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Jersey: An Isle of Romance

by Blanche B. Elliott

(published 1923)


Jersey remains Royalist

Chapter III


Chapter III




To follow the history of the islands from the time of John is to record frequent attempts by the French to obtain possession of them, and the islanders lived through a time of alarms and incursions. It seems incredible that such small places could possibly hold out for long against so mighty a neighbour, but the rocky coast, the adverse tides, and the stormy seas were their best protection against invasion.

Normandy, once their friend and close relation, developed after its partition from the English Crown into their bitterest enemy and became an eternal menace to their peace and happiness. In the subsequent wars between England and France these islands were the buffer which lay between the contending countries.

In the reign of Edward I the worst attack by the

French on the island was made in IZ94. They were

unsuccessful in that the Castle was not taken, but the



losses sustained may be gathered by the piteous petition of the islanders tQ the King, wherein it was stated that 1,500 of the inhabitants were killed, their houses and corn burned, and their churches sacked. The King ordered compensation to be given to the islanders.

In Edward 11's reign there was peace with France as he had married Isabel of France. Jersey was, however, subjected to many civil troubles, for investigations as to the ownership of property were continually held by Justices Itinerant, and no man could be sure of his freehold or, as Falle puts it, " there was no end of plying us with Quo Warrantos."

Matters were righted in the next reign and the islands restored to their former freedom by the charter

of 134', but Edward Ill's pursuit of the French Crown

brought war with France in its train, and the islands

were again drawn into the conflict.

The French captured Guernsey, held it for three years and attempted Jersey, but failed to take Mont Orgueil. Jersey also assisted an English fleet to regain Guernsey in 1356 and helped to drive out the French from that island. During this battle many notable Jerseymen lost their lives, but owing to the fact that a prominent Guernseyman, William ie Feyvre, was executed for treason by the Jerseymen, a bitter interinsular feud broke out between the islands. A trial ensued, when the angry widow stated that her husband had been done to death " out of ancient enmity and their own malice," and the Jerseymen implicated were banished.' Sir Reginald de Carteret and Ralph Lempriere, who had been leaders in the siege, challenged the verdict and were imprisoned in Castle Cornet, where they had a hard time at the hands of the Guernseymen until released by the King's pardon.

i History of Mont Orgueil, by E. T. NicoUe.

The next invasion was made by the famous Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France in 1373. He said the islands were a sure retreat for the English from whence they could attempt Brittany, and thinking to conquer them finally, brought a large army suddenly to land in Jersey. This army included the Duke of Bourbon and the flower of the French chivalry.

Du Guesclin laid siege to the Castle and after several assaults captured the outer fortifications, but the Castle keep held out successfully against him. The besieged finally gave hostages that they would surrender at Michaelmas if help did not come from England, such agreements being of common occurrence in the warfare of the Middle Ages.

The name of John de St. Martin is mentioned as having traitorously allowed du Guesclin to gain possession of the outer works, and he was thrown into the Castle prison. This family of de St. Martin was head of a faction in favour of French rule, and the name comes up again in a later French attack.

The Constable then, hearing that an English fleet had put to sea to relieve the beseiged, withdrew, leaving the old Castle untaken. The historian Falle triumphantly adds: " This, I think, was the only place belonging to England, which, when all others that he attacked fell before him, baffled the arms ot that great and fortunate warrior."

Du Guesclin does not seem to have forgiven the rebuff from this little island, and in 1374 and 1375 Jersey was constantly ravaged by the French, until an arrangement was come to that the islanders were to pay a ransom to him for the cessation of hostilities.

In I406 there was a descent upon the island by

Pierre de Pontbriand and Pedro Nino, Count of

Buelna, with mixed Breton, Norman, and Castilian


i History af Mont Orgueil Castle, by E. T. Nicolle.



troops, described in picturesque terms by a Spanish

chronicler to celebrate the exploits of Nino.L

They effected a landing at St. Aubin's Bay, and the archers, with banners unfurled, marched across the sands at daybreak as the tide receded, to attack the islanders, who had mustered 3,000 strong beside 200 horse. The Receiver, who carried the banner of St. George, commanded them. The combat was fierce and bloody, and few would have survived on either side had not Nino called upon his men to capture with a supreme effort the Receiver's standard. " So long," he cried, " as the banner of St. George is on high, so long will these English fight." A fierce onslaught killed the Receiver and the banner was laid low. The islanders took to flight and entrenched themselves on the heights of Grouville in full view of Mont Orgueil.

A herald was then sent from the Castle and appealed for mercy on the ground that the islanders were Christians and should not be decimated as though they were infidels. If money was wanted, they would offer what they could, but they would staunchly defend the fortress. Accordingly a levy was made and four hostages taken as a security for the remainder, and the invaders departed.

The proud old Castle, which had so far resisted all assaults, was to fall, however, in the reign of Henry VI by the treachery of his own queen, a Frenchwoman by birth. England was then torn by the Wars of the Roses, and Margaret of Anjou appealed for assistance to Charles VII of France in the Lancastrian cause and to her kinsman, Pierre de Breze, Cornte de Maulevrier, Grand Seneschal of Normandy.

•' 'T1aiizccomt,•wllilaCronica!lelC<llt<ieD.P<liraNMa,byGutielle

Diaz de Garnez, has become very- rare. It was translated into French

in 1867 and called " Li Victorial." History of Guernsey and its


ISalltWtck, by Ferdinand Brock Tapper.




The Grand Seneschal stands out as a chivalrous figure and was described as " one of the best-informed men of his time, a statesman, a soldier and a scholar."

He belonged to a noble Angevin family, and had great influence with the French King Charles VII, who made him Chief of Government and later Grand Seneschal of Normandy when that province was finally conquered

in E4-9. He influenced the King to take up the

Lancastrian cause and uphold the interests of Margaret of Anjou, whom he himself assisted by a faithful and devoted service.

Though definite documents are still lacking, it can be rightly inferred that Margaret gave the islands to de Breze as a reward for his services to her, and in particular by coming to her aid in Scotland.

In 1461 de Maulevrier sent an expedition to Jersey under Jean Carbonnel, Seigneur de Sourdeval, and Robert de Floques (or Floquet). Jean Nanfan, Governor of the islands, was surprised in bed and the Castle was taken without trouble. It is conjectured that he had received orders from Margaret of Anjou to deliver it up. Four brothers de St. Martin were said to have assisted the French landing, for we are told that their property was confiscated " by reason of treason of selling and delivering of the King's Castell within the Isle of Jarsey." '

De Maulevrier was proclaimed " Lord of the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and others


adjoining." He issued ordo finances wnicn ionii a uucu-

ment of great historical importance in the annals of Jersey civil history. When de Maulevrier was killed in the civil wars in which Normandy was fighting for her autonomy, his son Jacques became Lord of the Island, and Carbonnel, who had resumed the post of Governor of Jersey, held the Castle for Charles,



Duke of Normandy, and refused to give it up to the French King Louis when ordered to do so. For two years he was left to his own devices, fearing equally an attack from Louis or from an English fleet.

We are told by the Chronicler that Philip de Carteret had not adapted himself to de Maulevrier's rule and that the six northern parishes were never really subjugated. It is also stated that de Carteret secured the Castle of Grosnez as a place of defence and that frequent skirmishes took place between the contending parties, but, judging by documents extant, it seems clear that de Maulevrier's rule must have been a fairly comprehensive one.

In 1468 Sir Richard Harliston came to Guernsey with a squadron of ships and learnt that this was now a propitious moment to retake Jersey. He accordingly came over quietly, interviewed de Carteret, and immediate action was decided on before the French could get wind of what was to take place.

Then comes one of the most dramatic moments in the island's romantic history.

Word was sent round by Philip de Carteret " and went in a moment passing from hand to hand," and the people marched in a great silence to invest the Castle. This silent mustering in the darkness of the people from all the loyal parishes, augmented no doubt from the others who had chafed against the French rule, to assemble before the old grey Castle, appeals to the imagination. Their loyalty to their own Seigneur and the English Crown prevented any betrayal of their purpose, and the dawn of morning showed to the astonished French a fleet of British ships encompassing them by sea and a standing army of the islanders besieging them by land.


I he rrench held out and even tried, it 18 said, to




build a boat secretly and let it down the Castle walls into the sea to try to get help from Normandy. The carrying out of this plan was foiled by an islander who had been pressed into an unwilling service. He shot an arrow with a letter on it over the side of the Castle betraying the plot, and the boat was captured. The besieged then, seeing all hope was gone, gave in, and the British flag was again run up on the Castle keep.

This proof of loyalty was rewarded by the King by the grant of a further charter to the islanders. Harliston was made Governor of the Island, but de Carteret does not appear to have received any recognition of his services, though the whole success of the enterprise was due in a great measure to his loyalty and courage.

By the irony of fate, Harliston was himself besieged in the Castle because, faithful to the House of York, he refused to hand over the keys to the emissary of Henry VII. He was forced to capitulate after a siege of six months and retired to Flanders. Harliston's only daughter Margaret married Philip de Carteret and is the heroine of a tale by the old Chronicler. It was her son, Helier de Carteret, Seigneur de Handois and Bailiff of the Island, who opposed the tyrannies of the Governor, Sir Hugh Vaughan, appointed to succeed Harliston.

The next serious attempt on the island was made in the reign of Edward VI, when the French took possession of the uninhabited island of Sark, hoping to make incursions to the adjacent islands from this base. They attacked Guernsey without success and later tried Jersey, coming to anchor in Bouley Bay. They attempted to land, but were beaten off by the islanders, who had the point of vantage in the high cliffs above the landing-ground. When one sees the peaceful little






Bouley Bay to-day with its small fleet of fishing boats and its diminutive harbour, one can picture the consternation of the worthy islanders at seeing their dreaded enemies at close quarters. Yet the numbers engaged must perforce have been small and the whole action little more than a skirmish, though of deadly import to the inhabitants.

The unsuccessful French returned to Sark, which they held till 1553 ; but to quote Falle :

" Queen Mary's reign has been thought inglorious for the loss of Calais, taken by the French after the English had possessed it above two hundred years. It was nevertheless in the time and under the auspices of this Queen, that the same island of Sark spoken of above, was re-taken from the French." The comparison seems to have been a little too much even for the faithful Falle, for he hastens to add: " though indeed it cannot be said that the regaining of so small an island countervails the loss of a town, which on the side of England, was the key of France."

The account of the retaking of Sark is so picturesque a story that it rivals the taking of Troy with the famous wooden horse, and is attributed to Sir Walter Raleigh (who was Governor of Jersey for a brief period). He is said to have obtained it from some old manuscripts, and the pity is that so charming a description should have been found to be quite inaccurate.

Sark shares the geographical formation characteristic of the Channel Islands, in that it rises sheer up from the sea in a precipitous cliff, making any access or invasion a matter of the greatest difficulty. Had the islands a different configuration, there is no doubt

,1 1 1 ~~~ «


inai ineir nistory would have been shorn of much of

its interest and individuality, as they would have

probably belonged to France and remained in her


possession unmoiestea.




To gain a footing on Sark, therefore, a ruse had to be adopted.

The story goes that a company of Flemings under a Netherlands gentleman anchored in the road with one ship, and pretending the death of a merchant, the Captain asked the French if he might bury the body in hallowed ground, offering at the same time a present which they had on the ship. To this request the French acceded, provided the Flemings landed unarmed.

The coffin was then placed in the boat, having been previously filled with swords, targets, and harquebuses.

The Flemings were searched and, found to be unarmed, they were allowed to drag the coffin up the rocks, which they did with great difficulty. When they reached the church, they shut the door, took out their arms, and set about the French, who ran to the coast calling on the rest of their company, who had gone aboard to receive their promised commodities, and who had in their turn been overcome by the Flemings on board. Thus were the French driven out of the island of Sark, according to the old memoirs.

In some papers (Spanish State Papers. Record Office)  which have recently come to light, however, quite a different story is recorded.

The date given is the same (1553); and it states that Adrian Crole, a Hollander, had licence from the Admiral of the Emperor Charles' fleet to sail the seas with two vessels in search of adventure. He found himself off Guernsey, and was told that Sark was in French hands and that the garrison was greatly reduced. He was given pilots and directions from Guernsey, landed, found the sentries asleep, and  captured the island.

He reported his capture to the Emperor Charles, who offered it to Mary, but apparently she was not, as




Falle would have us believe, nearly- as grateful as she should perhaps have been. It merely raised difficulties with the King of France, who could not fail to be irritated at England receiving the island from the hands of Spain. Meanwhile Crole, dissatisfied at the lack of enthusiasm evinced, sold his artillery and stores to an Englishman living in Alderney.

We next hear that the French raised troops and recovered Sark in the December of that year; while in the following May (1554) it is tersely stated that " some subjects of Her Majesty have wrested the Island of Sark about 20 days ago from the French."

We can only gather that Sark played her little part in the intrigues of international diplomacy. Elizabeth strengthened the fortifications of both the larger islands, built in Jersey the Castle which bears her name, and granted the island of Sark to Helier de Carteret, Seigneur de St. Ouen.

When not engaged in war with France, the inhabitants seem to have turned their attention to civil dissensions, and the reign of James I was remarkable for a bitter quarrel between the Bailiff, John Herault, and the Governor, Sir John Peyton. In each of these many- quarrels history tended to repeat itself, and the bailiffs, who were Jerseymen, have always stood for the rights of the Jersey people against the Governors, many of whom were inclined to tyrannise over the little community in their almost unlimited power. In the quarrel between Peyton and Herault, a decision was given by the Privy Council, before whom the case was taken, in favour of the Bailiff, whom history paints as a brave and just man.

During the reign of each unhappy Charles, the island showed its extreme loyalty to the person of its King ; again it was the house of de Carteret which was conspicuous in bravery and enterprise.




Finally, hearing of the King's arrival in France and with his resources practically exhausted, de Carteret capitulated after a six-weeks siege and marched out on honourable terms.

Guernsey had from the outset sided with the Parliamentarians, the Castle Cornet alone holding out gallantly for the King under Sir Peter Osborne. This brave commander capitulated to the enemy the day that Elizabeth Castle fell ; these fortresses being among the last, if not actually the last, to lower the Royal Standard.

De Carteret made the most favourable terms with

~aines, including the provisos that he and his officers should retain their swords, that the foreign soldiers could choose their place of residence and that the Militia in the castle should be allowed to depart to their homes in peace without molestation.

The reduction of the island was the occasion of rejoicing in England, where thanksgivings were held in the churches, chiefly because it was thought that in the conquest of Jersey an end would be put to the privateering that had become such a menace to shipping.

Although it is stated that Cromwell wished to act leniently towards the Royalists in Jersey and appointed commissioners to settle their fines or temporary confiscation of their properties, yet the inhabitants were treated to a stern and relentless military tyranny under the Governor, Colonel Gibbon. The people were often wrongly imprisoned and their rights and privileges disregarded. The restoration of Charles II t:o the throne was hailed with delight, for the islands always fared better under the personal rule of the English monarchs.

The charters and privileges of the island were ratified and confirmed by a Royal Charter.



A reaction set in against the Nonconformist regime started under the Parliamentarian rule, and the States passed laws and penal statutes against " dissenting places of worship." Religion was again the cause of unhappiness and persecution in the reign of James II, for although, during his brief residence in Jersey when Duke of York, he knew the natural Protestant nature of the inhabitants, yet he sent over Roman Catholic Governors and endeavoured to establish their creed in both the islands.

With the ascent to the throne of William and Mary, this threatened danger was averted. Troubles of a domestic nature arose, and quarrels between the States, the Bailiff, and Jurats became frequent and bitter, and complaints to His Majesty in Council had to be settled by Committees of the Privy Council. Everyone seemed to go to court on the most trivial matter, and hatreds and enmities were nursed and encouraged until they seemed to assume gigantic proportions.

There was no immediate fear of an invasion from France during the reign of Anne and the two first Georges, but during the first American war the ancient enemies of these islands again tried to invade them.

In 177-9 the Prince of Nassau sailed from St. Malo

and attempted to land in St. Ouen's Bay, but was driven off by the islanders, forced to re-embark his men and beat a hasty retreat for France.

The next attempt came very near to being successful.