Lane, Jane (DNB00)

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LANE, JANE, afterwards Lady Fisher (d. 1689), heroine, daughter of Thomas Lane of Bentley, near Walsall, Staffordshire, by Anne, daughter of Sir Hervey Bagot, bart., of Blithfield in the same county, distinguished herself by her courage and devotion in the service of Charles II after the battle of Worcester (3 Sept. 1651). She was then residing at Bentley Hall, the seat of her brother, Colonel John Lane. Charles was in hiding at Moseley, and was in communication, through Lord Wilmot, with Colonel Lane regarding his escape. Jane Lane was about to pay a visit to her friend, Mrs. Norton, wife of George (afterwards Sir George) Norton of Abbots Leigh, near Bristol, and from Captain Stone, governor of Stafford, had obtained a pass for herself, a man-servant, and her cousin, Henry Lascelles. It was arranged that the king should ride with her in the disguise of her man-servant. Accordingly, at daybreak of 10 Sept. Charles, dressed in a serving-man’s suit, and assuming the name of William Jackson, one of Colonel Lane's tenants, brought Jane Lane's mare to the hall-door at Bentley, and took her up behind him on the pillion. Jane Lane's brother-in-law, John Petre, and his wife, who were not in the secret, were to accompany her as far as Stratford-upon-Avon, also riding saddle-and-pillion; Henry Lascelles was to escort her the whole way. As they approached Stratford-upon-Avon Petre and his wife turned back at sight of a troop of horse, in spite of the urgent entreaties of Jane Lane. The others rode quietly through the soldiers and the town without being challenged, and on to Long Manton, where they sat up at the house of one Tombs, a friend of colonel Lane. Next day they rode without adventure to Cirencester, and put up at the Crown Inn. The third day brought them to Abbots Leigh, where, at Jane Lane's request, Pope, the butler, found a private room for William Jackson, whom she gave out as just recovering from an ague. The butler, an old royalist soldier, recognised the king, and proved trusty and serviceable. But no ship was available for Charles's flight at Bristol, and the risk of discovery at Abbots Leigh was very great. Jane Lane, therefore, at Pope's suggestion, left Abbot's Leigh with the king on the pretence of returning to her father at Bentley, early on the morning of 16 Sept., and conducted him that day to Castle Cary, and thence next day to the house of Colonel Francis Wyndham, at Trent, near Sherborne. The king being now in s position to reach France in safety, Jane, after a brief stay at Trent, returned with her cousin to Bentley Hall. The news of the king's escape soon got abroad, and, though nothing very definite leaked out, the fact that a lady, before whom he had ridden in the disguise of her manservant, had been principally concerned in it, actually got into print within a month of Charles's arrival in Paris (13 Oct.) Colonel Lane accordingly determined to remove his sister to France, and, disguised as peasantfolk, they made their way on foot from Bentley Hall to Yarmouth, where they took ship for the continent in December. Arrived there they threw off their disguise and posted to Paris, having sent a courier in advance to apprise Charles of their approach. Charles came from Paris to meet them, accompanied by Henrietta Maria and the Dukes of York and Gloucester, and gallantly saluting Jane Lane on the cheek, called her his ‘life’ and bade her welcome to Paris. After residing some little time at Paris, where she was treated with great distinction by the court, Jane Lane entered the service of the Princess of Orange, whom she attended to Cologne in 1654. She was also one of the very small retinue which the princess took with her when she went incognito with Charles to Frankfort fair in the autumn of 1655. Three letters from Charles to her, written during the interregnum, are extant. Two are subscribed ‘your most affectionate friend,’ and one ‘your most assured and constant friend.’ All have been printed, one in the ‘European Magazine,’ 1794, ii. 253, reprinted in Seward's ‘Anecdotes,’ 1795, ii. 1, and Clayton's ‘Personal Memoirs of Charles II,’ i. 338; another in Hughes's ‘Boscobel Tracts,’ 2nd edit. p. 87; the third in the Historical MSS. Commission's 6th Rep. p. 473 (for her own letters see Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. App. p. 253, 4th Rep. App. p. 336). Nor was her devotion forgotten at the Restoration. The House of Commons voted her 1,000l. to buy herself a jewel, and Charles gave her a gold watch, which he requested might descend as an heirloom to every eldest daughter of the Lane family for ever. It passed into the possession of Mrs. Lucy of Charlecote Park, Warwickshire, as then eldest daughter of the house of Lane, and was soon stolen from that house by burglars. A pension of 1,000l. was also granted to Jane Lane, and another of 500l. to her brother. Her pension was paid with fair regularity, being only six and a half years in arrear on the accession of James II, who caused the arrears to be made good and the pension continued. It was also continued by William III. Her portrait, attributed to Lely, with one of Charles painted expressly for her in 1652, is now in the possession of Mr. Lane of Kings Bromley manor, Staffordshire, the direct descendant of Colonel Lane of Bentley. The features are said to resemble those of Anne Boleyn. A portrait of her by Mary Beale, with a miniature of Charles II by Cooper, and a deed of gift of money from him to her and her sisters, is at Narford Hall, Brandon, Norfolk, the seat of Mr. Algernon Charles Fountaine. Other relics of Jane Lane are two snuff-boxes, one engraved with a profile of Charles I in silver, the other with a portrait of Charles II; and a pair of silver candlesticks inscribed ‘given to J. L. by the Princess Zulestein.’ These are now the property of Mr. John Cheese of Amersham, Buckinghamshire. The assistance so bravely rendered to Charles II by Jane Lane is one of the historical incidents selected for the frescoes in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Jane Lane married, after the Restoration, Sir Clement Fisher, bart., of Packington Magna, Warwickshire, whom she survived, dying without issue on 9 Sept. 1689. She is said to have left but 10l. behind her, it being her rule to live fully up to her income, which she pithily expressed by saying that ‘her hands should be her executors.’

[The principal authorities are the Boscobel Tracts, ed. Hughes, 2nd edit. 1858, and authorities there cited; Whiteladies, or his Sacred Majesty's Preservation, London, 1660, 8vo; Bates's Elenchus Motuum Nuperorum in Anglia, pt. ii. London, 1668, 8vo; Jenings's Miraculum Basilicon, London, 1664, 8vo; Clarendon's Rebellion, bk. xiii.; Shaw's Staffordshire, ii. 97; Dugdale's Warwickshire, ed. Thomas, ii. 989; Evelyn's Diary, 21 Dec. 1651; Thurloe State Papers, i. 674, v. 84; Merc. Polit. 18–25 Oct. 1655; Cal. Clarendon Papers, ii. 157; Comm. Journ. viii. 215, 216, 222, x. 230; Lords' Journ. xi. 219; Pepys's Diary, 9 Jan. 1660–1; Secret Services of Charles II and James II (Camd. Soc.), p. 51; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1660–1 p. 423, 1661–2 p. 393, 1664–5 p. 560; Luttrell's Relation of State Affairs, i. 607; Collectanea, ed. Burrows (Oxford Hist. Soc.), ii. 394; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. i. 501, 4th ser. i. 303.]

J. M. R.