from the National Archives in London.  Although I was looking for the will of Sir Richard Lane himself (no luck so far) I was thrilled to find one of them was clearly that of Sir Richard Lane’s son!

Early life

Richard Lane (Jr) was the second born and heir to Sir Richard Lane.  Like all the children of Sir Richard and his wife Margaret, Richard the son was baptized at All Saints Church in the center of Northampton, England.  I have been unable to find the marriage record of his parents, but it seems clear by the year 1615 the young couple had settled in the town of Northampton, in the county of Northamptonshire (about 65 miles North of London).

At the time Richard Lane the younger was born in 1616, his father was a young lawyer, already splitting his time working between Northampton (as a deputy Recorder) and Middle Temple where he had been “called to the bar” only a few years before. His older sister, Elizabeth was only a year old.

The Tmeline I’ve Built of Richard and Margaret Lane’s Children

This seems to have been the state of things for most of Richard the son’s youth. Subsequent bothers and sisters were all baptized at the same church in the very center of Northampton.  The Lane children would all grow up within a few miles of the where their parents did – in the adjacent villages of Harpole and Courteenhall.  Many of their Aunts and Uncles lived nearby, several with their own young families and cousins of various ages. When his career blossomed, Richard and Margaret would eventually buy the “Lane Mansion” in Kingsthorpe – another small village snuggled on the periphery of the town of Northampton.


It is difficult for me to imagine what it must have been like for the 14 year old Richard Lane (younger) to have already seen half his bothers and sisters buried… This reality of the middle ages is shocking to moderners (myself included), who have much smaller families in unspoken confidence that all of their children will survive them.

Historical drawing of the All Saints Church at the center of Northampton, England

Education and Early Career in Law

At age 18, Richard Lane the younger followed his father to London and the Middle Temple Inn to study law.  He was admitted there in 1633, and was “called to the bar” 8 years later, in 1641.  I smiled at this, knowing that if this had been my own son, he would have taunted me without mercy about how he’d managed to reach that milestone two years sooner than his father!

The records I found providing these details (see below) came from a very important resource: the “Middle Temple Records – Minutes of Parliament”, volume 2 (1603-1650), published in 1904. The first record is his admittance to Middle Temple as a student (who must be “bound” to two current members who are willing to vouch that he will pay his debts to Middle Temple – and who must pay them in his stead should he default).  The second record is his “call to the utter (ie outer) bar”.  This means that he had achieved standing to be heard in court as a junior lawyer

As part of a Google project, a vast number of historic books have been digitally scanned (imaged) and processed with automatic character recognition software.  This process yields translated text mapped to the printed text of each book. These books are then published on the open internet along with a search engine.

And so, with judicious choices of search terms, I can scan an entire book (as I did with “Middle Temple Records”), quickly hopping my way through the occurrences of those search terms.  In this way, in only an hour or two, I can work my way through a comprehensive search of a rather large historic book containing many such references.  For other purposes, I can quickly confirm that no such references exist in books I would otherwise be obliged to read in their entirety to make the same confirmation.  My esteemed predecessors in historical research would be startled by (and envious of) this modern capability…it is a primary reason I can make such meaningful progress researching detailed aspects of English history from a desk at the foot of the American Rocky Mountains!

Unlike his father, very few references to Richard Lane the younger appear in the records of Middle Temple – I’ve found none beyond these two.  But this may make some sense. Most of the further mentions of his father in the records of Middle Temple occur years after Richard (the father) was called to the bar – after he became more senior and was fined for being absent from various important events, or was mentioned being moved to the chambers befitting a Master of the Bench, etc..

But now let’s consider the larger picture for a moment – the younger Lane was called to the bar in 1641. This was the same year the fateful Trial of Strafford pulled his father into the power struggle between the King and Parliament.  This struggle was already escalating, and would become the open warfare of the English Civil war the following year.

Onset of the English Civil War

It must have been clear to Richard Lane (the father) that the struggle was not going well for King Charles I. In fact within a year, the King would move his court from London to Oxford to escape his emboldened parliamentary enemies in London.  At that time, the king would order the members of his court to join him in Oxford, and many essentially decided to “retire” rather than take sides in an uncertain struggle.  Many must have had thoughts paralleling a maxim I can take no credit for, but enjoy using at times, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!”

So, Richard Lane (the father) must have known his decision to maintain his loyalty to the embattled crown and join his King in Oxford could cost him dearly.  I have found no evidence indicating his son followed him there – which may have been intentional on Sir Richard’s part. Keeping him out of the fray may have been the best  Sir Richard could do to protect his only son from the gathering storm.

Supporting this possibility is the next shred of evidence in the life of Richard Lane the younger.  And with that shred, a minor mystery: a contemporary of Sir Richard Lane was a somewhat younger lawyer of Middle Temple named Bulstrode Whitelocke.  The two men had been close friends, and it was reported that when Richard Lane (the father) heeded the King’s call to Oxford in 1642, he left his chamber and property at Middle Temple in the care of Mr. Whitelocke. As you can see in the passage below, Bulstrode Whitelocke at one time gave a receipt for Richard Lane’s goods in his possession. But, when Richard Lane’s son asked for those same goods, Bulstrode denied ever having known him!


I honestly don’t know which is wrong (or a lie).  Did Bulstrode Whitelocke really deny that he knew a senior bencher from his own Inn – a man he had essentially opposed when Bulstrode was a trial manager for the prosecution of Strafford – and Richard Lane (the father) was the lead counsel for the accused?  In fact, Bulstrode was a student at Middle Temple the year Richard Lane (the father) was a Reader – and was almost certainly in the audience for that reading!

There seems general evidence that Bulstrode Whitelocke was an opportunist. The following year, Parliament would order Middle Temple to give Richard Lane’s chambers and all of his goods to Bulstrode (who was a supporter of the parliamentary cause). This was very unusual, and was done in response to a petition of  Whitelocke to Parliament requesting so. The chambers were those of a senior Bencher (faculty), and Middle Temple records show that steps had to be taken to ensure the privileges and access that normally accompanied such chambers were not automatically conferred to Mr. Whitelocke.  But this was the time of the victory of the parliament, and Bulstrode rode the parliamentary wave to senior positions In Middle Temple and Parliament during the Commonwealth.

When the political climate completely reversed with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Bulstrode Whitelocke must have been terrified!  But, with mitigating words from his royalist friend from Middle Temple Edward Hyde (aka Lord Clarendon, who had a house on the grounds of the Elizabeth Castle in Jersey) Bulstrode managed to escape serious sanction by paying a significant fine and retiring to live in the countryside.

Note: The descendants of Bulstrode Whitelocke have challenged the account Bulstrode denied knowledge of Sir Richard Lane, but that account was made at the time by a contemporary, so I find it credible.

There is something I am still considering: since his son was at Middle Temple as late as 1641, I wonder why Richard Lane (the father) didn’t put his chambers and effects in the care of his son instead of Bulstrode Whitelocke?  Was it because his son was no longer in London?  It may not have been safe to remain there.  Its notable that at this same time, one of Sir Richard Lane’s nephews (by his sister, Dorothy), Henry Randolph, departed for the newly established colonies in America. Certainly, the unfolding chaos in London would have made almost anywhere else a more attractive place to be for the family of a known royalist.

Probable Life in Exile and Service to King Charles II

After the attempt by Richard Lane’s son to recover his father’s books from Bulstrode Whitelocke, I find no mention of him until his father’s deathbed request of King Charles II while all were in exile wintering in Jersey nine years later (in 1649-50).  Sir Richard Lane’s last recorded act was a request that King Charles II make his son a Groom of the Royal Bedchamber (an officer in charge of managing the personal servants of the king’s chambers – a much sought post for the significant access to the king, and the influence that access yielded).  In the same account, it was noted that King Charles granted this request.  Since there are records showing the new Groom was paid at intervals and was reported to have been with the new King the following year in the Battle of Worchester, the son might have also been living in exile with his father during the visit to Jersey, and if so, that he immediately began that service to King Charles II.

It is possible father and son departed England together sometime after the surrender of Oxford.   The terms of the surrender of the king’s forces (negotiated by Sir Richard Lane) gave each man of the king’s court 6 months to “make their peace” with Parliament if they could, and if not, to safely leave the country.  Perhaps the attempt by Richard Lane the younger to retrieve his Father’s belongings from Middle Temple occurred after this grace period – or even during it if Sir Richard could not safely return to London to retrieve them himself.  Among his personal library in Middle Temple likely were the notebooks containing the court reports he wrote while a young law student forty years before.  These “manuscripts” would make their way into posthumous publication in 1657 as “Lane’s Reports” – the first published case law reports from the Exchequer Courts of England.

So, in 1650 the long career of Richard Lane (the younger) as a Groom of the Bedchamber to Charles II had begun.  Of the twelve Grooms kept by Charles II, Richard Lane and one other man are the only ones to serve King Charles II during the entirety of his reign: in exile (following the execution of Charles I in 1649) until the restoration of the crown in 1660, and on the throne of England until the monarch’s death in 1685.  One of England’s most popular monarchs, the reign of Charles II would be tested by the Great Plague of London (1665) which killed 7,000 Londoners a week,  and the Great Fire of London (1666) which ravaged historic London, barely sparing most of Middle Temple.

Following the restoration of 1660, Lord Keeper Richard Lane’s loyalty to the crown was finally vindicated, and the Lane family mansion in Kingsthorpe (which had been confiscated by Parliament during the Commonwealth) was restored to his widow, Margaret.  She would live there until her death in 1669. During this time, their only living son would have been resident in Whitehall as part of the household of King Charles II.

Discovery of the Will of Richard Lane the Younger

The story has now led us back to the set of documents I found in the national archive while looking for the will of Lord Keeper Richard Lane.  The following image is of the Last Will and Testament of Richard Lane (the younger) given in 1685.

The 1685 Will of Richard Lane (Jr), Groom to King Charles II

Bear in mind that Richard Lane (the younger) was a lawyer in his own right, and it is written in the same hand that signed it.  As you can see from his signature (which appears to the left of the opening line of the document – as was apparently how it was done back then), his handwriting was beautiful…  Its interesting that he seems to have signed his name “Richi Lane”, although he uses his full, formal name in the document.

The signature of Sir Richard Lane’s Son, Richard

I have transcribed this will and it includes a number of very interesting elements.  The first is the opening line where the will’s author identifies himself and the date the will was made.

“This is the last will and testament of Mr. Richard Lane Esq. of White Hall…”

Teaser – look to the next article about the significance of other statements in this part of his will and the career of Richard Lane the younger in the service of King Charles II.  Don’t miss it!!

The author then testifies about his hopes for his salvation:

“I recommend and resign up my soule into the hands of Almighty God my Creator hoping for salvation through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ my Lord and only Saviour and my body I commit to the Earth.”

Further down, he deals with his earthly possessions, first naming his executrix: his “dearest sister” Penelope Lane (Sir Richard Lane’s sixth born, of whom no marriage record has been found).  Since Richard the younger refers to her by her maiden name, it can be assumed that she never married.

“… and as concerning that worldly estate which I shall leave behind me I hereby dispose of the same as follows. ______ I give and bequeath to my dearest sister Ms Penelope Lane (whom I make and appoint my full and sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament) all and singular my goods chattells plate money household stuff and all other personall estate whatsoever…”

And then he goes on to others, starting with the children of his sister Bridgett Cooke.  Bridgett Cooke was Sir Richard Lane’s seventh born. Bridgett married twice – first to Thomas West (who died a few years later) and then Francis Cooke (who lived until 1704).  Although the Cookes did not have any children, Bridgett had two children from her first marriage to Thomas West.  These children, Richard and Elizabeth must have both been still living when this will was written in 1685.  Bridgett died at age 41 for unknown reasons and is buried in the same church in Kingthorpe as her mother, Lady Margaret Lane.

I am unsure whether the “good brother in law” mentioned is Bridgett’s widower, Francis Cooke.  The name written is not legible, but does not seem to say “Cooke” (and that last name appears clearly next to Bridgett’s).  I wonder whether this person might have been a widower to either Sarah or Frances Lane (Sir Richard Lane’s tenth and eleventh born children)? Marriage records are not in evidence for either of them.  On this point, I simply don’t know.

“Herein after that is to say as follows. ___ I give and bequeath to the ___ of the children of my sister Mrs Bridgett Cooke the sum of one hundred pounds ___ of lawfull money of England. _____ I give and bequeath to my good brother in law Francis _____ the sum of fifty pounds ___ of lawfull money of England and I do appoint that he shall have besides mourning given him by my said Executrix.”

The will then continues as Richard the younger provides for his two servants – quite well.  Per the analysis of relative value I provided in the “Pound of Silver” article, this £100 had about the same financial impact as roughly $275,000 would have today.

“I give and bequeath to my servant William _______ the sume of one hundred pounds of lawfull money of England. And to my servant ____ Tudour I give and bequeath the sume of fifty pounds of ___ lawfull money of England, and I do hereby appointe that the said William ____ and _____ Tudour shall have mourning given them my by Executrix abovenamed.”


“Plate Money” as mentioned in Richard Lane the younger’s will. This was Swedish copper plate “dalers”, which was of a value more useful in practical transactions (vs silver, which was of treasury value, and less useful for normal use).


What is not present in the will is any mention of a wife or children of his own.  It is possible he married, but never had children, but it is also possible that he never married. After all, the job of Groom of the Royal Bedchamber was a demanding role that may not have been conducive to having a family.  By the time this will was written (in 1685) Richard Lane the younger was 74 years old and had served as King Charles II’s Groom for 35 years.  I have not yet found any record of his death.

This will was a major find, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  It clearly indicates his sister Penelope was still alive and had never married.  The will indicates that Richard the younger was relatively well off in his old age, but had no heir of his own.  And it provides evidence of loving relationships in the family of Lord Keeper Richard Lane at the end of their lives…all written in the very personal penstrokes of Sir Richard Lane’s son.

While I am in London this Spring, I will definitely be visiting the National Archives to photograph this document.


Your comments and corrections are gladly welcomed.  I admire great writing, but have little choice but to approach this task as one of grinding a workable edge onto a rough blade – with my thanks for your generosity of spirit and firm critique in the meantime! 

-Greg Sherwood

5 thoughts on “The Dramatic Life of Sir Richard Lane’s Eldest (and Only Surviving) Son”

    1. Yes, I agree the first name really does look like Francis, doesn’t it? At first I thought this was Bridgett’s husband, Francis Cooke, but the last name written there does not agree at all with the “Cooke” written on the line above it. So, it appears this was a husband of one of his other sisters, perhaps another who had died by this time. Also, the bit following the last name appears to be Esq (esquire) which indicated a man who was an eldest son of nobility or a knight, or who held an office of trust. Let me search the will for examples of a capital “H” and other letters to see if “Harvey” bears out! Thanks!


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