Welcome to the latest twist in a story more likely to sprout new heads than a hydra! My research has often led me through accounts of Richard Lane which are sprinkled with comments that he came from a family of little wealth, but a good name. Little wealth I understand, but what was meant by a good name? Until now, I’ve spent most of my genealogy efforts directed toward his descendants, and little into his parentage. I should have known I would find something surprising when I did! Although the Lane family is itself an old and distinguished family in its own right, the truly impressive link didn’t come about through his father, but through Richard Lane’s mother, Elizabeth (Vincent) Lane…
When you go poking about in someone’s ancestry, you don’t really expect that “a good name” would mean a lineage to royalty – but it would be fun if it did! Having discovered a line to royalty, you smile, but it would be too much to expect it to lead directly to a king. And once you realize you’ve actually found your way to a king, you simply wouldn’t expect it to turn out to be one of England’s greatest. Would you?
But, that would be some other, less interesting story, because Elizabeth (Vincent) Lane’s ancestor 300 years earlier turns out to be none other than the middle 1300s Edward III, King of Scotland and England!
The Northampton “Visitations” and Sir Richard Lane’s Family of Origin
The 1887 book “The Visitations of Northamptonshire” captures the contents of two sets of historic manuscripts of the familial records of “important” families living in the vicinity of Northamptonshire (which lies about 65 miles north of London). These “visitations” (surveys) took place in 1564 and again in 1618-19. I don’t know why these two visitations were done. They don’t seem to have been done at other times, or in other places. By blind luck, they are both immensely useful to me!
The records in these books are authoritative (but static) genealogy snapshots, capturing the state of those families at the time of the visitation. When utilizing them, I had to remind myself that they would not include any subsequent children or marriages, nor did they seem to include children who had died while young.
Interestingly, I was not able to find Richard Lane’s Father (also Richard) mentioned in the Lane families in the 1564 visitation, though he was 20 years old at the time. Looking further, an explanation seems evident: his father, Sir Francis Lane lived in Straffordshire, which is about 50 miles to the northwest of Northamptonshire. Young Richard Lane (Sr) must have moved to the Northampton area after the 1564 visitation took place.
As illustrated in the timeline above, Richard Lane (Sr) was barely 20 years old in 1564. Sometime in the next few years he would become involved with Elizabeth Vincent of Harpole (a town which lies on the western edge of Northampton). They would be married in 1570 (when he was 26). It appears that the couple initially lived in Harpole, as their children were baptized there as late as 1587 (including 1584, the year they baptized their second child and eldest son, Richard – the future Lord Keeper). The rest of their children were all baptized in Courteenhall, beginning in 1589.
The 13-year gap between their marriage and the birth of their first child is a bit of a puzzle to me. They did not start having children until Elizabeth was in her late 30s, but then continued having children regularly until her death in her mid 50s. Since we now know what causes children, and they were clearly capable of having them, why the gap? Were they separated early in their marriage? Is the accepted date of their marriage incorrect? Or were they living elsewhere? I wondered whether they could have had other children who were not baptized in the church at Courteenhall. This hypothesis is not supported by the visitation record of 1618-19 though. The Lane record for the second visitation does not include any children other than those appearing in the baptismal records of the church in Courteenhall. Assuming the second visitation record is correct (and complete), it also indicates that their daughters Bridget and Eliza had not survived to the time of the second visitation.
If the date of Elizabeth’s death is correct, their eldest (Richard) was only 17 when Elizabeth (Vincent) Lane died at age 54 – following the birth of their two youngest (possibly twin girls) the year before. It must have been quite a challenge for Richard Lane’s father, left with a household full of children, including two toddlers…
So, why the senior Lanes did not begin having children until their late 30s will remain a question for the time being. Richard (Sr) and Elizabeth Lane are buried together in the north aisle of the Courteenhall Parish Church.
Interestingly, I noticed that the arms claimed by Richard Lane’s father in the 1618-19 visitation record for “Lane of Northampton” (and the arms which appear on Richard Lane’s Plaque in Middle Temple Hall) are those also claimed by the Lanes “of Kettering” in that same visitation. However, these are not the arms of Richard Lane’s own grandfather, Francis Lane of Stratfordshire. So, why did Richard Lane (Sr) claim the arms of relatives over the arms of his own father? Perhaps Richard Lane (Sr) moved to Courteenhall as a result of some sort of dispute with his father…
Sir Richard Lane’s Maternal Genealogy
Turning to Elizabeth’s side of the family tree, things quickly get very interesting! As you can see in the figure below, I found the 1564 Visitation also included the Tanfields of Gayton – the family of origin of Elizabeth Vincent. Going up that family tree from Elizabeth, the Vincents were preceded by the Tanfields, and before them the Nevilles. As shown, as you continue tracing this line backwards, you quickly reach John of Gaunt, the 1st Duke of Lancaster and son of King Edward III of England. Quite a lineage indeed!
King Edward III was an interesting fellow and a very popular king. He reigned in the mid-1300s and is considered the last of the medieval kings. Inspired by the legendary “Knights of the Round Table”, Edward III created the “Noble Order of the Garter” – an honorary order always headed by the ruling monarch, whose “Companions of the Garter” are appointed only by the monarch and limited to a total of 24 members.
Membership in the Order of the Garter is one of the highest honors in England, and entitles the honored to wear a striking dark blue mantle (robe) with the emblem of the order on the left shoulder. In the mosaic below is a 1300s painting of Edward III as the first member of this order, along with a picture of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II–both wearing this mantle and emblem.
It was during the reign of Edward III the “Black Death” ravaged Europe and England, wiping out a third of the population – 75 million people in Europe alone (and another 125 million in Asia). But Edward III is most prominently credited with restoring the authority of the monarchy following the disastrous reign of his father (Edward II), and was regarded as a great militarist. Making a claim to the French throne, he began the Hundred Years War and captured a significant portion of France.
Edward III’s eldest son, Edward the “Black Prince” was the heir apparent, but he died before Edward III, leaving the Black Prince’s young son Richard to inherit the throne as Richard II.
Although not heir to the throne, the Prince John of Gault often managed the country while his father was away leading military campaigns in France. He was later given a military campaign of his own when Edward III grew older and returned to England. However, this campaign failed as France’s strength returned and England’s early dominance in the Hundred Years War faded.
When I return to England this Spring, I plan to visit the Courteenhall church so I can see the tomb of Richard Lane’s parents. Likewise, I plan to visit St. John the Baptist church in Kingsthorpe Northampton, to learn what I can of the tomb of Lady Margaret Lane (currently covered in carpet, unfortunately) within that church. Of course, I will see what I can at the All Saints church in Northampton where many of their children are buried. Finally, I will round out my tour of the tombs of Sir Richard Lane’s family by visiting the final resting place of his ancestor, King Edward III in Westminster Abbey.
If I were making this story up (vs uncovering historical fact), I would be accused of over-doing it…
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!