Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lane, Ralph
LANE, Sir RALPH (d. 1603), first governor of Virginia, may probably be identified with Ralph, the second son of Sir Ralph Lane (d. 1541) of Horton, Northamptonshire, by Maud, daughter and coheiress of William, lord Parr of Horton, and cousin of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's last queen (Collins, 1768, iii. 164). His seal bore the arms of Lane of Horton (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 15 March 1598–9), and the arms assigned him by Burke quarter these with those of Maud Parr (General Armoury). In his correspondence he speaks of nephews William and Robert Lane (Cal. State Papers, Ireland, 26 Dec. 1592, 7 June 1595), of a kinsman John Durrant (ib.), and is associated with a Mr. Feilding (ib. 25 June 1593), all of whom appear in the Lane pedigree (Blore, Hist. and Antiq. of Rutlandshire, p. 169); William Feilding married Dorothy, a daughter of Sir Ralph Lane of Horton, and John Durrant was the husband of Catherine, her first cousin.
Lane would seem to have been early engaged in maritime adventure, and in 1571 he had a commission from the queen to search certain Breton ships reputed to be laden with unlawful goods (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 21 Aug.) He corresponded continually with Burghley, frequently suggesting schemes for the advantage of the public service (e.g. ib. 4 June 1572, 18 Aug. 1579, 30 April 1587) and for his own emolument. In 1579 he was meditating an expedition to the coast of Morocco (ib. 16 Aug.), and in 1584 he wrote, that ‘he had prepared seven ships at his own, charges, and to do some exploit on the coast of Spain,' for the furtherance of which he requested to have ‘the queen’s commission and the title of “general of the adventurers" ’ (ib. 25 Dec.) In 1583 he was sent to Ireland to make some fortifications (ib. Ireland, 8 Jan. 1582–3), and continued there for the next two years, latterly as sheriff of co. Kerry. Sir Henry Wellop complained to Burghley that Lane expected ‘to have the best and greatest things in Kerry, and to have the letting and setting of all the rest ...’ (ib. 21 May 1585).
Lane sailed for North America in the expedition under Sir Richard Grenville [q. v.], which left Plymouth on 9 April, and after touching at Dominica, Porto Rico, and Hispaniola, passed up the coast of Florida, and towards the end of June arrived at Wokokan, one of the many islands fringing the coast of North Carolina, or, as it was than named, Virginia. Here the colony was established, with Lane as governor, and two months later Grenville left for England, not before a bitter quarrel had broken out between him and the governor. Lane wrote to Walsingham, denouncing Grenville’s tyranny and pride, and defending himself and the others against charges which he anticipated Grenville would bring against him (ib, Col. 12 Aug., 8 Sept. 1585). After Grenville's departure the colony was moved to Roanoke, and there they remained, exploring the country north and south. Quarrels, however, broke out with the natives, and provisions ran short. As the next year advanced the colonists were in great straits, and when Sir Francis Drake [q. v.] came on the coast in June he yielded to their prayers, and brought them all home to Portsmouth, 28 July 1586. It is not improbable that potatoes and tobacco were brought into England at this time by Lane and is companions; but there is no direct evidence of it.
During 1587 and 1588 Lane was employed in carrying out measures for the defence of the coast hen his proposal to erect ‘scounces or ramparts along the whole line of coast accessible to an enemy’ was rejected (ib. Dom. 30 April 1587), he requested that he might have the title of colonel, ‘for viewing and ordering the trained forces’ (ib. 6 Dec. 1587). He was afterwards appointed to ‘assist in the defence of the coast of Norfolk’ (ib, 30 April 1588), when he seems to have acted as muster-master (ib. 17 Sept., 1 Oct. 1588), in which capacity he also acted in the expedition to the coast of Portugal under Drake and Norreys in 1589 (ib. 27 July, 7 Sept. 1589). In the following year he served in the expedition to the coast of Portugal under Hawkyns (ib. 4 Dec. 1590), and in January 1591–2 was appointed ‘mustere master of the garrisons in England.' During the rebellion there in the north in 1598–1594 he served actively with the army, was 'all commended for his conduct in a skirmish near Tulsk in Roscommon (ib. Ireland, 23 June 1593), and again in the spring of 1594, when he was dangerously wounded. On 15 Oct. 1598 he was knighted by the lord deputy, Sir William Fitzwilliam [q. v.]
In September 1594 Lane applied to Burghley for the reversion of a pension of 10s. a day (ib. 24 Sept); and again, a few months later, for 'the office of chief bell-ringer in Ireland, paying a red rose in the name of rent,’ or ‘the surveyorship of clerks in Ireland;' 'a base place,' he added, ‘with something, which is better than greater employment with nothing' (ib. 16 Feb. 1594–5).
Apparently about this time he was appointed a keeper of Southsea Castle at Portsmouth, the reversion of which office was afterwards granted to his nephew, Robert Lane (Cal. State Paper, Dom. 29 June 1599), If it was not a sinecure Lane performed his duties by deputy, for from 1595 he resided in Dublin in the exercise of his office of muster-master. He died in October 1603, and was buried in St. Patrick's Church on the 28th (funeral entry, Ulster's Office). As during his life he was an inveterate beggar, not only for himself, but for his nephew., and as no mention appears of either will or child, it would seem probable that he was unmarried. Sir Parr Lane, whose name frequently appears in the ‘State Papers' of the time of James I, was a nephew. Captain George Lane, the other of Sir Richard Lane of Tulsk, bart., and grandfather of George Lane, first viscount Lanesborough, seems to have belonged to a different family.
[Calendars of State Papers, Dom., Ireland, and Colonial; Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, iii, 251; Smith's Hist. of Virginia; notes kindly furnished by Mr. Arthur Vicars.]