LANE, Ralph (c.1528-1603), of London Glendon, Northants. Dublin.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1528, 2nd s. of Sir Ralph Lane (d.1541) of Orlingbury, Northants. by Maud, da. and coh. of William Parr, 1st Baron Parr of Horton; bro. of Sir Robert and William Lane I educ. M. Temple 1554. unm. Kntd. 1593.

Offices Held

Equerry of the stable by 1568; served against the northern rebels 1569; commr. piracy 1571; capt. in the Netherlands 1572-3; commr. for fortifications [I] 1583-4; gov. Kerry 1584, Virginia 1585-6; muster master, Norf. 1587; muster master gen. Tilbury 1588; muster master on the Portugal expedition 1589; capt. Southsea castle, Hants from 1588; muster master or clerk of the check [I] from Jan. 1592.


Lane was returned for Northampton in 1563 as the younger son of a local gentry family. No evidence has been found of any parliamentary activity. Within a year or two he had gone to court, where he was to be an inveterate suitor all his life. Almost all his surviving letters to Burghley and Robert Cecil make some request, the grant of which would relieve his necessities, and at first he was surprisingly successful, obtaining a lucrative patent to search ships for uncustomed goods in August 1571 and a commission to suppress piracy later that year. His interest in military affairs between 1572 and 1583, and his part in the expedition of (Sir) Richard Grenville II to Virginia has been dealt with elsewhere. Finally, in 1592 Lane was appointed muster master of Ireland, but as he had put most of his money into a projected voyage with Ralegh—presumably the expedition to cut off the Spanish treasure fleet—he claimed to be without the means to set out for his new post. Once there, he never returned, despite repeated applications for a post elsewhere. In 1593 he distinguished himself in battle and was knighted, and in the following year he was dangerously wounded, after which he was thought to have ‘grown weak in his brains’. On 1 July 1595 Elizabeth wrote suspending him, a decree not immediately delivered as he was thought to be dying. Lane maintained that the abrogation of a life patent was unprecedented, and begged for a sinecure in exchange, but in spite of the efforts of his nephew, William Lane II, none was forthcoming, and he was deprived of his ‘dead pays’. By 1599 wellwishers, among them his friend Mountjoy, were hoping to obtain him a pension, as he was without other resources, but they met with no success. Lane died in office in October 1603, and was buried in St. Patrick’s, Dublin.

DNB; CSP Ire. passim; CPR, 1566-9, p. 213; B. Dietz, ‘Privateering in N.W. European Waters 1568-72’ (London Univ. PhD thesis 1959), pp. 340-1; CSP Col. 1574-1660, pp. 2-3; APC, xv. 296; xvi. 254, 273, 277; xviii. 54; xxi. 276; xxvi. 176, 177; xxvii. 279; xxviii. 186, 209, 216, 271, 468; xxxi. 155; Strype, Annals, ii(1), pp. 455, 518; Lansd. 39, f. 144; 61, f. 194; 69, ff. 28, 121; 70, f. 14; HMC Hatfield, vii. 310; xiii. 468.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: S. M. Thorpe