Breaking News! I Have Proven the True Identity of King Charles II’s Groom Named “Richard Lane”!

In the first article on the career of Richard Lane’s son, we led up to King Charles II’s invasion of England to restore his throne, and how his new Groom, Richard Lane (the younger), likely joined him in Scotland around the time of his coronation there in January 1651.  Of course, the throne the young king really had his eye on was that of England.  And the Scottish army now under his command was his means to that end…

Richard Lane the Younger – Groom to King Charles II at Worchester in 1651

It is unclear exactly when Richard Lane the younger first entered into the service of King Charles II in the position his father had arranged. I contend it was in Scotland after Charles II landed there in mid-1650 and must have been no later than around the time of Charles II’s coronation as the King of Scotland in Scone, Scotland on January 1, 1651.

My rationale for this is that Richard Lane the younger must have been in service to the king long enough to have established himself as a useful, dependable and trusted member of the king’s staff well before the critical invasion later that year, or he would not have been taken along.  And he was definitely taken along!

Charles II’s Invasion of England and the Battle of Worchester

King Charles II, recently crowned King of Scotland, had finally gotten his chance to retake his father’s throne of England by force.  In July 1651 King Charles II and his newly acquired army began making their way through relatively light resistance into the heart of England.  However, the uprising among royalist sympathizers he hoped would swell his ranks failed to materialize. Finally, at Worchester (100 miles west of London), King Charles II’s army of 16,000 were engaged by a concentration of Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary “New Model” army of 28,000. After several days of skirmishes, the battle was joined in ernest on September 3.

As the battle played out, a bold royalist attack was forced to retreat. But this retreat quickly fell into disorder and then collapsed into a rout of King Charles’ Scottish army.  As the defense of Worchester crumpled, King Charles II was credited with bravely directing the city’s defense, riding openly between his regiments. But it was a lost cause–Cromwell’s army was better trained and outnumbered the royalist force significantly.  Soon, the king’s commanders realized the battle was lost, and their duty lay in delivering him from imminent capture.

And so, late in the day, the king, and what was left of his forces on horseback, raced through the northern gate of the city–the only gate not already controlled by the parliamentary forces.  This moment marked the beginning of the dramatic odyssey known in England as “the Royal Miracle” along “the Monarch’s Way”–a twisting, six-week, 615-mile evasion during which the king barely evaded capture numerous times before finally escaping back to exile in France. In style that would have made Hollywood proud, pursuing horsemen (following rumors of his presence) arrived at the docks of Shoreham only four hours after his ship had left for France.

This escape is one of the great legends of England, which I would characterize unfolded in four phases:

  1. the initial overnight flight north from Worchester on horseback,
  2. a week hiding and evading mostly on foot,
  3. a dramatic 3 day, 100+ mile journey to Bristol on horseback with Jane Lane while posing as her servant (this portion  of his escape is highlighted in red in the graphic below), and
  4. a month-long series of attempts to hire a ship out of England at three different ports (the last of these attempts was successful).
WorchesterEscapeGraphic
Annotated map showing the route taken by King Charles II in his escape after the Battle of Worchester

I love a good story–and few true stories are as dramatic and unlikely as the escape of King Charles II from the heart of parliamentary England. His enemies knew he was coming, and had quietly prepared their forces, while also disabling the capabilities of the royalist sympathizers the king’s plans depended upon. It was a trap of epic proportions, baited with the king’s own ambitions.  And he had walked straight into it.

If Hollywood had conjured up this story, we would be turned off by the sheer fantasy of its unlikely outcome.  But this story is true, and historians agree that it forever changed the young king’s perspective toward his people and his kingdom.  I can’t improve on the wonderful telling of this story  in the Wikipedia article, “Escape of Charles II.”

So here we will continue with the story yet untold–that of Richard Lane the younger, whose father’s arranged appointment to the king’s household placed him squarely in the middle of this spectacular drama.

Richard Lane, Groom of the Royal Bedchamber at Worchester

Richard Lane, Groom of the Bedchamber, is mentioned by name in two separate points in the accounts of Worchester (see passages below).  I have found no mention of any other specific groom in those accounts, and he is mentioned by name–twice.

Think about that.  I would argue it requires a certain prominence to be noted as an individual by those around the king in such epic accounts. Pay attention to the pedigrees of those who were also referred to by name (while the majority appear generally as counts of “others”). That he appears as a named character among clearly historical figures implies something about how he was perceived within that company. To be more clear: it implies both familiarity and respect. Let’s see if you agree…

The first account mentioning “Richard Lane” occurs about 10 miles north of Worchester, where a group of around 60 horsemen with the king had separated from the several hundred of the Scottish horse. This smaller group departed the main highway, knowing the larger group would inevitably draw the attention of the parliamentary forces in pursuit.  In this account, Richard Lane is among 12 named individuals of around 60 in that group.

WorchesterAccount_Memoirs-RLane-0
This first excerpt of the Boscobel Tracts describes the when a smaller party (including King Charles II) broke away from the main retreating force, leaving the main highway about 10 miles north of Worchester in the first major evasion of their flight.

That night, the group arrived at their destination: White Ladies Priory and the Boscobel House 30 miles north of Worchester. The king’s advisors determined that groups of horses could only draw attention, and the King’s only hope of evading capture lay in slipping out of the country undiscovered.  It was decided to put the young king on foot and into disguise, cutting his hair and changing his clothing for that of a commoner.

There was nothing they could do about his size: the king was 6’2″ in a world where a man who was 5″10″ was considered tall. He was so outsized they could not find commoner’s boots that would fit him, and had to cut open the largest they had available to admit the monarch’s feet in some fashion.  The resulting pain and injury to his feet was so bad the king would become, at times, unable to walk further, and would have to be encouraged to continue despite excruciating pain. Amusingly, his handlers also realized they also had to improvise a “crash course” in speaking and walking like a commoner!  King Charles II’s well-ingrained royal manners were now a potentially fatal liability.

And this is where Richard Lane the Groom parted ways with his royal master.  Realizing the king’s closest advisors had already slipped him away unannounced, the rest of the troop sought to join up with the main party of Scottish horse which they had separated from the day before.

The second, most specific mention of Richard Lane describes him riding Charles II’s “pad-nag” (an easy-riding horse for everyday riding) with this group as they departed northward from White Ladies Priory.

WorchesterAccount_Memoirs-RLane-1

Shortly after resuming their journey on the highway, they were overtaken by friendly horsemen with parliamentary horsemen in close pursuit.  Together, they turned and fought off the attackers before resuming their flight northward.

WorchesterAccount_Memoirs-RLane-2
This second excerpt of the Boscobel Tracts describes the capture that would likely have included King Charles II had he not had slipped away on foot and in disguise at the Boscobel House.

Ultimately, the royalist forces heading north on the highway past Newport were surrounded and taken prisoner.  Historical records tell that several were quickly brought to courts martial and executed.  But what happened to Richard Lane the younger? He clearly survived, but did he get away before the group was captured? I didn’t expect I would ever find out. 

You would think I would learn–his story seems to yearn to be told…

The fate of Richard Lane, Groom of the Bedchamber after Worchester

Having gotten what I thought I could from the 1852 book, the “Boscobel Tracts” (which is a collection of source documents about the “Royal Miracle”), I spent a few minutes casually perusing it, and stumbled onto a fascinating letter written by a soldier of the failed campaign. This soldier had been captured by the parliamentarians, and was being held prisoner at the Chester Castle when the letter was written.

BoscobelTractsBook
1857 “Boscobel Tracts”. This was a historic compilation of manuscripts regarding King Charles II’s escape after Worchester, which occurred more than 200 years before this historic book was published.

It was an interesting read, and I was casually enjoying it–wondering what it must have been like… The anonymous prisoner in the tracts told of his admiration for the courage of King Charles II in battle, and of the strict discipline the King had imposed on his army to prevent even the smallest act of theft or thuggery against the people.  Apparently the king’s orders were so strict, and so immutably enforced, that one man was shot for stealing apples from an orchard the troops were marching past.

As I read, I was utterly unprepared for any discovery–and nearly fell out of my chair when I reached the last two sentences of this rather long letter:

“…The Earl of Derby, Earl Lauderdale, Sir David Cunningham and Mr. Lane are prisoners here in the castle; and many others of quality are kept in private houses.  They have already condemned some; and what will become of us,  I yet know not.”

ChesterLetter
Title of the prisoner’s letter and the letter’s conclusion, taken from the 1857 Boscobel Tracts.

Unbelievable.  In a moment, I knew what had become of him!  Richard Lane the younger, the only surviving son of the late Lord Keeper Sir Richard Lane, and a Groom of the Royal Bedchamber to King Charles II…had been taken prisoner. He was being kept in the Castle Chester while the monarch he served was hiding in trees, and sleeping in haylofts while making his way Southward out of England.

Ultimately, many of the soldiers in Charles II’s Scottish army were conscripted into the New Model Army and sent to Ireland, while a number of the senior commanders were executed.  How the parliamentarians would have treated a captured member of the King’s household I can’t say. Nor can I say how or when his imprisonment ended, only that it did.  Richard Lane the younger survived the ordeal, and seems to have been living in Northampton seven years later.

The Conflicting Claims of Identity of Charles II’s Groom named “Richard Lane”

And now its time to discuss a historical “dispute.”  The escape of Charles II after Worchester is a favored tale in England, and has been studied and researched by many historians.  And those historians over the centuries have written books on the topic that are now historic in themselves (as we have already seen).  No part of the account is given more attention than the three-day ride of the King while disguised as the servant of Jane Lane, who was travelling there under a special pass obtained so she could care for a pregnant relative near Bristol.

For its part, parliament was hunting for the fugitive king with full vigor.  Roads and crossings were guarded. Troops were everywhere, searching houses.  And the stakes were high.  Wanted posters offered £1,000 (a moderate fortune) for his capture, and death for any caught harboring him (see the reward poster below).

Charles_II_Wanted_Poster_(original) - Copy
A “Wanted” poster offering £1,000 for the capture of the fugitive King, or promising death for anyone found concealing him

At one point in this adventure, the King (with Lady Jane riding behind him on the same horse), calmly rode through a stopped group of soldiers who were part of the search.  When the horse later threw a shoe, the disguised king held the horse’s foot while a blacksmith told how he wished they would catch “that rogue” king, whom he never guessed was helping him with his task!  In another instance, the king-turned-commoner was helping with meal preparations when a kitchen woman berated him for not knowing how to operate a “meat jack” (used to roast meat over a fire). The quick-witted king in disguise replied that where he was from, they rarely had meat to eat, and so he was unfamiliar with the equipment!

JaneLaneEscape
Painting Depicting King Charles II’s 1651 Escape in Disguise with Jane Lane after the Defeat at Worchester

In many of the historical books about the “Royal Miracle” an assertion has proliferated that Richard Lane (the king’s groom who rode with him from Worchester) was Jane Lane’s youngest brother, named (of course) Richard Lane.  From her biography in Wikipedia, here is a listing of Jane Lane’s siblings:

Known birth (and other) dates for Jane Lane’s siblings are:

  • Colonel John Lane—born April 8, 1609.
  • Walter Lane—born May 1611.
  • William Lane—baptised August 7, 1625.
  • Richard Lane—youngest son (became a Groom of the Bedchamber).
  • Withy Lane (married John Petre). Withy is stated in the book Flight of the King (Alan Fea, 1908, Methuen) as being the eldest daughter of the family.
  • Jane Lane
  • Anne Lane (married Edward Birch).
  • Mary Lane—born 1619 (married Edward Nicholas, Esq.)
  • Elizabeth Lane.

This assertion also appears in the family records of Jane Lane in the 1852 “Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain and Ireland”–one among many other records of the family of Jane Lane or of her dramatic story.

GeneoHeraldicDictGentry-Title
Title page of an important genealogical study published in 1852
GeneoHeraldicDictGentry-LaneLineage02
Except from the 1852 Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry.  This is the record for Thomas Lane, father of Jane Lane. Note the reference to her brother, declaring that he was a “Groom of the Bedchamber.”

These examples are only a sampling of many such similar references and retellings in existence. At first I didn’t know what to think.  Were the claims that the son of Sir Richard Lane of Northampton had been made Groom of the Bedchamber incorrect?  Perhaps.  There are certainly many more mentions of Jane Lane’s brother as the “Groom of the Bedchamber” in the historical record.

Checking the records of King Charles II’s Grooms of the Bedchamber, I found that the king kept 12 of them at a time.  I also noted that among them, Richard Lane and Robert Phillips were the only two to serve the king throughout his entire post-restoration reign.  So, there was an error in the history–only one of them had really been the Groom of Charles II.  But which was it?

Not knowing was annoying.  Did I want to believe it was Sir Richard’s son because it makes for a better story? Of course.  But I wanted to know the truth.  It nagged at me. But I know well the fog of history is often impenetrable, and this discrepancy might never be answered conclusively. And so, I set it aside.

Despite my resignation on the point, the mystery was apparently claustrophobic, and felt trapped in the confines of the dark and deepening file to which I had so recently relegated it…

Positive Proof that the Groom of the Bedchamber to King Charles II was the Son of Sir Richard Lane of Northampton!

You already know I recently found and (with my sister’s help) transcribed the 1685 will of Richard Lane (see my earlier article:  The Dramatic Life of Sir Richard Lane’s Eldest [and Only Surviving] Son).  In that article, I was able to authenticate that will as being that of Sir Richard Lane’s only surviving son.  But, I didn’t tell everything I had found!

As you recall,  I was able to distinctly correlate the executrix of the will and its beneficiaries to the sibling children of Sir Richard Lane, of Northampton.  This firmly establishes that this is the will of Richard Lane the younger–of Northampton.  And here’s the bonus: the image below is the declaration section of that will.  It is written in Richard Lane the younger’s hand, and his signature (not shown here) appears to the left of this section of the document.RLaneWill-GroomStatement

Transcribed, this section of the will reads:

“This is the last will and testament of Mr. Richard Lane Esq. of White Hall late one of the Grooms of his late Majestic King Charles the second his ___ made the sixteenth day of June in The first yeare of the Raign of our Sovereign Lord King James the second ____. Ini:1685: ” 

Wow.

This is about as conclusive as historical research gets.  This will is a public, legal document, written a few months after the death of King Charles II.  Richard Lane the younger, former Groom to King Charles II was 70-years old when he wrote it.  And that, as they say, is that!  If you find the reference to King James (II) strange, realize this is just another example of the use of “Regnal Dating” in legal documents (as described in an earlier article).

Witnesses to the Emergence of a New World

Father and son had both been swept into the center of some of the most dramatic scenes imaginable: historic trials, a siege, exile, powerlessness in the face of betrayal, capture after desperate battle, and ultimate vindication of the father’s loyalty to a lost cause.  And with his new king, Richard Lane the Younger would be part of the closing chapter of the historic monarchial rule. His master’s reign would include its own cataclysmic dramas, including the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London a year later.

Assuming he survived the death of his royal master by only a few more years, Richard Lane the Younger would have also witnessed the brief reign of Charles II’s younger bother, James II (referred to as the Duke of York when he escorted the casket of Sir Richard Lane during the funeral procession in Jersey in 1650).  King James II was only on the throne a few years before he was deposed by threat of force in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.

This historic and bloodless coup was accomplished by James II’s daughter (Mary) and her husband William III together with Parliament.  That alliance brought England to a distinctly different approach in its government. This new, long-enduring arrangement ended the chaotic royal ascendancies that led to the English Civil War, and seems best reflected in the English Bill of Rights of 1689.

This Bill of Rights codified the newly rebalanced rights of parliament, the monarchy, and the English people.  It accomplished for England much of what would be embodied in the American Constitution and our own Bill of Rights almost exactly 100 years later.

——

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

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