VANE, Christopher (1653-1723)

VANE, Christopher (1653–1723)

cr. 25 July 1698 Bar. BARNARD

First sat 22 Dec. 1698; last sat 25 May 1717

MP co. Dur. 25 Oct. 1675–1679 (Jan.) Boroughbridge 1689–18 Nov. 1690

b. 21 May 1653, 7th but 2nd surv. s. of Sir Henry Vane (d. 14 June 1662) of Fairlawn, Shipbourne, Kent, and Frances (d.1680), da. of Sir Christopher Wray of Ashby, Lincs. educ. I. Temple 1671. m. lic. 9 May 1676, Elizabeth (d. 9 Nov. 1725), da. of Gilbert Holles, 3rd earl of Clare, and coh. of her bro. John Holles, duke of Newcastle, 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (1 d.v.p.). suc. bro. 1675. d. 28 Oct. 1723; will 27 Sept. 1715, codicil 26 May 1716, pr. 11 Nov. 1723.

PC 6 July–13 Dec. 1688.

Commr. for recusants, co. Dur. 1675; freeman, Durham 1675, Hartlepool 1676; ranger, Teesdale forest 1689–d.; dep. lt., Kent Feb. 1688–bef. 1701, co. Dur. by 1701–d.

Associated with: Raby Castle, co. Dur.; Fairlawn, Shipbourne, Kent.

The Vane family were originally from Kent and were related to the Fanes, earls of Westmorland. Sir Henry Vane (1589–1655), Charles I’s secretary of state, adopted Vane, the older version of the family name, and in 1626 purchased Raby Castle, Barnard Castle, and its estate from the crown for £18,000. Sir Henry Vane’s son, also Sir Henry Vane, was one of the most effective parliamentary strategists and leaders in the Long Parliament during the civil wars and Interregnum. Although not a regicide, after the Restoration he was indicted for ‘crimes’ during the Interregnum, exempted from the Act of Indemnity and ultimately tried and executed in June 1662.1 With some foresight, he had already transferred his property in Co. Durham to his eldest son, Thomas Vane.

Christopher Vane, Sir Henry’s second surviving son, was born in Lincolnshire in 1653.2 His mother maintained an independent minister as her chaplain and applied for a licence to hold a conventicle in 1672. She presumably presided over the extensive property of the family, worth over £3,000 per annum in 1650, although the Kentish property was later forfeited to the crown.3 Christopher Vane succeeded to the family estates in June 1675, on the death of his older brother Thomas, also succeeding to his parliamentary seat, the newly enfranchised county of Durham, in October, having made Nathaniel Crew, bishop of Durham, ‘and most of the gentry of his side’.4 In May 1676 Vane made an influential and lucrative marriage to Elizabeth Holles, eventually coheiress to her brother John Holles, duke of Newcastle. Simultaneously, the king granted him the family’s lands in Kent which had been claimed by the crown.5 A prominent northern Whig, and a member of the Green Ribbon Club, Vane was unable to secure election to the Exclusion parliaments. He was also left out of the commission of the peace in 1680.6 On 5 June 1682 Vane, his wife, son Gilbert and daughter Elizabeth, with four men and three women servants, received a pass to travel abroad.7

Late in the reign of James II, Vane seems to have sensed an opportunity for advancement. In January 1688 he petitioned for a grant of the rangership of the forest of Teesdale, which had been forfeited by his father’s attainder, it being

a cold open piece of ground without trees or shelter whereby the game is not easily preserved and was never known to exceed the number of 50 deer and the forest being so remote and the country about it so wild that it affords neither profit nor pleasure [to the king] and is only of convenience to Mr Vane, who is proprietor of the lands about it.8

Vane seems to have been keen on the land to complement his attempts to lease out lead mines in the area.9 Although he did not obtain the grant until after the Revolution, in May 1689, he received some marks of favour during 1688, probably in the course of James’s attempt to co-opt Protestant radicals into his project for religious toleration.10 As part of the regulation of the county lieutenancies, in February 1688 Vane was made a deputy lieutenant for Kent.11 He was also made a justice for the county.12 On 6 July 1688 he, Sir John Trevor and Silus Titus were sworn members of the Privy Council, following which the king reaffirmed his commitment to ‘an equal liberty to all persuasions’.13 Their appointment prompted Henry Hyde, 2nd earl of Clarendon, to exclaim, ‘Good God bless us! What will the world come to?’14 Clarendon also told the prince of Orange that the king had said:

they were honest able men and would serve him his own way, in which I believe his majesty will be deceived; or if they do, they will not be useful to him, further than in their own persons, for when they are thought less zealous for the Protestant religion, from that hour they will lose their interest.15

Sir John Bramston thought that Vane and his fellow appointees had ‘been consulted in the modelling of the justices in the counties and for the next Parliament’.16 John Evelyn interpreted their promotion as a ploy by the king to prevent the presbyterians and independents from joining the Church of England party in the wake of the Seven Bishops’ acquittal on 30 June.17 William Legge, earl of Dartmouth also thought his appointment was to ‘gratify’ the Dissenters.18 On 12 Oct. 1688 Vane received a free and general pardon of all treasons.19

In James II’s will of 17 Nov. 1688, Vane was nominated as one of the advisers to his queen in the event of his death.20 Despite his apparent collaboration with James’s policies, Vane supported the Revolution and was involved in the capture of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York and Berwick for the prince of Orange in December 1688.21 On 1 Dec. Thomas Osborne, earl of Danby (later duke of Leeds), wrote to the prince of Orange that Vane and his brother-in-law, Holles, now styled Lord Houghton, and several others from York would attend him.22 On 18 Feb. 1689 Danby added that Vane deserved the king’s consideration for his ‘estates and interest’ in his country.23

Vane was subsequently returned to the Convention for Boroughbridge in 1689; although re-elected in 1690, he was unseated on petition.24 While he did not stand again for Parliament he maintained an active role in local politics in co. Durham. Meanwhile, in April 1692 letters to him, among others, from the Jacobite court were intercepted inviting him to witness the forthcoming royal birth.25 In October 1695 Ralph Thoresby was informed that the county of Durham, ‘thanks to Mr Vane of Raby’, would choose Sir William Bowes and William Lambton, which may indicate that Vane was instrumental in brokering a compromise whereby his cousin Lionel Vane and Sir Robert Eden were returned.26 In 1698 he again backed his cousin, who triumphed after a contest.

A warrant for a peerage for Vane was ordered on 5 June 1698.27 On 13 July James Vernon wrote to Charles Talbot, duke of Shrewsbury, that ‘Mr Christopher Vane of Raby Castle is made a lord, but it is to be a secret till the bill is signed.’28 It was announced in a newsletter on 22 July.29 Vane’s elevation to the peerage as Baron Barnard on 25 July 1698 was thus unexpected to contemporaries. It was rumoured to have been part of the bargain whereby his brother-in-law Newcastle obtained the Garter.30 These developments may have been politically expedient, coming as they did in July 1698 at the dissolution of Parliament. Barnard was permitted to adopt his father’s coat-of-arms despite the fact that legally they had been forfeited on the elder Vane’s attainder in 1662.31

Barnard first attended the 1698–9 session on 22 Dec. 1698, when he was introduced into the House by Hugh Cholmondeley, earl of Cholmondeley, and Henry Herbert, Baron Herbert of Chirbury. On 8 Feb. 1699 he voted against agreeing with the resolution offering to assist the king to retain his Dutch guards, and entered his protest against its adoption. On 28 Mar. he was the youngest baron to vote at the trial of Edward Rich, 6th earl of Warwick, for the murder of Richard Coote, declaring him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter. On the following day he voted Charles Mohun, 4th Baron Mohun, not guilty of the same crime.32 On 3 May he was named to manage a conference on the bill laying a duty on paper. In all he attended on 40 days of the session, 49 per cent of the total, and was named to two committees.

Barnard seems to have led a peripatetic existence when in London. In the 1698–9 session he resided in Red Lion Square. According to doorkeepers’ records, for the 1705–6 session he lived in Norfolk Street, switching to Cecil Street for the 1708–9 session.33 On 17 July 1699 a pass was issued for Barnard and his wife, son and daughter to visit France, and by September it was reported that he had gone to travel abroad.34 He did not attend the session of 1699–1700, or the single-session Parliaments of 1701 and 1701–2, being excused attendance on 5 Jan. 1702.

Barnard returned for the opening day of the 1702 Parliament, 20 Oct. 1702, and the following day he was named to the usual sessional committees and to that on the address. On 12 Nov. he attended the thanksgiving service at St Paul’s.35 In about January 1703 Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, thought that Barnard would support the bill against occasional conformity and he duly voted against adhering to the Lords’ wrecking amendments to the penalties clause of the bill on 16 January. On 22 Feb. he protested against the Lords’ decision not to commit the bill requiring a property qualification for Members of Parliament. He attended on 46 days of the session, 53.5 per cent of the total and was named to a further 15 committees. He also attended the prorogation on 22 Apr. 1703.

Barnard attended the further prorogation of 4 Nov. 1703 and the opening of the session on the 9th. He was named to the committee on the address on 10 November. That month Charles Spencer, 3rd earl of Sunderland, forecast that he would support the bill against occasional conformity; Barnard duly voted for the bill on 14 Dec. 1703. Nottingham included him on the list he drew up in 1704 of members of both Houses, which may indicate his support over the ‘Scotch Plot’. Barnard last sat on 30 Mar., having attended on 36 days of the session (37 per cent of the total). In November 1704 he was listed as a likely supporter of the Tack. He first attended the 1704–5 session on 23 Nov., when the House was called over, attending on only four days of the session, just 4 per cent of the total. On an analysis in relation to the Succession conducted in April 1705, he was classed as a Hanoverian.

Barnard was excused attendance of the Lords when the House was called over on 12 Nov. 1705. Indeed, he was present on only one day of the 1705–6 session, the last day before the Christmas recess, 21 Dec. 1705. His appearance then may have been related to a petition presented to the Lords on 14 Dec. by his younger son, William Vane, and his wife, and their son, Christopher Vane, claiming that, having been forced to bring a bill in chancery against Barnard and his wife for the execution of his marriage settlement made in November 1703, they could not proceed because Barnard was insisting on his privilege and therefore praying liberty to prosecute the suit. The House then ordered Barnard to have a copy of the petition and to answer it either in person or in writing. The suit seems to have lapsed for the time being.36 On 26 Jan. 1706 Barnard registered a proxy in favour of Francis North, 2nd baron Guilford.

In the 1706–7 session, Barnard attended on only three occasions, on 29 Jan. 1707 when the House was called over, and two days at the beginning of February. On 14 Feb. his son renewed his petition from the previous session to which Barnard delivered in his answer on 3 March. After several delays the House considered the matter on 18 Mar., referring it to the committee for privileges. Laurence Hyde, earl of Rochester, reported from the committee on 26 Mar. that Barnard’s answer to the petition amounted to a waiver of his privilege, and the House agreed.37 On 14 Mar. 1707 Barnard registered a proxy in favour of his brother-in-law, Newcastle. He attended only one sitting of the short session of April 1707.

In May 1707 Sir John Cropley reported to Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd earl of Shaftesbury, that he had heard from John Somers, Baron Somers, that Newcastle was seeking Shaftesbury’s support to obtain a seat at Poole for Barnard’s son, William Vane.38 Newcastle was certainly close to Barnard: in August 1707 he made his will, in which many of his estates were entailed on the male heirs of his sisters, firstly the Pelhams and then the Vanes.39

Barnard was present on the opening day of the 1707–8 session, 23 Oct. 1707. He last sat on 31 Mar. 1708, having attended on 25 days of the session, less than a quarter of the total. On a list of about May 1708 he was classed as a Whig. On 30 June Narcissus Luttrell recorded a commission of lunacy being opened in the exchequer, brought by Barnard against his eldest son, Gilbert, who had married a daughter of Morgan Randyll, and had since made a settlement that meant that she would inherit all of the estate after Barnard’s death.40 A visitor to Barnard in June 1708 recalled drinking healths to the family, but not to the eldest son, whom he described as a ‘mad-man’.41

Barnard attended on the second day of the 1708–9 session, 18 Nov. 1708, taking the oaths and being appointed to the committee for privileges. On 21 Jan. 1709 he voted against allowing Scottish peers with British titles to vote in the election for Scottish representative peers. As James Johnston put it, lord treasurer Godolphin lost the vote in favour of the duke of Dover (James Douglas, 2nd duke of Queensbury [S]) because of the ‘Jacobite Tories’ (one of whom he named as Barnard) who wished to ‘have their revenges’ on him ‘for his diligence’ against Simon Harcourt, the future Viscount Harcourt.42 Barnard last attended on 18 Feb. 1709, having been present for 15 days of the session, just 16 per cent of the total. He did not attend the 1709–10 session, evidence suggesting that by the beginning of the session he was in Durham.43 When the votes were taken during the Sacheverell trial he was listed as being ‘in the country’.

In August 1710, Robert Price reported that ‘for the county of Durham, my Lord Barnard is persuaded to drop Mr Vane’, his son; Barnard was said to have thought ‘’tis folly at this time of day to strive against the stream’.44 This was despite an offer by Newcastle to defray £1,000 of his nephew’s expenses should Barnard set him up for the county.45 Newcastle wrote to Henry Paget, the future Baron Burton and earl of Uxbridge, on 27 Sept. 1710 that ‘my nephew Vane I’m sure will do his utmost as you shall direct him’ in Staffordshire, where his wife had an interest.46

According to an analysis by Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, made on 3 Oct. 1710, Barnard was expected to support the new ministry. However, Barnard was absent from the Lords throughout the 1710–11 session. He was in London well in advance of the opening of the 1711–12 session, and on 10 Nov. 1711 he wrote from Kent hoping that Oxford (as Harley had since become) was well enough to go abroad, ‘then I should not doubt but to see accomplished this glorious work of making the peace which I am sure is the only remedy to prevent our ruin’. In that case he intended to be in town for Parliament ‘in Tuesday 14 days’ and he did attend the prorogation on that day, 27 November.47

Barnard’s name appears on a list compiled by Oxford, just prior to the opening of the 1711–12 session, which probably indicates that he was seen as a supporter of the lord treasurer. His name also appeared on Oxford’s canvassing list of 2 December. Indeed, there is an undated letter, which may have been a reply to such a solicitation, promising to attend the House.48 He was certainly in attendance on the opening day, 7 Dec. 1711, when he was named to the address committee. He was forecast by Oxford on 19 Dec. as likely to support the pretension of James Hamilton, duke of Hamilton [S], to sit in the Lords as a British peer, but when the division was held the following day he had registered a proxy in favour of Guilford, and proxies were not used. Oxford listed him as one of the lords to be contacted during the Christmas recess. Barnard next attended on 14 Jan. 1712, but on the 20th he registered a proxy in favour of Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth. He next sat on 25 January. Thereafter he did not attend again until June 1712, although his name appears on a list as a supporter of the ministry in the vote on 28 May on the ‘restraining orders’ sent to James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond.49 In all, Barnard attended only nine sittings, just 8 per cent of the total.

Before the beginning of the 1713 session, he was listed by Jonathan Swift (with notes by Oxford) as likely to support the ministry. He was present when the session opened on 9 Apr., but then absent until 5 May. Around 13 June he was thought by Oxford as likely to support the bill confirming the eighth and ninth articles of the French commercial treaty. Over the course of the session he attended on 11 days, 17 per cent of the total.

On 31 Aug. 1713 Oxford’s son Edward Harley, styled Lord Harley, the future 2nd earl of Oxford, married Lady Barnard’s niece, Lady Henrietta Holles. The Barnards wrote letters of congratulation to Oxford, with Barnard adding a note of a rumour that ‘our militia will soon be called out, in order to have occasion to vex our honest voters’.50

Barnard attended on the opening day of the 1714 session, 16 Feb. 1714. He registered a proxy in favour of Weymouth on 1 Apr., but attended on the following day, then registered another to Weymouth on 5 Apr., but attended again on the 13th. He was last present on 14 April. At the end of May or beginning of June 1714 he was forecast by Nottingham as likely to support the schism bill. On 28 May he registered a proxy in favour of Guilford. In all he attended on ten days of the session (13 per cent), and then was present for just two days of the short session following the death of Queen Anne. He attended only the first two days of the session which began in March 1715. On 12 Apr. 1716 he registered a proxy in favour of Dartmouth. The remainder of his career will be considered in the subsequent section of this work.

Barnard died on 28 Oct. 1723 at Fairlawn, Kent, and was succeeded by his son Gilbert Vane, 2nd Baron Barnard. His will betrayed his disenchantment with his daughter-in-law, whom he described as a ‘scandalous mother, who has brought by her carriage so much misfortune upon my family; and by which means has deprived her said son of a very considerable part of my personal estate I had otherwise designed him’. This was his grandson Henry, the future earl of Darlington, who was to receive £500 when aged 21. Barnard’s library of books and manuscripts was to go after his widow’s death to his second son, William, the future Viscount Vane [I]. James Grahme was the recipient of £100. Barnard’s funeral sermon was preached by Thomas Curteis of Wrotham, ‘formerly a Dissenter, and medical Doctor’, ordained by Charles Trimnell, when bishop of Norwich, at the request of Thomas Tenison, archbishop of Canterbury.51 In it he explained that Barnard ‘seldom cared to enter much into politics, though very few understood them better’, and that he had ‘a very just and honourable zeal for our excellent established church and its interests; yet, not without a charitable latitude towards those who conscientiously differed from it’.52


  • 1 V. Rowe, Sir Henry Vane the Younger, 232–42.
  • 2 Ibid. 202.
  • 3 J.T. Cliffe, The Puritan Gentry Besieged, 115, 164.
  • 4 CSP Dom. 1675–6, p. 288.
  • 5 CTB, v. 211.
  • 6 HMC Lords, i. 178.
  • 7 CSP Dom. 1682, p. 624.
  • 8 CTB, viii. 1730.
  • 9 Cornw. RO, Coryton mss, CY/1195–8; Herts. ALS, DE/P/T4828–9.
  • 10 CTB, ix. 102–3.
  • 11 CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 141.
  • 12 Duckett, Penal Laws, 348, 360.
  • 13 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk, iv. 295–6.
  • 14 Clarendon Corresp. ii. 180.
  • 15 CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 230.
  • 16 Bramston Autobiog. 311.
  • 17 Evelyn Diary, iv. 590.
  • 18 Burnet, iii. 217.
  • 19 CSP Dom. 1687–9, p. 312.
  • 20 Life of James II, ii. 646.
  • 21 Morrice, Ent’ring Bk, iv. 371, 374; Eg. 3336, ff. 1–2.
  • 22 Browning, Danby, ii. 144.
  • 23 Ibid. ii. 162.
  • 24 HP Commons, 1660–90, iii. 622.
  • 25 DZA, Merseburg, Bonet despatch, 5/15 Apr. 1692; HMC Finch, iv. 64.
  • 26 Thoresby Letters, 45.
  • 27 CSP Dom. 1698, p. 282.
  • 28 Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/55, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 13 July 1698.
  • 29 CSP Dom. 1698, p. 365.
  • 30 HMC Astley, 92–93.
  • 31 CP, i. 425.
  • 32 State Trials, xiii. 1031, 1059.
  • 33 N. and Q. ser. 3, xi. 110; London Top. Rec. xxix. 56; London Jnl. xviii. 28.
  • 34 CSP Dom. 1699–1700, p. 239; Post Boy, 23–26 Sept. 1699.
  • 35 Post Boy, 12–14 Nov. 1702.
  • 36 HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 341–2.
  • 37 Ibid. n.s. vi. 342–3.
  • 38 TNA, PRO 30/24/20/338–9.
  • 39 R.A. Kelch, Newcastle: A Duke without Money, 29.
  • 40 Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 322.
  • 41 Clavering Corresp. 6.
  • 42 Add. 72488, ff. 47–48.
  • 43 Clavering Corresp. 52.
  • 44 Add. 70278, Price to [Harley], [18 Aug. 1710]; Clavering Corresp. 90–91.
  • 45 HMC Portland, iv. 570.
  • 46 Add 61830, f. 51.
  • 47 HMC Portland, v. 357 [misdated 1713].
  • 48 Add. 70293, Barnard to Oxford, n.d. ‘Friday morning’.
  • 49 PH, xxvi. 177–81.
  • 50 Add. 70293, Barnard and Lady Barnard to Oxford, 11 Sept. 1713.
  • 51 Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss 7, f. 56.
  • 52 Collins, Peerage (1812), iv. 522–3.