A Few Bold Predictions!

I’ve done about all I can to be ready.  It’s been four months of steady preparation, with the last month feeling a lot like a cattle drive! I have requested several dozen 400-year-old documents for viewing in five different archives, have planned stops at around a dozen historic sites (including 4 churches), have arranged around a dozen appointments, will be giving three presentations and have arranged three happy hours / mixers.  Now, it’s time to finish packing, relax, and settle into the reality that not everything is going to go my way.

But there are some very interesting possibilities twinkling on the other side of that long plane ride!   This  seems like a good time to go on the record with a few predictions that just might work out…

The Marriage License of Richard Lane and Margaret Walker


I have been unable to find a record of the marriage of Richard Lane and Margaret Walker anywhere.  However, I do have a fun theory about why not.  If I am proven right, it would be a major history sleuthing coup!

Here it is: among a field of men named Richard Lane who got married in the first half of the 1600s in London and Northampton, I found none who married a woman named Margaret Walker (whom other records confirm was Lord Keeper Richard Lane’s wife).  I’ve even found records that Richard Lane vouched for two of Margaret’s brothers (sibling sons of the same father, Clement Walker of Westminster) who later also studied at Middle Temple.

But there was one record that caught my eye – a 1608 record of a man named Richard Lane marrying a woman named Anne Bonnom.  Why, you ask?  Well, because this Richard Lane was from St. Dunstan’s West, which turns out to be a church adjacent to Middle Temple – a likely place for a Temple “undergraduate” of law to live – especially one who wasn’t yet allowed to live within Middle Temple.  Hold a moment while I check that…yes – it works: Richard Lane was “bound to” (admitted to live in) a chamber in Middle Temple on June 17, 1608.  This was two months after the date this romantically inclined Richard Lane was documented as living in the nearby St. Dunstan’s West.

So what about his wife Margaret?  If this former bachelor was indeed the man who would become Lord Keeper Lane, I can’t imagine young Margaret would have been too excited about the situation had her young beau just married some other woman!  So, I thought I’d look into the “other woman” to see if perhaps Margaret might have gone by a different name (spoiler alert – that didn’t happen).  What I found was truly intriguing!

Excerpt of marriage licenses for Westminster 1608

It turns out (by looking at other genealogy records), there was indeed a woman named Anne who got a new name that day, at that church – by marrying a man named William Bonham.  Her maiden name was Anne Babbington, and so far as I can find, she never married anyone else.

And now we get to my theory!

I believe the person who was transcribing the marriage records of this church had worked their way down to April 27, 1608 and suddenly sneezed (Ok, it could have been a hiccup, or perhaps even a bad cough).  But when this person attempted to resume translating the  280-year-old handwritten ledger entry of the marriage of Richard Lane and Margaret Walker, they accidentally began reading the second part of that record from the next line down – which contained the entry for the wedding of William Bonham and Anne Babbington. The translator probably couldn’t read her last name because they had just sneezed on it, obscuring the entry and causing the translator (in a moment of surname dyslexia) to substitute the similarly structured last name of Anne’s husband (Babbington -> Bonham), which appeared just to the left of the now bespoiled record of Anne’s real maiden name.  

Who says history can’t be fun?  If I turn out to have nailed that prediction, somebody, somewhere owes me a small gold trophy topped with a miniature of Sherlock Holmes’ hat!

The Norris Monument in Westminster Abbey

I hope to obtain a present for the Société Jersiaise while I am in London.  The oldest burial at the Town Church of St. Helier is that of a young man named Maximillien Norreys, who died in 1591.  His tombstone (originally in the floor of the church) was Jersey diarist Jean Chevalier’s favorite reference marker for middle 1600s burials within the church (including that of Sir Richard Lane).  Today, Maximilian’s tombstone is impressively displayed on the wall of that church , but without any supporting information – which makes it difficult to comprehend, since it is inscribed in Latin and ‘apostrophus’ roman numerals!  I hope to be able to provide:

  • photographs of the massive and mysterious Norris Family Monument in Westminster Abbey (which is normally cordoned off from the public).  We have been generously given special permission to inspect and photograph this massive monument before hours.
  • Photographs of the life-sized marble effigy of Maximillien kneeling in armor that is part of that monument, so visitors in Jersey can know what he looked like.
  • a photograph of the letter from his older brother, Sir John Norris, reporting Maximillien’s death in battle in France in 1591. I have no idea of the specifics of what’s written in this letter.

Analysis of the Trial of Strafford Painting

Circa 1844 painting of “The Trial of Strafford” by Thomas Woolnoth, now part of the Parliamentary Art Collection.

Probably the most significant single outcome of this trip will be the review of my analysis of the “Trail of Strafford” painting at Westminster.  How many of the points below will be proved out?

  • I believe I have identified as many as an additional 20 (previously unidentified) specific historical  individuals in that painting.
  • I believe I have found a portrait of one person of whom it had been said no portrait exists.
  • I believe I have reason to reconsider two of the currently identified individuals in that painting. I believe they are there, but appear further back in the scene.
  • Although I haven’t found a portrait of the artist, I believe I found where he painted himself into the scene.
  • I believe I have a strong case that Richard Lane is depicted in the scene.  Moreover, I believe the backstory of the defense’s doomed struggle to free Lord Strafford has been intentionally depicted in the scene.
  • I believe there is at least one other backstory painted into the scene (which I don’t yet fully understand).

Richard Lane’s “Deathbed Letters”

The hospital at the Elizabeth Castle, the site of which may have been where Richard Lane spent his last days, and wrote his last letter.

There are three “deathbed letters” of Richard Lane I’ve heard of in various references during the last few years.  One of these letters is supposed to include Sir Richard Lane’s request to King Charles II that he make Richard Lane’s son a Groom of the Bedchamber (an important and trusted officer in the royal household).  It appears I have finally located these letters (with help from the staff at the National Archives in London) in a subsection of the Papers of State.

  • These would not only be dramatic letters to find, but two of them would be in Richard Lane’s own hand, and may even include a signature!  To find writing in Richard Lane’s hand would fulfill one of my minor objectives of my quest.  To find those particular, very poignant letters would be especially dramatic!

A near miss avoided

There is a wonderful backstory about the search for these letters. I submitted a request to the National Archives, and got a reply with the document numbers. I found out they are part of a collection (think of a very old box stacked full of documents sitting on a shelf of great distance, lined with similar boxes and you have the right idea).

Then, I got a second email from a man who is an specialist there on “early modern” documents in the archive. He noticed my request, and took the extra step to check the quality of the microfilm of these documents.  Finding they were of poor quality, he took the unusual step of authorizing the originals to be brought out of “Deepstore” for me!  So, when I get to the last leg of my trip, it appears I will be holding the actual pages upon which Sir Richard Lane wrote his final letters nearly 400 years ago.  I am so grateful for Dr. Johnson’s foresight and thoughtfulness on my behalf, and the trust I am being shown to handle such irreplaceable artifacts.

The Research Papers of Oxford’s Professor Gordon Hall

One of my more ambitious goals is to settle a question contended in the 1953 paper of Professor Hall (a fellow of Law from Oxford, and President of Corpus Christi College from 1969-1975) that the lost manuscripts behind “Lane’s Reports” may not have actually been Richard Lane’s.  One of the greatest opportunities of this trip is the chance to review Professor Hall’s files (which were donated to Oxford after his death).  The possibilities from this investigation would be:

  • In Professor Hall’s notes, I believe I may find photographs of the sets of original manuscripts he analyzed in his search for the manuscripts behind Lane’s Reports. If I do find such photographs, it might be possible to do a forensic analysis comparing the handwriting in those manuscripts to that of Richard Lane’s letters.  If there is no match, it doesn’t mean anything one way or another, but if I do find a match, it would go a very long way towards settling the question, and linking those manuscripts to Richard Lane!  To learn from the work of such an eminent scholar is a privilege.  The possibility of extending that research (should I discover internet-era tools enable me to) would be an honor.
  • Of course, you never know what else you will find in the files of an historian who spent so much effort delving into the history of “Lane’s Reports”.  I am beyond grateful for the archives office at Corpus Christi College Oxford for allowing access to these files.  I suspect that they are smiling to themselves as they wonder whether I have any idea what I’ve gotten myself into – I am picturing a long table with a stack of at least 10 boxes of files to go through!

The original account of Richard Lane’s Betrayal by Bulstrode Whitelock


Another one of the small mysteries around Richard Lane is what became of his library and notebooks (some of which were published in “Lane’s Reports”).  I have already uncovered records confirming the story that Bulstrode Whitelock, a friend and junior colleague of Richard Lane’s, was entrusted with Richard Lane’s chambers and goods at Middle Temple when he left for Oxford to serve the King in the civil war.  It was reported that when Richard Lane’s son later came to retrieve those goods (while Mr. Whitelocke was “in his greatness” having supported the victorious parliamentary side of that conflict) it was reported that Bulstrode “denied ever having known such a man”.

This would have been a spectacular lie, of course, since the two men were not only former colleagues within Middle Temple, they had been involved in several legal events together.  Furthermore, Bulstrode had (by then) taken over Richard Lane’s chambers ( I have proof)!  I have even found a record of a receipt he wrote for Richard Lane’s books in that chamber, which included mention of who they belonged to!  Of course, Bulstrode’s descendants have tried to discredit this account (for obvious reasons of impuned family honor).  I have tried to keep an open mind about it until I have more evidence.

  • I have found a copy of the exceedingly rare 1660s book “Mystery of the Good Old Cause” in which that account originally appeared. I intend to find and photograph that part of the book so I can understand the exact wording and any context around it to see if there is any cause to question its interpretation or validity. I predict I will find no reason to doubt the reports of this denial.
  • It is currently my theory that Bulstrode Whitelocke did keep Richard Lane’s library for himself, and through his publishing connections, realized the value of the cases in the book and had it published for his own profit.  He likely used Richard Lane’s name because it would sell better, and he could not claim to be the author since the cases reported occurred when Bulstrode was a child.
  • I will have to see if I can prove a business relationship between the 3 booksellers who procured the vaguely worded publication license for the book and Bulstrode Whitelocke…

A Singular Photo Book at Windsor Castle

Excerpt from the Catalogue of the 1866 National Portrait Exposition showing the entries for portraits #723 and #724.

When I was researching the 1866 first Special Exhibition of National Portraits, I found there are very few photographs of that exhibition, but I did find a record of the existence of one photo book of the event.  This album lives at the Royal Collection Trust, and is supposed to include at least one photograph of each bay (gallery room) where portraits were hung.  Bearing in mind that early photographs were not good by modern standards, I hope to find:

  • Photos showing how the portraits were presented, and perhaps evidence confirming my theories about the nature of the venue itself (a vast lot where the massive 1861 Exhibition Hall stood, with the Portrait Exhibition hosted in the last vestige of that building – its back “wall”).
  • A photograph that includes #724 : the lost portrait of Lord Keeper Richard Lane.
  • It would be interesting to see if that photograph also includes #723, which should have appeared to Richard Lane’s left.  I have found a photograph of portrait #723, which does not match the portrait described in the catalogue.  It will be interesting to see which was actually displayed there…

With that, it’s time to finish packing.  Wish me luck, and look for reports from the trip over the next couple of weeks!


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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