Jean Chevalier’s Diary – An Amazing (and largely unknown) Historical Document!

Have you ever spent a moment thinking about the word “journalist”? Because of modern media, we think of a journalist as someone who reports on news for the public media.  But in mid 1600s, a local Jersey man named Jean Chevalier was a journalist in the most basic sense of the word – he began a diary, capturing events in Jersey during the Period of the English revolution – starting in 1643 and continuing until parliamentary forces finally captured the island in 1651.  What is so remarkable about this journal is the level of penetrating detail it captured about people and events on the island – providing singular and often quite personal insights into day-to-day and historically significant events alike.  I’ve never seen anything like it…

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A discovery! The UK Parliament’s circa 1844 painting “The Trial of Strafford”…

The grounds of history around Sir Richard Lane are simply full of rabbit holes!  While doing some research into the 1641 Trial of the Earl of Strafford – an event that included the day the historical biographer Lord John Campbell called “the most memorable day in the life of Richard Lane” – I came across a wonderful painting of that trial in the UK parliament’s art collection. What makes it so wonderful is that the painter had endeavored to accurately portray all of the primary actors in the drama of that trial…

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Discovery – Regnal Dating Conventions of the 1600 Legal World…

Like any of the great professions, the domain of law is its own world within the larger world. Its interesting how often I had looked at the odd notations at the top of each page within Lane’s Reports without realizing what I was looking at…

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An Important Find! A 1953 Academic Analysis of “Lane’s Reports”

The “billiards-like” trajectory of progress in this quest continues! Somehow, surprising outcomes seem to regularly come about when one line of inquiry turns up a thread leading down some new path…  I’ve been “offline” for a few weeks now because I have been back in research mode – following up on an important new lead I was given by a law professor at the University of Richmond.

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The First Special Exhibition of National Portraits of 1866 – Richard Lane’s Last Public Appearance?

One key artifact gives a clear account that a portrait of Sir Richard Lane once existed – a copy of a “catalogue” of the portraits available to visitors of the 1866 Special Exhibition of National Portraits in London.  Interestingly, I have recently come across evidence indicating this “catalogue” wasn’t originally planned to be provided by the organizers of the event!  If it hadn’t been, I suspect his portrait (and with it any chance of knowing what the man looked like) would have been truly lost to the larger world…

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The “Lost” Portrait of Sir Richard Lane

The satisfying thing about Richard Lane as a subject of historical research is that although his early life was one of obscurity, the political drama he was swept into brought about a fair number of useful historical artifacts related to him.  Perhaps in the end, those bits and pieces will yield a rich and tangible sense of who he was.  But, this isn’t Hollywood – history is about building knowledge based on facts, very much like building a legal case. And sometimes, the facts you need simply may not exist. What can really be known about a man who lived 400 years ago?  Who was he really? What was important to him?  And if you could have met him, what would he have looked like?

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Why am I pursuing this Quest?

“Considering Sir Richard Lane’s spotless integrity, and his uniform adherence to his principles, – notwithstanding his comparative obscurity and his poverty, he is more to be honoured than many of his predecessors  and successors who have left behind them a brilliant reputation, and ample possessions and high dignities to their posterity”   — Lord John Campbell (1848 “Lives of the Lord Chancellors”, Vol 2)

Why is this quest so important to you? This is a question I have been asked quite often – and given the investment of time, energy and some money it has taken, its a fair question!

In the beginning, it was simple curiosity.  I bought the “Lane’s Reports” book because it was so fascinatingly old.  I wanted to find out what else there might be to know about it, beyond its age and the quill margin notes it contained. What could it tell me about the world it came from?  Whose hands had held it long before even the earliest family I have known even existed? Or, for that matter, before most of this country existed?

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