FANE (VANE), Sir Francis (1580-1629), of Mereworth Castle, Kent and Apethorpe, Northants.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1624 - 29 Dec. 1624

Family and Education

b. Feb. 1580, 1 1st s. of Sir Thomas Fane of Badsell, Tudeley, Kent and his 2nd w. Mary, suo jure 3rd Baroness Le Despenser, da. and h. of Henry Neville, 6th Lord Bergavenny; bro. of Sir George*. educ. Maidstone g.s.;2 Queens’, Camb. c.1595; L. Inn 1597. m. 1599, Mary (d. 9 Apr. 1640), da. and h. of Sir Anthony Mildmay† of Apethorpe, 7s. (1 d.v.p.) 7da. (1 d.v.p.) suc. fa. 1589; cr. KB 24 July 1603; cr. earl of Westmorland 29 Dec. 1624. d. 23 Mar. 1629.3

Offices Held

Asst. bridge warden, Rochester, Kent 1601-28, jnr. warden 1603, snr. warden 1610, 1617, 1624;4 commr. sewers, Kent and Suss. 1602-at least 1623,5 Wittersham levels, Kent and Suss. 1604,6 Gt. Fens south of the R. Glen 1609-at least 1621,7 Northants. by 1616, Northampton by 1618,8 Kent 1625-d.;9 j.p. Kent 1603-d.,10 Northants. by 1614-Jan. 1616, Aug. 1616-d. (custos rot. 1625-d.),11 Hunts. 1621-d., Peterborough by 1623-d.;12 freeman, Maidstone 1604;13 asst. Dover harbour 1606;14 commr. oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1606-d., Midland circ. 1618-d., Peterborough 1618, Norf. circ. 1622-d.,15 aid, Kent 1612,16 piracy, Cinque Ports 1612-d.,17 charitable uses, Kent 1616;18 kpr. Moorhay Walk, Rockingham forest, Northants. 1616-at least 1622;19 dep. lt. Northants. by 1618-at least 1625;20 commr. subsidy, Kent 1622, 1624,21 enclosure, Fenland 1624,22 Forced Loan, Northants. 1627.23

Chief butler of Eng. (jt.) 1613;24 commr. swans c.1628-d.25


Fane’s ancestors were established in Kent by the fifteenth century. Fane’s father lived at Badsell, a few miles south-east of Tonbridge, and following his marriage to the daughter and heir of Henry, Lord Bergavenny in 1574 he acquired the manor and castle of Mereworth, seven miles west of Maidstone. Fane himself made an advantageous match in 1599 when he wed the daughter and heir of Sir Anthony Mildmay of Apethorpe, Northamptonshire. Her father was said to enjoy an annual income of £3,000 and her mother a further £1,200 a year. Fane’s own resources were also not inconsiderable; sometime before 1612 the Exchequer calculated his annual income at £3,000, making him one of the richest men in Kent.26

Though not the first of his family to sit in Parliament, Fane, in 1601, became the first to serve as a knight of the shire. Shortly after James’s accession he was made a knight of the Bath, but the subsequent disgrace of his patron, the 11th Lord Cobham (Henry Brooke alias Cobham†) meant that at the general election of 1604 he was obliged to transfer to Maidstone. During the first session he was named to two committees concerned with the Buckinghamshire election dispute - one to attend the king (28 Mar.) and the other to draft the House’s reasons for their proceedings (30 March). He was appointed to a further seven bill committees, including one to prevent the conversion of woodland into pasture (28 April).27 This measure may have reflected a personal interest, as Fane was a passionate huntsman with forest land in Wiltshire.28 He played no recorded part in the session’s wardship debates, even though he had previously been a royal ward himself.29 Before the session ended, the long dispute over the barony of Bergavenny was ended by a compromise under which Fane’s mother, the heir-general, was declared Baroness Le Despenser in her own right.

Fane accompanied the new warden of the Cinque Ports, the earl of Northampton, to Windsor for the latter’s investiture as a knight of the Garter in May 1605.30 Shortly after Parliament resumed, and in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot, he was named to a committee to consider what action should be taken to prevent conspiracies (22 Jan. 1606). His other appointments concerned the problem posed by Englishmen serving in the armed forces of the archdukes (6 Feb.), bills to confirm certain sorts of leases (23 Jan.), the repair of highways (6 Feb.), the regulation of legal fees (14 Feb.) and the manufacture of woollen cloth (19 February).31 On 26 Feb. 1606 he defended the claims of his alma mater to take precedence over Oxford University in a bill prohibiting the residence of married men and their wives in cathedral churches and colleges.32

At the beginning of the third session Fane was appointed to attend a conference on the proposed Union with Scotland (24 Nov. 1606). On 11 Mar. 1607 he chaired a committee for a bill to preserve the woodland around the Kent clothing town of Tenterden from the depredations of the local iron industry, but three days later he reported that because of some ‘mischiefs’ in the bill the committee thought it should be proceeded with no further, to which the House agreed.33 He was personally named to a further ten committees, including one for a bill to enable Richard Sackville to surrender his reversion to the office of chief butler to the king (28 March). This cleared the way for the appointment of Fane’s cousin, Sir Thomas Waller*, who later that year appointed Fane and three others to share the office of butler as trustees for his son.34 On 28 Mar. Fane was named, as a burgess of Kent, to a committee for a bill concerning the drowned marshes of Lesnes and Fants in Erith, north Kent. These were owned by the Cooke family of North Cray and lay near marshland owned by Fane in Plumstead.35

Fane’s first committee appointment in the fourth session was for a bill entrusted to Nicholas Fuller* to enable his wife’s uncle, Humphrey Mildmay†, to break the entail of his estate (20 Feb. 1610). When Fuller introduced two ecclesiastical bills on 8 Mar. 1610, Fane complained of his tardiness over the Mildmay bill. However, progress was further delayed by Fane himself, who left Westminster in order to mediate between the parties. On 26 Mar. Fuller made his report and Fane was given a copy of the bill. Presumably he made no further objection, as it was engrossed two days later.36 Fane also kept a keen eye on the bill to enable Lord Bergavenny to sell some of the entailed estate. Before the measure was presented to the Commons he had his counsel, William Noye*, obtain transcripts of some relevant documents in the Tower, and on 7 July he was named to the bill committee himself.37 Fane was named to eight other legislative committees during the session, one of which concerned a Kentishman, Sir Henry Crispe (12 Mar.);38 he may also have expressed an interest in the bills concerned with St. Saviour’s, Southwark and Leadenhall market, as documents relating to both measures survive among his papers.39 He was certainly one of those ordered to present the grievances to the king on 10 July.40 It is not known whether he attended the fifth session later that year, but he may have been engaged in supervising alterations at Mereworth Castle, which began in November.41

Fane used his influence to secure the return of his kinsman Thomas Culpeper for the Wiltshire borough of Chippenham in March 1614.42 Fane himself was also returned to the Addled Parliament, again for Maidstone. He was named to six committees, including the committee for privileges (8 Apr.), but made no recorded speeches. On 13 Apr. he was appointed to a committee to prepare an address expressing abhorrence of the ‘undertakers’, and on 5 May he was one of those ordered to prepare for a conference on impositions. On 23 May he was named to a committee to consider the vexed question of baronetcies, to which many Members objected because they were hereditary.43 Following the dissolution, he contributed the astonishing sum of £100 to the royal Benevolence.44

Fane entered into his wife’s inheritance in 1617. Even before acquiring Apethorpe, however, he had begun to play a part in Northamptonshire. He hunted there extensively from at least 1609,45 and his bitter rivalry with Sir Edward Montagu* that was to dominate county politics for the remainder of the period can be traced to an incident in 1615, when either Fane or Edward Wymarke* attempted to embroil Montagu with Sir Anthony Mildmay.46 The Privy Council wrote in November 1616 that he had ‘diligently and carefully’ performed his duties as a sewer commissioner, and in the following year he was granted, together with Sir Edward Barrett*, property belonging to his wife’s late kinsman Sir Richard Leveson* extended for debts owed to the Crown. In 1618 he took the part of John Williams, soon to become bishop of Lincoln and lord keeper, in the latter’s dispute with Montagu over the Book of Sports.47

At the next election the Apethorpe interest secured the return of Fane’s son Mildmay for Peterborough, but he himself sat again for Maidstone in the third Jacobean Parliament. During the first sitting he was named to 16 committees, including the privileges committee (5 Feb. 1621) and frequently intervened in debate. He was especially concerned to gather support for a fen drainage bill, and at one point he, his son and Francis Russell allegedly offered the Cambridgeshire Member Sir Edward Peyton £10,000 not to oppose it.48 On 6 Feb. he was appointed to the committee for the bill to limit the period which could elapse before legal action commenced, and he was twice named to committees to inquire into abuses in the Fleet prison (14 Feb. and 3 March).49 In the first of his 21 speeches, on 28 Feb., he supported Sir Thomas Wentworth in his proposal to secure the person of (Sir) Giles Mompesson*. In general he sought to deflect criticism from the king and Buckingham over monopolies. On 3 Mar. he said that Buckingham had told him that all patents had been approved by referees, with whom the fault lay, and two days later he moved that the referees be questioned ‘that so they bear their load’.50 He subsequently moved that Mompesson’s papers should be sent to the Lords, to whom he was willing to give evidence himself.51 On 30 Apr. Fane suggested that Sir Edwin Sandys should put in writing his suggestions regarding a message to be sent to the king concerning the state of Ireland. He seconded the proposal of Sir Francis Seymour to divide the House on entering the judgment against Floyd in the Journal (4 May).52 Anxious to proceed from the attack on lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) to a wider consideration of legal abuses, he brought in a bill on 15 May to enable clients to recover fees from lawyers who failed to speak at the bar or attend court. That same day he proposed a bill to define the powers of commissioners of sewers.53 On 16 May he was one of those ordered to prepare a list of monopolies condemned by the House and of other grievances, and on 2 June he was appointed to the 24-strong deputation that was sent to the king at Greenwich the following day to convey the House’s thanks.54

When Parliament resumed in the autumn, many Members were surprised at the absence of Sir Edwin Sandys, who had recently been released after his arrest following the previous sitting. On Fane’s proposal, an entry was made in the Journal of the assurance from Secretary Calvert that Sandys had not been secluded for anything said or done in Parliament.55 According to Edward Nicholas* he was among the Members originally chosen on 3 Dec. to attend the king at Newmarket with the address against the Spanish marriage. His decision to visit his sick mother in Kent at this juncture may have been caused more by a desire to avoid giving offence to the king than by filial concern. On 8 Dec. Sir Edward Villiers* was ordered to take his place on the deputation which was sent to the king with a defence of the address. 56 While the Commons debated their response to the king’s letter of 3 Dec. abridging their right to free speech, all other business came to a standstill. On 14 Dec. Fane informed the House that the king was coming to Royston that night and hoped that during the weekend he would send them some message to resolve the impasse.57 The message was duly forthcoming, but did not achieve the desired result.

After the Parliament ended, a bitter dispute developed between Fane and his neighbour Montagu, now Lord Montagu of Boughton. The immediate cause was a grant of timber from Rockingham forest for the enlargement of Apethorpe ‘for the more commodious entertainment of His Majesty and his company at his repair into those parts for his princely recreation’. On 7 May 1622 lord treasurer Cranfield (Sir Lionel Cranfield*) ordered the local forest officials to expedite the business, styling Fane, an under-keeper, lieutenant of the forest of Rockingham. This provoked an angry response from Montagu, who pointed out that he was in fact lieutenant, under the earl of Exeter (Sir Thomas Cecil†), and adding that he had stayed execution of the order, since it had not been directed to the proper officers. Fane then seems to have circulated a broadsheet denouncing Montagu’s high-handedness, and styling him ‘the grand promoter or informer of this country’ and ‘a dangerous, awful man’. According to Chamberlain, Montagu felt he had grounds for an action of scandalum magnatum in Star Chamber. Fane appealed to the king, and on 28 Oct. Montagu was summoned to appear before James at Royston. An outward reconciliation was effected, but ill feeling in the county remained.58

Fane sat for Peterborough in the 1624 Parliament and was named to nine committees, including the committee for privileges (23 Feb.) and one for the bill to outlaw monopolies (26 February). On 3 Mar. he was one of those ordered to manage a conference on an address asking for a declaration of war on Spain. He was appointed to a committee to draft a bill for more efficient local defence (16 Apr.), and on 28 Apr. he was added to the committee to consider a bill to drain property in Erith and Plumstead marshes, in which he presumably had a close interest.59 He spoke about ‘the increase of fees upon knighthood’ in the debate of 28 Apr. on heraldic abuses, and served on the committee, citing an Elizabethan precedent when it reported ten days later.60 He was ordered to attend the conference on the repeal of the Wine Act on 22 May, and on the day before the prorogation he demonstrated his continued friendship for Cranfield, by now earl of Middlesex, by telling against the bill to make the fallen lord treasurer’s estate liable for his debts.61

At the end of the year Fane was created earl of Westmorland, doubtless on Williams’ recommendation. His choice of the title forfeited by his mother’s distant cousin in 1571 occasioned some delay.62 He was more successful than his patron in retaining favour in the new reign. In August 1625 he was appointed chairman of the Northamptonshire bench, and in December the king intervened after the Privy Council initially upheld Montagu’s complaint about the quarter sessions to Kettering. Henceforward, the Christmas sessions were to be held at Kettering.63 Fane died on 23 Mar. 1629, and was buried at Apethorpe. He was able to leave £3,000 portions to his two eldest unmarried daughters. His wife was sole executrix, and the overseers of the will were his brother Sir George, Lord Brudenell (whom he had helped to save from the consequences of his recusancy) and Bishop Williams.64

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. C142/223/84.
  • 2. Maidstone Recs. 89.
  • 3. VCH Northants (geneal. vol.). Northants. Fams. 97, 99; Al. Cant.; LI Admiss.; Shaw, Knights of Eng. i. 154.
  • 4. Traffic and Pols. ed. N. Yates and J.M. Gibson, 293.
  • 5. C181/1, ff. 28, 90v, 100; 181/3, f. 94.
  • 6. C181/1, f. 95v.
  • 7. C181/2, ff. 83v, 282; 181/3, f. 35.
  • 8. APC, 1616-17, p. 59; 1618-19, p. 293.
  • 9. C181/3, ff. 157v, 248.
  • 10. Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 1; Cal. Assize Recs. Kent Indictments, Chas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 72.
  • 11. C231/4, ff. 14, 25, 192; HMC Buccleuch, iii. 253-6; APC, 1625-6, p. 256; C66/2527.
  • 12. C231/4, f. 132; C181/3, f. 83; C66/2527.
  • 13. Cent. Kent. Stud. Md/Rr1/1, f. 2.
  • 14. J.B. Jones, Annals Dover, 100.
  • 15. C231/4, f. 64; 181/2, ff. 8, 307; 181/3, ff. 53, 257-8, 261.
  • 16. E163/16/21.
  • 17. C181/2, ff. 185, 246v; 181/3, f. 247.
  • 18. C93/7/7.
  • 19. Add. 34218, 18; HMC Buccleuch, i. 257.
  • 20. Montagu Musters Bk. 1602-23 ed. J. Wake (Northants. Rec. Soc. vii), 174, 212; Add. 34217, f. 15.
  • 21. C212/22/21, 23.
  • 22. C181/3, f. 126.
  • 23. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 145.
  • 24. E351/488.
  • 25. C181/3, f. 267.
  • 26. Manningham Diary ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxxxix), 13; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 14.
  • 27. CJ, i. 157a, 160a, 189b. For his remaining cttees., see ibid. 154a (treasons), 941a (restitution of earl of Essex), 213b (Home naturalization), 235b (Bridewell), 248b (naval impressments), 252a (annexations).
  • 28. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 4; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 408. For his passion for hunting, see Add. 34218, ff. 6, 12, 15v, 18.
  • 29. WARD 9/221, f. 235.
  • 30. Add. 34218, f. 87.
  • 31. CJ, i. 257b, 258b, 264a-b, 268b, 270b.
  • 32. Bowyer Diary, 55.
  • 33. CJ, i. 324b, 351b, 352b-53a; Add. 34218, ff. 94-5.
  • 34. CJ, i. 356a; E351/485. For his other cttee. appointments, see CJ, i. 338a (Pelham lands), 339b (cloth), 342b (Ramsden naturalization), 352b (watermen), 364b (All Souls’ lands), 373a (legal copies), 374a (tenements), 374a (letters patent).
  • 35. CJ, i. 356a; Add. 34218, f. 149v. For the provisions of the bill and its background, see SR, iv. 1146-7; C.J. Smith, Erith, 63-5, 81.
  • 36. CJ, i. 397b, 408a, 413a, 414b, 415b.
  • 37. HLRO, main pprs. 1610-14, f. 48; CJ, i. 447a.
  • 38. CJ, i. 409a. For the other cttees. see ibid. 400a (purveyance), 414b (fens), 415a (Davison), 416b (Jenison), 438b (Waldegrave), 440b (Smyth), 447b (Hobart).
  • 39. Add. 34218, ff. 96-100.
  • 40. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 254.
  • 41. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 7.
  • 42. Chippenham Recs. ed. F.H. Goldney, 327-8.
  • 43. CJ, i. 456b, 464a, 474a, 494b. For his other appointments, see ibid. 476a (highways), 505a (Sabbath conference).
  • 44. E351/1950, unfol.
  • 45. Add. 34218, f. 6.
  • 46. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 6; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 576.
  • 47. APC, 1616-17, p. 59; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 434; HMC Buccleuch, i. 214.
  • 48. W. Scott, Secret Hist. of Jas. I, ii. 440; K. Lindley, Fenland Riots, 42.
  • 49. CJ, i. 511a, 521b, 536b. For his other appointments, see ibid. 511a (limitations), 622b (recusancy petition), 551b (Lord Holderness), 556b (Lord Montagu), 600b (Jermy), 615b (Irish cattle), 621a (Davenport message), 621b (ordnance export), 639a (draft war resolution), 652a (Watson), 654b (informers conference).
  • 50. Ibid. 532a, 537a, 539a.
  • 51. Ibid. 540a, 557b, 560a.
  • 52. Ibid. 598a, 608b.
  • 53. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. 73-4; CJ, i. 621a. For his remaining speeches of the sitting, see CJ, i. 574b, 596a, 605a, 606a, 618a; Nicholas, ii. 35, 56.
  • 54. CJ, i. 622a, 637a.
  • 55. Nicholas, ii. 200.
  • 56. Ibid. ii. 276, 300. cf. CJ, i. 661a.
  • 57. CJ, i. 666a.
  • 58. E.S. Cope, Edward Montagu (Amer. Philos. Soc. cxlii), 78-79, 97-100, 122-3; HMC Buccleuch, i. 256-7; iii. 257, 264; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 462.
  • 59. CJ, i. 671b, 674b, 676b, 768a, 777a.
  • 60. ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 81v; iii. f. 35.
  • 61. CJ, i. 709a, 797b. For his remaining appointments, see ibid. 678a (alienations), 680b (supersedeas).
  • 62. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 387.
  • 63. APC, 1625-6, pp. 256-7, 293; HMC Buccleuch, i. 268; iii. 256. Gruenfelder’s account of the resolution of this dispute is misleading: J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘The Parliamentary Election in Northants. 1626’, Northants. P and P, iv. 162.
  • 64. M.E. Finch, Five Northants. Fams. (Northants. Rec. Soc. xix), 164; PROB 11/155, ff. 299-300.