Amice de Carteret

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From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Amice de Carteret (1559-1631) was a Jerseyman who became a Jurat of Jersey’s Royal Court and was then appointed Bailiff and Lieut-Governor of Guernsey. He was founder of the line of de Carterets of Trinity. He was a renowned opponent of witchcraft and tried 77 alleged witches, 34 of whom were burned alive.

Early life

The second son of Helier De Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen and coloniser of Sark, and Marguerite, daughter of Helier de Carteret, Bailiff.

The St Ouen registers do not start until 1634, so the exact date of Amice's birth is not recorded. Since Sir Amias Paulet was his godfather, he cannot have been born before April 1559, when Paulet arrived in the island.

Chronique

Of his early life the Chronicler writes:

”"When the Seigneur of St Ouen had completed his business in Sark he bethought him by the advice of his wife and friends to marry Amice, his second son, to some maiden of high degree. Having pondered much on the matter, he recalled that Guillaume Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity, had one only daughter, who was heir to all his estate, that the Seigneur and his forbears had ever been allies of the House of St Ouen, and that the Seigneur held the Fief right nobly by homage to the King. For these and divers other reasons he deemed it meet to sound the Seigneur on the matter. And, when they had conferred together, and taken counsel with their friends, specially with Sir Amyas Paulet, Captain of Jersey, who was then in Paris as Ambassador for the Queen (for he was Amice's godfather, from whom he had received his name) they came to cordial agreement. After the betrothal and the calling of the banns, on Sunday 10 October 1578 Amice De Carteret and Catherine Lempriere were married in Trinity Church by Laurens Machon, the Minister, and high festival was kept for eight days and more with triumphant rejoicings. About twelve months later they had a son, whom they named Philippe, and at his baptism there was well-nigh as much rejoicing as at the wedding. The said Amice, before he married, had been at Winchester College, and after that at Cambridge University, where he gained such profit from his studies that he became one of the Jurats of Jersey, the Bailiff's Lieutenant, and Keeper of the Dean's seal, a man of great repute and much beloved by the people".

In 1582, when Jean De Monange, Rector of St Helier, died, Amice adopted his little motherless daughter Josabet, and brought her up until she married. He was sworn in as Jurat on 29 August 1583. In April 1584 George Paulet, the Bailiff, nominated him Lieut-Bailiff "by the advice of the Court". In September he was appointed Recorder of Wills, a civil office made necessary by the suspension of the Dean's powers. In the same year, in a letter to Lord Burghley, the Treasurer, he says that the Queen has conferred on him the Manor of St Germain for life, and he asks that it may be granted in fee simple "at a reasonable price"

The Government had now decided to build Elizabeth Castle. In March 1586 de Carteret was one of a commission of six appointed by the Privy Council to consider what kind of fortifications should be erected. In 1595 the States sent him to London to press for more money for the Castle. In 1594 the States appointed him to superintend the workmen and to see that each parish sent its share of carts and material. He tried to raise the workmen's wages, which had been fixed at eight pence a day for skilled men and sixpence for unskilled.

Paulet's letter

Among the Salisbury Manuscripts at Hatfield is a letter from Sir Anthony Paulet, the Governor, to Sir Robert Cecil (13 July 1594) complaining that de Carteret had led the men to expect that the Queen would grant an increase:

"Mr Ivy, the surveyor, and myself have laboured to put this conceit out of the people's heads; but the authority of him that encourageth them and the plausibleness of the argument hath made them almost forget the terms of modesty and duty in their carriages toward us. For my part I cannot so much condemn the people as him that keepeth them in this error, which is Mr Amys Carteret, the rather for that my Lord Treasurer did in my hearing let him know what was intended touching wages. This is the first complaint that ever I made against any in this Isle".

All the records of the time reveal him as the most active and influential of the Jurats.

In January 1601 the States received a letter from the Privy Council requiring them to free him from his office of Jurat as he had been selected to be Bailiff of Guernsey. They bowed before this command "with great regret, though they would have had many reasons to excuse them, if they had remonstrated". He was sworn in as Bailiff on 4 March 1601. But in Jersey the States took no steps to fill his place. By the death of his father-in-law in 1601 he had inherited Trinity Manor, which meant that he would pay frequent visits to the island; so in August 1602 the States urged him to remain a Jurat. But he replied that his Guernsey duties would take all his time.

Church affairs

In May 1603, however, he was back in Jersey as representative of the Guernsey Colloquy at the Calvinist Synod called to discuss certain points of difference between the two Churches.

Guernsey observed Christmas and held a communion service at Easter, practices which Jersey regarded as Popish. Jersey forbad burial in churches, which Guernsey allowed. De Carteret was a strict Puritan, regarding Romanism, Anglicanism, and Witchcraft as the three blackest enemies of God. Against these he fought relentlessly.

For example, in 1611 the Guernsey Court under his presidency decreed that all idolaters (Romanists) who persisted in their obstinate ignorance and showed that they had not renounced the abominations of Antichrist, were to be hunted down, and brought before the Court to receive condign punishment.

In 1614 it was discovered that French Roman Catholic Bibles were being bought in the island, because they were cheaper than the Calvinist Geneva Version. He promptly organized a house-to-house search throughout every parish to confiscate them.

When King James's Government tried to establish Anglicanism in the islands, they succeeded in Jersey: but in Guernsey de Carteret resisted strenuously. "The Bailiff", wrote Hussey, the Royal Commissioner, "cloth much mislike the manner of our Church Government".

He travelled to London, and fought the matter out before the Privy Council with such success that Presbyterianism survived in his Bailiwick for another half century. He was also a ruthless witch-hunter. Seventy-seven witches were tried before him (his predecessor had only tried two), and of these 34 were burnt alive and 24 banished.

Jersey links

He maintained his link with Jersey, and, though no longer a Jurat, generally attended the meetings of the States when he was in the island. In 1605 he reported to the States that the King was sending Commissioners to correct abuses in the islands. In 1606 Jersey sent him as its Deputy to London to hasten the coming of the Commission.

As a result he found himself appointed one of the Six Commissioners; but owing to the opposition of some of the Crown Officers, this Commission never functioned, and was superseded by the Commission of Gardiner and Hussey in 1607. In 1610 his wife died, and was buried in St Peter-Port Church, where her monument can still be seen.

From the burial register we learn that at this time he was not only Bailiff but also Lieut-Governor; and he held this dual post until 1620. He remained Bailiff until his death in 1651, and was buried in St Peter-Port Church on 19 April.

His two eldest sons, Philippe and Edouard, had died young. He was succeeded as Seigneur of Trinity by his third son, Josue, who had been elected a Jurat in Jersey in 1616; but he only survived his father by six months, and was succeeded by his son Amice. The elder Amice had two daughters, Elisabeth, who married Thomas Andros of Guernsey and Sara who married a Greek Prince.

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