Passing of the Torch: The Service of Richard Lane the Younger to the King

My research into Richard Lane’s son has been far more successful than I dared hope.  What was to have been one article has become four, revealing a fascinating story of survival, drama and ultimate vindication of his exiled father, Sir Richard Lane.

The War of the Three Kingdoms

The mid-1600’s English Civil War (also known as the War of the Three Kingdoms) brought King Charles I to the executioner’s axe on January 30, 1649 – two and a half years after the defeat of his military forces and the exile of his son and heir to the throne.

Charles, Prince of Wales, was only 16 in the year the Civil War collapsed around the king at Oxford.  But the war was going no better for the young prince, who was leading a royalist force in Cornwall. Advised by a small council that included the prince and his guardian, Sir Edward Hyde, the royalist forces there were pushed ever backward down the length of the peninsula of Southwest England.  He ultimately was forced to take to the sea, retreating to the Isles of Scilly, some 20 miles out into the South Atlantic. But it would prove no haven.  Soon surrounded there by parliamentary ships, the prince was only able to escape parliament’s tightening net by fleeing unobserved into a storm. It was April, 1646.

The remains of the prince’s force had been reduced to three armed ships, packed with refugees.  Led by the Black Eagle, this small fleet made its way to the staunchly royalist outpost of Jersey, a channel island 10 miles off the French coast.  His guardian, Edward Hyde, had a house in the Elizabeth Castle there, and Hyde knew the loyalty of the people of Jersey.  The small island state was difficult for parliamentary ships to approach, as it lay on the far side of the English Channel, implicitly protected by the nearness of the French coast. It was a welcome respite for the prince and his battered entourage.

Back in Oxford there was no respite.  Around the time Prince Charles landed in Jersey, the king was forced to make a midnight escape from the nearly encircled Oxford – in disguise.  The king left his Lord Keeper, Sir Richard Lane to negotiate for terms of an honorable surrender of the castle and his remaining army of 5,000 if possible, or to lead the defense of Oxford if he must.

The man Sir Richard was negotiating with was General Fairfax, who did not wish to see Oxford destroyed in the coming siege.  After intense negotiations, the beaten royalists were allowed to leave with dignity.  The soldiers returned to their homes upon a pledge they would not raise arms again, and all received a pass granting them safe passage in England for 6 months.  During that time, the more senior of the royalists were allowed to “make their peace” with the parliamentary government if they could, or to leave England if they could not.

The only terms Sir Richard was unable to dissuade Fairfax of were quite personally important. Fairfax had been ordered to retrieve the king’s seal (and other symbols of state) and return them to parliament.  Despite negotiating with great resolve, Sir Richard, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, had to abandon his charge. It was left a chest in the library at Oxford with other seals and symbols of the king’s sovereignty as the king’s forces departed peacefully. The Great Seal was taken to London, where a blacksmith broke it into pieces in front of victorious parliament.  The fragments of the shattered seal were given out as souvenirs.

It was now late June.  King Charles I was in the custody of the Scots (who would turn him over to Parliament some months later).  Oxford had been surrendered. And the Prince of Wales departed Jersey to join his mother, Queen Henrietta Marie in exile.  The armed contest between the Monarchy of King Charles I and Parliament had come to a conclusion. Parliament had won.

The King a Prisoner, the Royal Court in Exile

And so, there must have been a steady sprinkling of exiled royalists arriving in France all through 1646 – a sprinkling that in the later months of the year included the staunch royalist Sir Richard Lane, Lord Keeper to Charles I.

Map of southern England and Jersey

Over the next several years, Parliament wrestled with the arrested King Charles I to accept a new power-sharing arrangement that would have significantly curtailed the powers of the Monarchy, but Charles I was steadfast. Finally, in exasperation, Parliament charged him with treason, and shocked the world by executing him in 1649.  The era of the Commonwealth of England had begun.

What would become of the young prince now trapped in exile?  Scotland and Jersey quickly declared him King of England, but his reality was that he and his court were living on the fading hospitality of an increasingly resentful monarchy in Paris. Making matters worse, his ongoing sanctuary there was increasingly a sticking point in diplomatic ventures between France and Parliamentary England.

Keep in mind that as a king in exile, he had no source of revenue of his own, and royal households are expensive to maintain. Its one thing for the French monarchy to provide refuge to relatives in trouble, but what to do with a court of approximately 300 “guests” who have already stayed for nearly 3 years?  I adore my family, but somewhere around two weeks into a visit, I’m ready to  look forward to seeing them again soon! And there was no end in sight – the new English Commonwealth was gathering strength and seemed to be governing successfully.  The French court had to be wondering what they would do if the monarchy of England was forever at an end…

After his father was executed, young King Charles II increasingly saw a military resolution as the only way to escape exile and to reclaim the kingdom he saw as his birthright.  So, in the Fall of 1649, he gathered his court, and his small fleet departed France for Jersey, on his way to negotiate with the Scots to take up the throne of Scotland. With his eye ever on England, he ultimately intended to use the Scottish army to retake England and to then re-unite the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.

All the time he was in France, King Charles II fondly remembered the hospitality he’d received from the loyalists of Jersey during his two month stay there three years before.  Returning there in September 1649, he would not be disappointed.  Under the leadership of George Cartaret, the island rallied to his support again, providing winter refuge and a chance to make arrangements to meet with representatives of Scotland in Brest, France.

The Death of Sir Richard Lane, and his Request on Behalf of his Son

Interestingly, the Jersey Diarist Jean Chevalier relates that “Milord Keeper” (Sir Richard Lane, whose patent as Lord Keeper had been renewed under Charles II) strongly opposed the king’s plan, apparently (and presciently) concerned that it would fail with disastrous result. But the 19-year-old king was set to his course, and in the Spring of 1650, King Charles II moved on from Jersey for Brest to pursue his ambition.

Around this time, Lord Keeper Lane fell ill, and seems to have stayed behind briefly, with plans to catch up to the king’s party in France when he recovered.  It is alluded that this is also when Sir Richard made the request of the new king to make his son, Richard, one of the king’s Grooms of the Royal Bedchamber. It might sound a bit silly to our ears, but  position Sir Richard had requested for his son was much sought after.  A Groom of the Royal Bedchamber was a officer of the king’s household, and often a confidante of the king in his personal life. It was a position of great influence. King Charles II granted this request.

Still ill, but determined to rejoin his king, Sir Richard Lane departed Jersey some days later, but did not make it far.  He became incapacitated, and was brought to a bed in St. Malo (France) until the Duke of York and Sir George Cartaret ordered him rescued, and brought back to the Elizabeth Castle in Jersey. Over the next few weeks, Sir Richard wasted away of bladder stones, died, and was buried with great honors in the floor of the Town Church of St. Helier.

In the chaos of the times, the burial was apparently not recorded in the church records, and the intended memorial over his tomb was forgotten.  Soon, an account of the funeral in the pages  of the local vingtenier’s diary (Jean Chevalier) was the only record of Sir Richard Lane’s passing.

Where was Richard Lane the Younger During the Exile of Charles II?

It has been an interesting question to me: was Richard Lane’s son with him in exile, or had he stayed behind in England? For a long while I considered it likely he was with his father in exile, but I had not found any evidence to corroborate that theory.  I now think otherwise (and have some evidence) – let me explain!

The important question I wrestled with is this: would the king would have agreed to take on someone in a role as intimate as a Groom of the Bedchamber whom he did not already know and trust?  I don’t think he would have, and its possible it would have been imprudent to even make the request without knowing the king was already familiar with the person being nominated.  Supposing this to be the case, how did the king become familiar with Richard Lane’s son?  Initially, the fact the request was granted set me to thinking that Richard the younger was living exile with his father.  But as I’ve thought more about it, I realized this didn’t have to be the case.

Going into an uncertain exile for his own loyalty to the crown, its easy to imagine Sir Richard Lane would have preferred his only surviving son stay in England to look after the family’s affairs in Northampton. I would have. But what would the king have known of the son if he were not also in exile?

I thought about whether they might have known each other, and realized that Sir Richard Lane was originally appointed the Attorney General for the Prince of Wales (not King Charles I).  Checking the year of this appointment, I realized this took place when the prince was only 5 years old.  So, by the time the young king was 19, Charles II had a relationship with Sir Richard Lane virtually all of his conscious life.  This would have left many opportunities in London for Sir Richard to introduce his own son to the prince – and for the maturing prince to interact with and witness the career of Richard the younger, who was only 15 years older than himself.  I think it can be argued that King Charles II was comfortable honoring Sir Richard’s request with the son in absentia  because he had grown up witnessing the character of both father and son. Of course, he also granted the request to acknowledge the loyalty and service of his father. Unlike his father (King Charles I had a reputation for a sense of gratitude that seldom outlived his needs) gratitude for loyalty was one of the many engaging traits of the popular King Charles II.

Richard Lane the Younger in England

The next account I have found of Richard Lane’s son places him in London when he attempted to obtain his father’s possessions in Middle Temple from a fellow Middle Templar, Bulstrode Whitelocke.  However, this account was not dated, and I had originally assumed it took place either while his father was in Oxford or during the “grace period” after the surrender of Oxford (and before Sir Richard went into exile).  Its interesting how often I find subtle clues the second or third time I read an account – as happened in this case!


The account of this attempt describes Bulstrode Whitelocke as an “intimate friend” of Sir Richard Lane, who had been entrusted with Sir Richard’s property in Middle Temple when he left to join King Charles I at Oxford (in 1642). In that undated account (given by 1600’s antiquarian Anthony Wood, based upon an account in an book published in 1660), Whitelocke is described as being “then in his greatness” at the time Richard Lane the younger attempted to retrieve his father’s property.

This is the interesting clue I overlooked in my earlier reads of this account, as it wouldn’t seem to be true any sooner than after the fall of Oxford (1646), and probably wouldn’t generally have seemed so until around 1647. It was that year Whitelocke became a Bencher at Middle Temple, and the Commissioner of the Great Seal for the Parliament.

Since the article indicates the attempt to retrieve his goods was made at the request of the father (apparently still alive), I have placed this event in the years 1647-1649, while his father was in exile in Paris. This makes sense – things had settled out, and it would have made sense for Sir Richard to write a letter to his son asking him to go to London to see if his library and notebooks there could be recovered.

As you know from my earlier article: The Dramatic Life of Sir Richard Lane’s Eldest (and Only Surviving) Son, when approached by the son, Whitelocke refused to admit that he even knew Sir Richard Lane (which he must have meant in a very deep, philosophical sense, since he had been living in Sir Richard’s chambers, and among his goods, since 1643).  And so, it was reported that to “the great loss” of Sir Richard Lane, Whitelocke turned the son away, keeping his property.

It must have been a strange day (a decade later), when Richard Lane the younger learned of the posthumous publication of cases from his father’s lost notebooks in the 1657 book, “Lane’s Reports”. If he was resentful, there was nothing he could have done about it.  The book was published at the very zenith of the Commonwealth, and the man who had kept his father’s library and notebooks had risen to stellar prominence in that government.

This author, standing in the Middle Temple Library in front of their collection of legal report volumes (many now ancient). I am holding a copy of the 1657 book known as “Lane’s Reports”, the oldest published book of cases from the Exchequer Court of England.

But, let those who eschew karma, or doubt that the bored fates delight in great ironies take note: those fortunes would soon undergo a startling reversal!  Three years later after the publication of that book (after the Restoration of 1660) Richard Lane the younger would find himself in his own “greatness”.  He was then a senior Groom to the newly restored King Charles II, while the heads of the leaders of the parliamentary rebellion adorned 20 foot spikes set above Westminster Hall.  And Bulstrode Whitelocke?  He had retired to a quiet life of writing in the country, very likely grateful his own head was not among them.

Possible Residence of Richard Lane the Younger after Middle Temple and Before the Restoration

One other piece of evidence I have found corroborates my belief that Richard Lane the younger stayed in England (specifically, near his hometowm of Northampton) is a 1658 “Indenture Feoffment” (a transfer of land ownership) I found. Since there was no address system then, the document identifies the property being transferred descriptively.  And in that document, the property is described as currently “…occupied by Richard Lane the Younger”.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of this document. Richard Lane is a very common name, and there are many Lanes in that part of the country.  I grabbed a snapshot of the record and stored it in a folder for later investigation.

Looking into it later, I discovered that the town (hamlet?) of Kislingbury sits on the southwest edge of Northampton.  Then, I did the legwork to work out what an “indenture feoffment” was, and looked at other examples to understand how these property conveyance documents  are generally structured.  I realized that “Mark Howse” was not the name of the property, but the name of one of the parties of the sale (ie a man named Mark, who had the odd last name of  “Howse”).  I then checked and learned that the word “messuage” was a french legal term meaning a house with outbuildings and a plot of land.  Reading the record again, I suddenly realized that Richard Lane was not a party to the transaction, but instead was mentioned only for the benefit of making it clear which property was being transferred – they were transferring ownership of the dwelling someone named Richard Lane happened to be living in (ie, it was a likely a “rental” property). Got it.


But it still could have been another Richard Lane.  As I read it one last time before filing it away as a dead end, it struck me that the description specifically refers to the occupant as Richard Lane the Younger.  And it clicked – making this distinction would have been necessary to avoid confusion in the town where Sir Richard Lane (the father) had raised his family and had long been the town Recorder (a senior judgeship) until 15 years before.  Checking the map, I realized this “messuage” was not in some remote corner of the region – it lay no more than two miles from the churchyard where Richard the younger’s surviving siblings lay buried, and from the confiscated Lane family mansion (then occupied by someone besides his widowed mother, Lady Margaret Lane)!

Certainty is a lofty objective in historical research, and not something I would claim to be iron clad in this case, but I believe the specificity of this wording and its location in his family’s hometown make it highly probable that the occupant this record refers to was  Sir Richard Lane’s only surviving son – living in Northampton in 1658.

Assuming Richard the younger returned to Northampton from London after being called to the bar at Middle Temple in the early 1640’s, he might have lived in the Lane family mansion with his mother, Lady Margaret Lane – at least until Parliament ordered that estate confiscated around 1643. At that time, he may have found this “messuage” and arranged to live there (and possibly, his mother with him).  If this was his home, he left it to join the king in Scotland in late 1650 and retured there (spoiler alert!) after he was released from capture by parliamentary forces following the Battle of Worchester.

When King Charles II was restored to the throne of England in 1660, Richard Lane the younger would have gone to London to resume his service to the King.  There, he would have taken up residence at the palace in Whitehall (which he claimed as his residence in his 1685 will, some 35 years later).

In the end, the courageous loyalty Sir Richard Lane showed during the darkest hours of the monarchy had been vindicated.  Not surprisingly, shortly after the Restoration, as his son took up his residence in the palace, the parliamentarian sympathizer living in the Lane family mansion in Northampton was evicted, and the Lane family home was returned to Lady Margaret Lane.


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

2 thoughts on “Passing of the Torch: The Service of Richard Lane the Younger to the King”

  1. Hey Greg…good read

    I did find one grammatical error though, it is in the second paragraph…

    “Soon surrounded there by parliamentary ships, the price was only able to escape”…price… should read…prince…correct?

    This would be a good documentary as it is a short story that you have written that is based on available facts.


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