Lane : or L'Asne

A baronial name. "Hugh l'Asne or Asinus, seems to have been only known by his opprobrious nickname. How he came by it does not appear; it might have already become a meaningless surname distinguishing his family. But the Normans seem to have had a propensity for giving most undignified epithets to persons who appear to have not only been exclusively known by such, but were obliged, for the sake of identity, to use these themselves in documents. As early as 1046, twenty years before the Conquest, William Fitz Osbern had founded an abbey at Lire, and we find "Hugo Asino" witnessing the charter of William, when Earl of Hereford, granting the monks their lands in England. (Gallia Christ, xi., Instr., p. 123.) He was also one of the witnesses to the charter of William confirming to the abbey of St. Evroult the gifts of Fulk, late Dean of Evreux (Ord. Vital, v. xii). He was, in all probability, a feudatory of that baron in Normandy, and a man advanced in years at the date of the Survey. He was surviving 1095-1101, as his name occurs among those who had tenants in the towns of Gloucester and Winchcombe. He evidently came over with William Fitz-Osbern, and settled in the West under him; and on the Welsh marches was actively employed in the defence of the border under his lord, now Earl of Hereford. In the county of Hereford he held, in capite, Kentchester and some twenty other manors: and at the time of the Survey was claiming the great lordship of Radnor. Hugh also held Knighton and Norton in Shropshire, Brockworth and the lands of Wluuard, in Shipton, Salperton, and Bagendon, Gloucestershire. He probably did not become a tenant in capite until the forfeiture of Roger, the second Earl of Hereford,
in 1074.

"All we know about his family is that he had a daughter, who seems to have been a nun at the Abbey of St. Mary at Winchester, for that church held land of him at Kennet, in Wilts, pro filia. eius."—A. S. Ellis.

There is every reason to conclude that L'Asne was a sobriquet, for as "Hugh never occurs as De L'Asne, he could not have derived his name from Lasne, near Argentan, as suggested." Yet the authors of the Recherches sur le Domesday incline to think it was taken from a hamlet in Brittany, still named L'Asne, in the arrondissement of Vannes. It several times occurs in the chartulary of Mont St. Michel during the thirteenth century; and a family of L'Asne—"famille fort honorable et vivant noblement"—is to be found at Bailleul-la-Vallee in the departement of the Eure. "It is really extraordinary," add they, "that so powerful a tenant-in-chief as Hugh L'Asne should have left no trace of his family in England. The compilers of the extinct Peerages do not mention it, and do not even inform us what became of his domain." According to The Norman People, the barony was lost temp. Henry I.; but the family continued. Dudo de l'Ane in 1165 had a barony in Essex (Lib. Niger)." Burke calls the "Lane" of Battle Abbey Roll the ancestor of the Staffordshire Lanes. Their pedigree, however, only begins with Adam de Lone, living in 1315.

These Lanes were enthusiastic loyalists during the Great Rebellion; and at their house of Bentley the fugitive King "remained in peace and blessed security for many days" during his wanderings after the fatal field of Worcester. His host, recommended to him by Lord Wilmot as "an honest gentleman with an excellent reputation for fidelity," had a son who was a Colonel in the Royal army; and with these two trusty friends Charles conferred as to the best means of getting to the sea coast, where he hoped to be taken on board some outward bound vessel. It was agreed that he should go to Bristol. But how was he to get there? it was a four or five days' journey, and the country swarmed with rebel soldiery. The daughter of the house, Mistress Jane, a young woman "of very good wit and discretion," offered to undertake the adventure, and herself bring the King to Bristol. She had a cousin married to Mr. Norton of Leigh, who lived near there; and she set forth to pay a visit to this cousin. She rode on a pillion behind the disguised King, who, "fitted with clothes and boots for such a service," passed for William Jackson: and was attended by a servant in her father's livery. "And in this equipage the king began his journey: the colonel keeping him company at a distance, with a hawk upon his fist, and two or three spaniels; which, where there were any fields at hand, warranted him to ride out of the way, keeping his company still in his eye, and not seeming to be of it" Lord Wilmot, too, hovered about their route, though he did not approach them, and took care never to lodge in the same house. When, however, they were within a day's journey of Leigh, "the Colonel gave his hawk to Wilmot," who took his place as escort. It was late in October, and the days were short; but they pressed on as fast as they could. Wherever they stopped for the night, Mistress Joan asked for a good bed and a separate room for "her neighbour's son, whom his father had lent her to ride before her," and who had been "miserably afflicted with quartan ague." When they arrived at Mr. Norton's, they found a number of people assembled on the bowling-green before his door: and the first man the King saw was one of his own chaplains, sitting upon the rails to watch the bowlers. They dismounted, and William Jackson took the horse to the stable: but Mistress Lane presently sent for him to a "pretty chamber" where a fire was prepared for him; and when dinner was brought, she filled a little dish, and bade the butler carry it up to "the good youth, who was very sick." The butler went, "and spoke kindly to the young man," but, on scanning his face more narrowly, he fell on his knees, and with tears told him he was glad to see His Majesty. He had been falconer to Sir Thomas Jermyn, and knew the King perfectly by sight; but he promised to hold his tongue, and faithfully kept his word. After supper, Dr. Gorges, the chaplain, went, out of good-nature, to visit the sick man; sat by his bedside, felt his pulse, and asked many questions. The King withdrew to the farthest corner, screened himself as far as possible from the light, and answered briefly, and in a muffled voice, that he was drowsy, and wished to sleep. The good man went away unsuspecting, and told Mistress Jane that "William was doing well."

Thus, though twice within a hair's-breadth of discovery, brave Mistress Joan had kept her word, and brought him in safety to his journey's end.[1] She was not (like too many others) forgotten at the Restoration, but received a pension of,£1000 a year. Her brother was, it is said, offered a peerage; but would only accept an augmentation to his paternal coat; the arms of England in a canton "as a special badge of honour:" and for his crest, a strawberry roan horse (in memory of the one that had carried the King) bearing between his fore-legs a Royal crown, with the motto "Garde le Roy."

  1. "To escape from the vengeance of the dominant rogues, Jane Lane and her brother crossed to France, where they were received with great honour at the French Court. King Charles, with all the Stuart grace, took her hand, and said, 'Welcome, my life!' Jane Lane had walked, disguised as a country wench, from Bentley to the sea-side."—Notes and Queries, 6th S. x.


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