Chroniques de Jersey
The Chroniques de Jersey makes very attractive reading. Its simplicity and vividness recall on a small scale the great medieval chronicles such as Froissart or Villehardouin, and some of the best chapters read like scenes from Scott's novels.
Too good to be true?
But it inevitably arouses a certain suspicion in the reader's mind. He feels that the writer must surely have improved on the facts: these romantic adventures and dramatic scenes seem too good to be true.
And a reasonable basis for scepticism is supplied by his open and undisguised partiallity for the family of Carteret. He really seems to regard the history of the family amd the history of the Island as one and the same thing. Durell, in his edition, very aptly compares the Chroniques to the family records of the noble Roman houses which were embodied in funeral orations pronounced over the illustrious dead.
Certainly the ‘’laudatio’’ delivered over the ashes of a Fabius or Metellus in the days of Cicero must have been a history of the Republic as illustrated by the exploits of members of the family much on the lines of the Chroniques : the fragment preserved by Suetonius (Julius ,16) of the speech delivered by Cesar at the funeral of his aunt, setting out the greatness and antiquity of the ‘’Gens _Julia’’, is not at all unlike some passages in the Chroniques (eg Ch. III) about the Carteret family.
But these family records were notoriously untrustworthy. Livy was not a very critical historian, but he does recognise that family pride working through family records had corrupted historical tradition so that the careers of individuals and the public records had alike been thrown into confusion.
Considering all this and considering also the unique position which the Chroniques de Jersey holds as the only early connected account of the affairs of the island, it has seemed to me that it would be desirable to examine carefully such contemporary documents as are preserved for the period which the Chroniques cover, in order to see whether they support or contradict its statements. As a result of this examination it should be possible to form some opinion as to how far the author of the Chroniques can be accepted as a historical authority. The following notes are an attempt to provide material for such an estimate.
Chapters IV and V – the French occupation
The Chronicler's story is that the French never obtained possession of more than the Eastern half of the island, and that during the whole of their occupation, the six Western parishes under the leadership of Philip Carteret held out steadily for England, and sometimes made incursions as far as Mont Orgueil itself.
This is the tradition of the island and of the Carteret family, but there is every reason to believe that it is a considerable embellishment of the actual facts. In Vol X of the proceedings of the Societe (pp 113-153) Mr Lempriere publishes a long series of depositions taken by the French authorities in December 1463, which throw a great deal of light on the state of the island at that time.
Regnault Lempriere, Seigneur of Rozel, his wife, and Thomas Le Hardi, Rector of St Martin's, were accused of attempting to overthrow the French government by bribing one John Hareford to open a postern gate of the Castle at night and arranging for a landing force from Guernsey to help seize it. John Hareford was an English soldier of fortune, who had been captured by the French in the course of an English plundering raid on the island, and who was used by the Governor as a spy and ‘’agent provocateur’’.
The inquiry was directed solely towards things which had happened in St Martin's, ie far within what according to the Chronicler was the French sphere; but a number of facts come out incidentally which bear (1) on Carteret's position, and (2) on the state of the western parishes. There is not a word in the voluminous evidence to suggest that Carteret was a leader of revolt, or that there was any difference in the position of the Eastern and Western parishes, and there is a good deal of evidence the other way.
As to (1) it appears (p 127) that at Whitsuntide, Madame de St Ouen was dining at the Castle with the Governor and his wife, along with the Seigneur of Rozel and his wife, but apparently without her husband. Later in the year Carteret told a friend that John Hareford had thought to do him a bad turn: he had talked to him about escaping and asked to be sheltered till he could get to Guernsey: Carteret reported this to the Governor (p 154).
This is obviously inconsistent with the story that Carteret was leading the Western districts in open warfare against the French. If so, his wife would certainly not have gone to a friendly dinner at the Castle, nor could Hareford's trick have done him any harm: it would have been his obvious duty to receive an English prisoner who had escaped from the French and he would not have reported it to the enemy.
Dinner in Carteret's house
There remains one curious incident, the bearing of which is not clear. Several witnesses swore (pp 130, 145) that on the Assumption of the Virgin (15 August) the French Marshal of the Castle gave a dinner in Carteret's house for the Friary of Notre Dame, at which the Governor, the Seigneur of Rozel and his wife, and other "notables gens" were present: nothing is said of any Carterets. The words used (l'ostel de Carteret and la maison de Carteret) can hardly mean the manor-house of St. Ouen.
Carteret would scarcely let a French officer act as host in his own manor-house, and St Ouen is a long way from the Castle. I can only conjecture that it was a town house of the Carterets in St Helier, which they did not occupy while the French were at Mont Orgueil, and that as it was empty the French officers made use of it with or without the owner's consent. In either case this would not necessarily imply any special intimacy between Carteret and the French.
As to (2), it will be noted that Hareford was captured at St Ouen, where he and other English had landed to plunder (p118). If the Western parishes were all in arms for England, English ships would probably have raided the hostile French districts, rather than the English ones, and the French Governor would certainly not have been able to take prisoners at St Ouen in the heart of the English sphere.
There seems to have been perfectly free intercourse between the two halves of the island. Hareford after drinking at St Martin's tells his companions that he is going to St Ouen to sleep (p 135) ; and another time he turns up at Rozel Manor saying that he has come from St Ouen (p. 154). No one seems surprised; and there is no suggestion that he has passed from one jurisdiction to another, or even that St Ouen is from the French Governor's point of view a disturbed or disaffected area.
Finally the St. Martin conspirators are alleged to have corresponded with Guernsey, and with Guernsey only (p 131). But if the Chronicler is right, it would have been more natural and easier for them to concert action with Carteret and their own country¬men in the West who were in arms against the French.
The natural inference from these contemporary documents is that the tradition embodied in the Chroniques is largely coloured by patriotic legends. No doubt Raulin Pain spoke the truth when he told John Hareford (p 135) that if the English came to besiege the Castle he would find yeomen who would tum out with him in their harness and join in the attack, and that there were in the island 1,000 good men for the King of England and very few who loved the French. But the evidence seems clear that in 1463 the French were effectively, if unwillingly, recognised as ‘’de facto’’ rulers of the island. Of course the position may have altered later, but if the western parishes ever were actually in arms against the French, it can only have been for a short time before Harliston's recapture of the island.
In March I467 French authority was certainly recognised, even in the Carteret territory, for in that month Maulevrier's Bailiff and two jurats sat ‘’en droit’’ at St Ouen itself, and passed a contract by which John de Vinchelez founded a weekly mass in St George's Chapel in the parish of St Ouen. (SJ VIII, p 191).
It should be noted that the Chronicler, with his usual candour, faithfully preserves particular facts which do not bear out his general account. He sets out in full Maule¬vrier's Ordinances; to hold an assize of the island and pass elaborate legislation of this kind suggests undisputed mastery of the whole island rather than a somewhat precarious control of half of it.
Further the Chronicler tells us that when Harliston concerted his plan of attack with Carteret he went to St Ouen by night and observed all possible secrecy in coming and going. It is quite natural that the actual expedition and the assembly of the Jerseymen should be carried out in secret, but if all the western half of the island was openly in arms for England, it is not obvious why Harliston could not have come over alone to see Carteret without so much secrecy.
Chapter 7, p28 – Harliston’s treason
The Chronicler says that Harliston lost the Governorship because he took part in the Yorkist risings against Henry VII, and he refers the event to the affair of Perkin Warbeck (1495), when he "laissa son office de capitaine et s' en alia en Flandres pour donner secours aux enfants du Roi Edouard". This is true, but not the whole truth.
The documents show that Harliston was attainted in 1486 in connection with Lambert Simnel's rising, but was pardoned on 4 September 1486, being described as "late of Jersey", and was attainted again in 1495 after Warbeck's affair. Apparently he went further than merely adhering to the two pretenders; he tried to make himself lord of the island under the protection of the French and the Duchess of Burgundy, but was driven out by the loyal inhabitants. He certainly ceased to be Governor in 1486 at latest, and this is consistent with the statement later in the chapter that he was Governor "viron l'espace de 16 ans". This is approximately right if his appointment is reckoned from Edward IV's restoration in 1471 to the attainder of 1486, but cannot be made to agree with a period of office ending in 1495.
Chapter XII, p38 – Matthew Baker
The Chronicler's account of Matthew Baker is borne out in certain important points by the two documents which have been preserved, viz the Letters Patent of 3 November 1494 and the Order in Council of 17 June 1495. The Letters Patent with their reference to "plusieurs et diverses querimonies doleances et complaintes", made by the people of Jersey, show that there is substance in the Chronicler's account of Baker's misgovernment.
And the two documents taken together strongly confirm the Chronicler where he says that when the case first came before the Council they insisted on a reconciliation between Baker and the Islanders, and it was only later, after the King had "la vraie connaissance de toutes les choses faites qui avaient ete menees par le dit Baker", that he was actually dismissed.
The first document (3 November 1494) is a writ of Privy Seal; it refers to the island complaints as pending before the Council, speaks of Baker as still Governor, and of procuring amity between him and the islanders. The second (dated17 June 1495 and published by the Bailiff on 10 September 1497) is an Order in Council, expanding the provisions of the earlier Ordinance with much fuller detail and mentions no Governor by name.
It seems strange that the King and Council should have made two bites of the cherry in this way; and the only reasonable inference is that the story of the Chroniques is accurate : when the matter first came before the King he issued instructions to the Governor in order to deal at once with the more serious complaints, and thought at the time that Baker and the islanders might be reconciled ; but when the case had been thoroughly examined in Council, it was realised that Baker's misgovernment was more serious than had been at first supposed, and he was dismissed, and a formal Order in Council issued laying down a complete code to govern the relations between the Captain and the islanders.
Chapter XII, p 43
A curious point of social usage is raised by the story of Clement Le Hardy, the Bailiff, who was so much elated at being made Baker's Lieut-Governor that he took grave offence when the Dame de St Ouen addressed him familiarly as "Gossip" (Compere). This is altogether contrary to modern ideas of the position of a Bailiff, but it is borne out by a letter of 1513 in which Vaughan reports that he has made Hilary Carteret Bailiff and describes him as his "servant".
Chapter XIII, p 49
The Chroniques depict Thomas Auvrey, or Overy, as a thoroughly sympathetic and popular Governor. The Report of the Royal Commission of 1515 (published by the Societe in 1878) indicates one, at any rate, of the reasons for his popularity. The jurors who were sworn by the Commissioners to make inquiries presented five cases in which domain land had been held for a number of years at a rent much below its real value (in one case without rent at all) to the loss of the King's revenue, and all but one of these cases appear to have begun in Auvrey's Governorship. It seems clear that Auvrey had been consistently lenient in his dealings with people who wanted to rent royal domain, and naturally was popular in consequence.
Another indication that Auvrey was easy going in matters of finance may perhaps be found in another finding of the same jurors. They complained that after Auvrey's death, the acting Governor, who was also his executor, compelled the islanders to pay for repairs to the Castle, contrary to all right and usage, though the walls had fallen when Auvrey was Governor and there was enough money in his estate to pay for the necessary repairs. Auvrey had apparently let the fortifications fall into disorder rather then burden the island.
Chapter XIV, p 51 - Sir Hugh Vaughan
I have found no confirmation of the statement that Vaughan was Captain of the Guard or Lieutenant of the Tower, but he was certainly Bailiff of Westminster.
In October and November 1532 he was reported to Cromwell as active in his office during a time of plague (" there is good rule kept, for Sir Hugh takes pains in his office like an honest gentleman.")
The stories about his arms are interesting. The Chronicler says (p51 ).
- That Vaughan once fought a combat ‘’ a mort au a vie’’ with one Sir James Parker and killed him by a lance thrust through the mouth
- That in consequence he took Parker's arms and also took for his crest a hand holding a heart.
- That another time he saved by swimming the life of a friend who was condemned to be thrown overboard for some offence at sea.
This is true in substance, but a certain amount of legendary embellishment has gathered round Vaughan's exploits. He certainly killed Parker in the lists: this is mentioned in Fabyan and Holinshed and evidently made a great sensation. It was not, however, a single combat a mort ou a vie, but an ordinary course run in a tournament given by Henry VII in 1492.
The facts come out clearly in a memorandum written by a 16th century King of Arms. Parker challenged Vaughan's right to take part, on the ground that he was not entitled to arms (whether any arms or those particular arms is not quite clear). Vaughan produced a grant of arms from Garter, and the King who heard the case in public (presumably acting as a Court of Chivalry) sent for Garter and, on his acknowledging the grant, ruled that the arms were valid, a grant made by a King of Arms being the act of the King himself and that Vaughan was entitled to joust.
He killed Parker in the course, but Holinshed says it was an accident - "he was by casualty sore hurt and bruised so that he died thereof ". It appears from this that the Chronicler's story that Parker was killed by a lance-thrust through the mouth is a legend, but it is easy to see how it arose.
Coats of arms
Vaughan's arms were party per pale azure and purple, three pikes' heads erect and erased gold, each swallowing a Welsh spearhead silver: Crest-a standing man with arms extended, holding a knife, and wearing a coat silver and hose sable. Obviously the Chronicler thought that this curious shield commemorated the killing of Parker, and indicated the manner of it. It is a tempting theory, but it is impossible. Holinshed fixes the date of the tournament as May 1492, and these arms were granted to Vaughan in April 1491.
In 1508 Vaughan took out another grant of arms, in which he quartered his arms of 1491 with another coat, viz azure, a fess gold between three horses' heads erased gold within a bordure gobony vert and silver: Crest-a lion's paw gold holding a human heart gules.
This bears out what the Chroniques says about his crest. (The Chronicler says that it was a hand holding a heart, whereas it was a lion's paw, but no doubt he had only seen it in seals, and on that small scale the two things would be indistinguishable: even in the comparatively large trick of arms in the Harleian MS. there is not much difference). The Chronicler is wrong in thinking that Vaughan took Parker's arms. The only Sir James Parker of the period whom I can fmd in Metcalfe's Book of Knights or Shaw's Knights of England was knighted in 1487 after the battle of Stoke Field, and his arms were quarterly 1st and 4th, silver, three buck's heads cabossed sable; 2nd and 3rd, sable, a fess gold between three besants gold: Crest-a buck's head sable.
No coat which Vaughan ever used has any resemblance to this. But it is easy to see how the Chronicler got the idea. He had clearly made up his mind, for some reason, that Vaughan's change of arms in 1508 was meant to commemorate the victory over Parker. He expressly says so about the crest, and he evidently supposed that the second coat which Vaughan quartered with his original arms was Parker's.
The story about Vaughan's taking fishes in his arms to commemorate his saving a friend's life at sea cannot be confirmed, but there are facts which suggest that it is not without foundation. Some of the old armorials say that in 1491 an unspecified Vaughan was granted arms Party per pale azure and purple, a fish hauriant gold : Crest, a swimming man wearing a coat silver and hose sable, and holding a knife. These arms correspond curiously with the Chronicler's story, and the crest emphasizes the idea of saving life by swimming. The grantee cannot be positively identified with Hugh Vaughan, but it is noteworthy that his crest is practically identical with the crest of this coat.
Chapter XIV, 52 – Vaughan’s misgovernment
The Chronicler's account of this is very curious. He summarises the charges against Vaughan under three heads:
- Il prenait communement les jeunes filles par force
- S'il prerendait quelque droit ou titre sur l'herirage de quelqu'un il l'envoyait chercher par un soldat du chateau pour lui montrer ses droits, et incontinent qu'il en avait la vue il en arrachait la sceau et le rompait en pieces
- Il battait et frappait tellement les uns et les autres que bien souvent ils etaient en grand danger de mort.
On account of complaints to the King, Commissioners were sent but "par le moyen du Seigneur de St Ouen et ses freres tout fut appaise pour cette fois-la". As Lernpriere the Bailiff had complained of Vaughan, he dismissed him from office and replaced him by Hilary Carteret, "et s'allia de la maison de St Ouen le plus qu'il peut, et par leur bon moyen et conseil il devint beaucoup plus modeste qu'il n'etait aupara¬vant, et par cela la dite isle fut en repas pour quelque espace de temps". There is fortunately a good deal of material to enable us to check this story. We have:
- The Commission of Inquiry issued in 1515 and the Report of the Commissioners.
- A bundle of petitions and complaints sent to the Council in 1529.
- Report of the Commission of Inquiry appointed in 1531.
- Some miscellaneous documents.
By a comparison of these documents with each other and with the Chronicle it is possible to form a pretty definite opinion as to the nature and history of Vaughan's government and the accuracy of the Chronicler.
The three general charges brought by the Chronicler are all confirmed by the documents.
- As to rape, the jury of 1531 found as follows : "Touching the 17th article where it speaks of the ravishing certain girls, according to common rumour it is duly proved, but that of themselves they did not see the acts committed, but it is received beyond doubt as true."
- The curious story about the destruction of title-deeds is borne out in every detail by one of the petitions of 1529. The parishioners of St Martin complained that for 20 years they had been deprived of a wheat rent of 3 qrs 2 cabots given to found a weekly mass, whereby 1,040 masses had been "destourbes" to the prejudice both of the living and the dead. They said that Vaughan had sent for the chaplain, imprisoned him till he gave up the letter of foundation, and then tore the letter in pieces."
- As to personal violence, the documents contain particulars of a number of cases. The jurors of 1515 found that Vaughan had struck and beaten J Journiaux with his sword to the great injury of the said J Journiaux. The jurors of 1531 found that he beat and maimed (mutillait) Edmund le Gallais and others (apparently in order to compel them to bring fuel to the Castle); that W Pipon came back from the Castle very ill and soon after died. "The common report is and they believe by their oath that the Captain by his cruelty tyranny and avarice and in order to extort the goods of L'Evesque and Pipon "meurdyt" them so as to cause their death." (Article 9) ; "and touching Carpenter they know well that he died the night after he had been beaten by the Captain" (Article 17). They also found (Article 8) that various (unspecified) murders were proved to have been committed by Vaughan's servants.
As to Vaughan's friendly relations with the Carterets at the time of the earlier Commission, attention may be drawn to a letter from Vaughan to Wolsey dated 30 April 30 1513, sent by the hand of "Hilary Senton" (obviously for St Ouen) "his servant", in which he says that he has given the office of Bailiff to the bearer and begs that the gift may be confirmed for life by the King.
The statement of the Chronicler that at the time of the 1515 Commission "par le moyen du Seigneur de St Ouen et ses freres tout fut appaise pour cette fois-la" cannot, of course, be confirmed by any direct statement in the documents, but a careful comparison of the proceedings and results of the two Commissions leaves no doubt that it is substantially correct, in the sense that in 1515 some powerful influence was certainly at work on behalf of Vaughan. The jurors of 1531 found in so many words (Article 20) that the Commissioners of 1515 "did much harm: contrary to the truth of what they themselves had found they would not hear any pleas except about such things as they thought would be to the advantage of Vaughan to colour his misdeeds By reason of which many irreparable evils followed both in the death of worthy people and the destruction of their goods, because the Cardinal favouring and supporting Vaughan and giving credit to the Commissioners would not do execution on his misdeeds."
The differences between 1515 and 1531 are notable. The Commissioners of 1515 were two Englishmen: they may not have been bribed by Vaughan, but being without local knowledge they could easily be hoodwinked by the Captain, who had the Bailiff and the Carteret influence on his side. The Commissioners of 1531 were two English¬men and two Jerseymen: the terms of their commission are not preserved, but it is plain from their report and the articles put to the jurors that the inquiry was directed solely to alleged misgovernment by Vaughan.
The Commission of 1515 is quite general: the Commissioners are directed to inquire into manors and other property or rights belonging to the King and withheld from him, and into "all revolts, disturbances, transgressions, misprisions, corrupt practices and extortions, as well of our officers, as of others, our tenants, subjects, and jurats, and of other persons whatever". Obviously this document was carefully drawn so as to avoid any suggestion that it was primarily due to complaints against Vaughan, and to enable him to meet charges of extortion by alleging that rents due to the King were being withheld and to retort charges of misconduct on his opponents.
The report shows that Vaughan took full advantage of the situation. The jurors found several cases of misconduct by Lempriere, the Bailiff whom Vaughan had recently deposed he had kept a tavern while jurat, he had levied fees for himself as Bailiff, he had occupied certain mills without any known title, and while acting Lieut-Governor had illegally compelled the inhabitants to pay for repairs at the Castle. Two jurats (doubtless supporters of Lempriere) were found guilty of keeping taverns and misconduct in Court; and several people found to have occupied the King's land for many years at an improperly low rent to the loss of the King's revenue.
The findings against Vaughan are curiously mild when compared with the Chronicler's account of his behaviour and the findings of the 1531 jurors. There is not a word about rape, and the only act of violence mentioned is the assault on Journiaux indicated above. The jurors found that he had continued to levy the export tax on wheat instituted by the French, that he had taken bribes from foreign merchants and monopolised export business for his own private profit, that he had leased a mill without any right and continued to enforce payment of rent after the Royal Court had decided against him.
It so happens that one or two cases that were examined in 1515 crop up again in 1529-31, and a comparison between the two sets of documents throws much light on the spirit in which the 1515 Commissioners conducted their inquiry. Thus in 1515 the jury found that John Vase and Thos Briart had forcibly entered the garden belonging to the Priory of L'Islet and had gathered fruit and broken down trees to the value of 20 gold angels.
This is obviously the beginning of the affair described in the petition of the Prior of L'Islet in 1529: he complains that Vaughan had inter¬rupted his possession of the Priory by putting in two priests named Andrew Powse and John Vase. When the Priory was recoverd by royal order at great expense, these men had received £30 in revenues of which Vaughan had 25 nobles. He frequently imprisoned the tenants to make them pay. It will be observed that the 1515 jurors put the whole blame on the two priests and said nothing of Vaughan in the background.
Another case is to be found in the sufferings of the Trachy family. These are twice referred to in the petitions of 1529: Guillaume Trachy of St Mary complained that he had been compelled by fear of death to pay 10 nobles and a fat ox worth 4 nobles, and afterwards so vexed as to be brought to poverty; and a general petition mentions, among other grievances, that Benoit Trachy went to England to obtain justice for his father against Vaughan, who had put him out of his property by force, without legal process, and on his return with letters under the Great Seal for his cause to be heard he was beaten and imprisoned for 15 weeks.
Lease of mill
The jurors of 1531 evidently had this case before them, for they found that Vaughan leased a mill (named "Gygolande") to Trachy, who improved it so as to increase the value by 10 qrs. a year. But Vaughan dispossessed him and put in a Norman named Lommel (Article 16).
A somewhat different light is thrown on this affair by the finding of the jurors of 1515 on the same case. They said that the mill "Gygolande" had been leased to Guillaume Trachy of St Mary for 20 crowns a year, but it was worth 40 crowns, and the King had been robbed of 20 crowns a year for 16 years (ie since Auvrey's time).
The real nature of Vaughan's proceedings in this and other cases now becomes clear. His object was to get as much as he could out of the Royal Domain; and finding that his easygoing predecessor had leased Trachy's mill (and other crown lands) at a rent below their value, he got a verdict to this effect from the 1515 jurors and proceeded to enforce it by his usual drastic methods, without recourse to legal processes, descending on Trachy from time to time for what he (Vaughan) considered to be arrears justly due, and finally displacing him in favour of a more amenable tenant.
These concrete cases show how differently the two inquiries were conducted, and it seems perfectly clear that the report of 1515 represents a spirited piece of white¬washing. Vaughan used his influence with Wolsey to get the Commission drafted to suit his purpose, and with the help of the Bailiff and the whole Carteret clan he procured a set of findings which threw as much odium as possible on his critics, pro¬vided him with excuses for screwing up the King's revenue, and only went against himself in a few comparatively unimportant cases.
It was probably impossible to avoid some condemnation of Vaughan, as the facts were notorious, but the graver charges, such as rape, were suppressed, only one charge of assault was mentioned, and where possible, as in the case of L'Islet, Vaughan's name was kept out of the verdict. This view is supported by the fact that when the Commissioners of 1531 had completed their inquiry, they took the curious step of asking the jurors publicly in the presence of the Royal Court if they had observed any partiality, affection, or fault in them (the Commissioners).
The jurors replied that the Commissioners had conducted themselves honestly, impartially and discreetly, and the Royal Court added a testi¬monial to the same effect. This was obviously done and recorded in the report because the jurors had found that the 1515 inquiry had been partial and unfair, and the Commissioners accepted the finding and meant to have no loophole for any such charge against themselves.
The reformation in Vaughan's conduct, which the Chronicler professes to find, cannot have amounted to very much, judging by the long list of grievances, many of them very old ones, which appear in the documents of 1529-31. There is, however, one indication which suggests that there may be something in the statement. It will be remembered that the finding of the 1531 jury as to the charges of rape is carefully guarded. No names or particulars are given, and the jurors expressly say that the charges are generally believed to be true, but they have no personal knowledge.
It is a reasonable inference from this that the charges were old ones and there had been no recent cases, and the story of Vaughan's reformation is so far true that after the 1515 inquiry the Carterets impressed on him that there must be no more offences against women.
Chapters XV-XX – The Carteret-Vaughan struggle
The Chronicle goes on to say that later a furious quarrel broke out between Hilary Carteret and Vaughan,which resulted in Carteret going to England to make formal representations to the Council. The Chronicler is not very clear in his chronology, but he says that it lasted about 12 years, and if he is right in putting the beginning in 1515, this is not far out, as it certainly went on into 1529.
He distinguishes - rather obscurely, for his dates are not precise - three stages in the progress of the affair.
- In the first, Carteret was completely successful: he won the King's favour, got a grant of the office of Bailiff for life, a post at Court, and a grant of the Seigneury of St Germain, and Vaughan was sent for to answer the charges against him before the Council.
- In the second stage, Vaughan turned the tables: by means of the interest of friends and by bribes he induced the Cardinal to delay the case interminably and to keep Carteret waiting in London for a hearing which never came: he also got Carteret's office of Bailiff and his manor of St Germain put under sequestration and appointed other Bailiffs.
- In the third and final stage Carteret, driven to desperation by delay and want of money, boldly demanded and got a hearing from the Star Chamber and won his case in despite of the Cardinal.
The Chronicler's story is confirmed by the documents in its main outline and in many details. . As to the beginning of the quarrel, the Chronicle says that it began in 1515, with the attempt of Vaughan to bully the Royal Court into deciding that the manor of La Trinite was forfeited to the Crown, because Thomas de St Martin, uncle of the then Seigneur, Drouet Lempriere, the Bailiff's brother-in-law, had plotted to sell the Castle to the French.
The defence was that St Martin "en son vivant ne fut jamais accuse de telle chose ni en aucune maniere atteint de tel cas", and the Court accepted it. As the story is told, it seems a most extraordinary and tyrannical proceeding to accuse a dead man of treason in order to deprive his heir of his estate.
Vaughan's action however, was not so irrational as this suggests. St Martin had unquestionably been guilty of treason, and everyone must have known it: he had sided with the French during de Sourdeval's occupation of the Castle and had been obliged to go into exile when Harliston recovered the island. He was pardoned by Edward IV in 1480, but Vaughan, who did not take royal grants very seriously when they went against his interests, doubtless thought that if the Procureur could not find some technical flaw in the pardon, he himself could simply bully the Court into ignoring it.
He had had his eye on la Trinite for some time apparently; at least he appears to have brought it before the Commission of 1515 as a manor withheld from the King, but the jurors found against him – that St Martin died seized and possessed of the manor and his nephew had inherited.
It is an odd feature of the story in the Chronicle that instead of taking the obvious course of producing the pardon, the defence put forward and the Court accepted the audacious falsehood that St Martin had never been charged with treason at all. The explanation is probably that, when the French were in effective occupation of a great part of the island, many landowners had more or less willingly adhered to them and thereby brought themselves within the law of treason, and that most of them (unlike St Martin) had never got pardons.
If, therefore, Vaughan began to inquire into people's actions during the French occupation, many estates would be in peril, and it was in the common interest, which the Jurats would realise as well as anyone else¬, that Lempriere should not depend on the purely personal plea of his uncle's pardon, but should put forward a defence which would cover everybody in the like case, viz that there never had been any treason committed at all.
If the Court did not question it, Vaughan could never produce witnesses from England to acts of treason 50 years old, and he could not depend on island witnesses. It is not surprising that Vaughan, confronted by this conspiracy of silence, lost his temper and stormed at the Bailiff, when he saw that this barefaced lie was going to be accepted by the Court, or that this business caused an open and irreparable breach between the Carterets and Vaughan.
As to the first stage of the contest, it appears from a letter of Vaughan to Wolsey dated May 1519, that he had been subpoenaed at the suit of Carteret to appear before the Council. He asks for delay, and apparently did not go then. On 5 December 1521 Carteret was granted the office of Bailiff by Letters Patent, the grant being antedated to 10 June 6 Henry VIII, and in March 1522 he was given the manor of St Germain, being described in the patent as Sewer of the Chamber.
It is said in Chapter XVII that Carteret invented a revolving gun (invention de tirer de sa harquebuse cinq ou six traits de boules l’un apres l’autre et a plusieurs marques toutes d'une meme charge), and that the King experimented with this gun and liked it very much. In this connection it is noteworthy that there is an early revolving gun in the collection at the Tower of London, which corresponds fairly closely to the Chronicler's description. It has four separate chambers, with separate touch-holes having sliding covers, and is ascribed to the early XVIth century. (see Houlkes, Armouries of the Tower, Class XII (Firearms No 469).
Mr Houlkes tells me that there is no record of the provenance of this gun and that it is not mentioned in the early Inventories, but it seems not impossible that it was made from Carteret's design for the use of the King.
At this point the tide evidently turned against Carteret. Probably it was the grant of St Germain which finally roused Vaughan: the revenues of the manor would have come to him as Governor, if there had been no grant. He took proceedings in Chancery over the matter: see his letter to Wolsey of 13 July 1522 asking for a commandment that Carteret meddle no further with the fee of St Germain till he (Vaughan) has tried his patent with him. Carteret's procureurs receive the rents daily by reason of a commandment which he had obtained from the King.
A further letter of 3 November shows that Vaughan had been subpoenaed to appear by attorney and produce his patent as Captain "for the controversy between Carteret and himself for the office of Bailiff and the lordship of St Germain". It is not obvious on what grounds Vaughan could question the validity of a direct grant from the King of part of the royal domain; but he certainly did so, and, after all, his patron Wolsey was Chancellor.
Whether Vaughan really bribed Wolsey as extensively as the Chronicle says (p 61) we cannot of course be certain, but there is a curious correspondence of detail which is worth noting. The Chronicle expressly mentions "flues toiles de Nor¬mandie" among the bribes sent by Vaughan, and when Vaughan wrote to Wolsey in 1513 he says that he is sending by the hand of Carteret the bearer of the letter Normandy cloth to make sheets for his servants". The detail had evidently been preserved by the family tradition on which the Chronicler worked.
But, by whatever means, Vaughan certainly succeeded in getting the proceedings held up for years. Tey were not finally concluded until 1529, ie either after, or shortly before, the fall of Wolsey; and in depriving Carteret of his office meanwhile. On 22 August 1524 Letters Patent were issued appointing Richard Mabon, Dean of Jersey, and John Lempriere joint acting Bailiffs during the variance between Vaughan and Carteret and sequestering the revenues of St Germain until further order.
The Chronicler tells us (p 64) that Vaughan also gave the office of Bailiff to Jasper Pen, but does not say precisely when he succeeded Mabon and Lempriere. It appears from the records that it was at the end of 1527, as there is a confirmation (10 December) of a deed dated 12 November 1527, in which Vaughan granted the office to Pen during his (Vaughan's) governorship.
The name of Jasper Pen appears several times in the records about this time. The Jasper Pen who was licensed (1 December 1522) to import 300 tons of salt from France to Jersey and Guernsey and export merchandise to France is almost certainly our man, who was from the Chronicler's account of him a merchant of shady character: the jurors of 1531 describe him as not a fit man for the exercise of the office, but he was dead by then.
Probably the Jasper Pen who appears in 1524 as Captain of the Michael Flower of the West Country was the same person, but whether the leather-seller of London who went to Calais in March 1522 in the retinue of Lord Berners, and the man who commanded the Harry Tothill in the French war in May of the same year, were also identical with our Pen (or with each other) is by no means clear. Probably not, as the Jasper Pen who served in the wars was a prisoner in France in April 1527, when his wife Joan obtained a licence to collect alms for his ransom, and in these circumstances it seems unlikely that he would have been Baillif of Jersey in November.
The story told by the Chronicler (Chapter XVIII pp 61-62) is confirmed in a somewhat remarkable way by the documents of 1529. He says that Carteret, having been kept waiting for years and spent all his money, was advised by his friends in Lincoln's Inn to apply to the Court of Requests, and procured from the Court an order under Great and Privy Seal ordering the tenants of St Germain to pay him.
Armed with this he got in several years’ arrears and so was able to carry on his suit. Among the petitions of 1529 is one addressed to the King by the tenants of St Germain, who say that they paid their rent to Carteret on sight of a grant under the Great Seal and sign manual, and that Vaughan imprisoned them in the Castle and kept them for two days and a night without food until they were forced to pay their rents over again. Vaughan said on this occasion that if Carteret brought as many commands as would fill the chapel (of the Castle) he would make no more of them than a calf-skin.
This clearly refers to the order from the Court of Requests which the Chronicle mentions, and the curious point is that the Chronicler naively lets out the fact that Vaughan, though unsympathetic in his manner and tyrannical in his methods, was legally and constitutionally in the right. The rents, as we have seen, had been seques¬tered by Letters Patent, and no order of the Court of Requests had any legal effect in Jersey.
The English lawyers no doubt advised Carteret and issued the order in perfect innocence, knowing nothing of the peculiar constitution of Jersey, but Hilary Carteret, ex-Bailiff and insular patriot, ought to have known better. No doubt he did know better, but was too hard pressed by the delay of his suit and want of money to trouble about constitutional refinements.
But it was hard on the tenants of St Germain, and it is an ironical comment on the Bailiff's action that 40 years later his nephew, another Hilary Carteret, went to London with a grave complaint about English Courts of Law interfering in insular suits contrary to the privileges of the island, and procured an Order in Council laying down that appeals from Jersey should be made only to the King in Council,and that neither the Court of Requests nor any other English Court should grant any process against an inhabitant of jersey.
The Chronicler records both incidents alike as victories of the Carteret family, without seeming to see any inconsistency between them.
The passage (Chapter VII, p 61) about Carteret's connection with Lincoln's Inn is interesting and can be shown to be quite true. Carteret was admitted to Lincoln's Inn on 20 January 1519. Mr Hodgkinson, the Librarian of the Inn, has very kindly furnished me with a copy of the record :-
- ”Helyer de Carterett alias Senton, was admitted, and pardoned all vacations and offices; he may be at repasts; he shall not be charged with grand repasts nor with pensions unless he have chambers within the Inn, and then he shall pay for the time and otherwise not: he gave a hogshead of wine."
This means that he was admitted to the Inn as an honorary member; he was not required to study law, or take part in the legal exercises, nor to hold any office in the Inn (ordinarily a man elected to office was compelled to serve). He could have chambers and take meals in the Inn if he wished, but in both cases he only paid for what he actually had, and was excused the regular payments which ordinary members had to make. The pension (room rent and establishment charges) at Lincoln's Inn was 6d a term at this time, and the Inn made no profit out of meals; so that Carteret could as the Chronicler says, live pretty cheaply, even when his friend Mr Sillard did not entertain him.
"Sillard" is clearly William Sulyard, a distinguished lawyer of the period, who after holding several offices in Lincoln's Inn become a Bencher in 1522, and was a Master of the Court of Requests. This was a sort of sub-court of the Star Chamber (sometimes described as "the poor man's Court of Chancery") which dealt with petitions to Council in civil matters, particularly when the petitioners were poor. It also heard cases in which officials of the Household were concerned, and obviously the valuable legal advice which Carteret got gratis from Sulyard and the other Benchers was the revelation that it was open to him as an officer of the Household (he was Sewer of the Chamber) to take his case before the Court of Requests.
Chapter XIX, p 66
The story of how Carteret faced the anger of the Cardinal, and got the better of him in full Star Chamber, is the most brilliant and vivid piece of narrative in the whole Chronicle. The main fact is fully confirmed. We have a memorandum of an Order of Court that if Vaughan does not upon Saturday next show cause why Carteret has been for six years sequestrated from his office of Bailiff and compelled by injunction out of Chancery to deliver his letters patent of the office into Chancery, the injunction shall be dissolved and Carteret restored to possession.
The precise chronology is not quite clear. If, as the Chronicle says, Sir William Compton befriended Carteret after his encounter with the Cardinal, this must have happened in the first half of 1528, as Compton died of the plague that summer. But the Order of Court above is dated 1529: either, therefore, the mention of Compton in this connection is an anachronism (according to the Chronicle, Carteret was in relations with him earlier), or the final stage of the long suit was not disposed of so quickly as the Chronicle suggests.
Probably the latter view is right; it is a weakness of the Chronicler not to distinguish clearly the successive stages of a long process, and it is, of course, quite natural when an issue has been practically decided, to ignore the routine procedure for giving effect to the decision.
Possibly Carteret's appeal was made on the last day of Summer Term 1528. His case was heard on the first day of Michrelmas Term, and the formal steps lasted on into the beginning of 1529. It must have been all over before the Cardinal's fall in October 1529. This dating is borne out by a letter of Vaughan's dated 2 March 1529 in which he appoints Helier de la Rocque "etre juge de ci que le Roi de sa grace ait dispose entre moi et Helier de Carteret", Jasper Pen having voluntarily resigned the office of Bailiff: this suggests that Vaughan was beginning to feel uncertain about his ultimate success.
There is one point in the exchanges between Carteret and the Cardinal which deserves notice. The Cardinal accused Carteret of misconduct in his office: "qui fais beaucoup de maux en son pays "; "il devrait bien parler et faire du maitre en son pays";-and says he can prove it under the seal of the island. Carteret replies that this cannot be so because the seal of the island is in his own keeping.
This strikes the reader of the Chronicle as strange and incongruous: the Chronicler has said nothing about any charges against Carteret as Bailiff,and represents him throughout as presenting complaints from the islanders and defending himself against the undeserved loss of his office and his manor. But these remarks of the Cardinal, inexplicable in the Chronicler's story, become intelligible and natural when we find that Vaughan had procured a petition against Carteret.
Letter to Wolsey
In a letter to Wolsey dated November I522 he says that "the justices, dean, curates, and a great number of the commonalty of Jersey have complained of Helier de Carteret, Bailiff, that he does not administer justice and has broken commands sent to him at divers times by the King”.
The actual petition has been printed by the Societe Jersiaise. It is addressed to Wolsey and dated 4 June 1524 ; it professes to be from "the Jurats, dean, rectors, constables, and all the inhabitants of the island having authority therein, as well as the whole community", but actually it is signed by eight Jurats only, and sealed with the seal of the Dean's Court.
After setting out some other grievances the petitioners say that they are greatly troubled because Carteret has obtained by the grace of the King an order under privy seal requiring them under a penalty of I00 marks to obey and help him at all times in all matters that he may wish to do.
"We have always obeyed and helped him while he held the office of Bailiff and carried on the administration of the bailiwick, and while he observed the laws and customs confirmed to us, but when he ceased to follow them and, against the oath taken by him strictly to observe them, sought to overthrow them, we dismissed him from office and do not assist him; and in his absence Sir Hugh Vaughan has by virtue of his patent, the office being vacant, provided for the appointment of another Bailiff"
As an indictment against Carteret this is vague and unconvincing, but it was sufficient for Vaughan's purpose of retorting on his adversary with counter charges of misgovernment, and it makes the point of the Cardinal's remarks quite clear. He remembered having seen in the file a formal complaint of misconduct against Carteret and forgot that the seal on it was not the seal of the island.
It says much for the courage and ready wit of Hilary Carteret that in this agitating and perilous moment he was able to seize on this slip in a point of detail and use it to score off the terrible Cardinal.
Carteret's statement that he had the seal of the island in his possession is confirmed by a letter of Vaughan's dated 15 May I521, in which he orders the Bailiff and Jurats to replace the insular seal in the chest of the Royal Court where it is usually kept. Evidently when Carteret went to London he took the seal with him and kept possession of it in spite of the Order of I524 directing that Lempriere and Mabon as joint acting Bailiffs should have custody of the seal.
ChapterXX, p 71 – Case of Richard Appivin
This passage is interesting because the case appears to be referred to in the records, but if both relate to the same incident there are serious differences between the story in the Chronicle and the contemporary accounts. Obviously the latter being con¬temporary must be preferred in any case of discrepancy.
The story in the Chronicle is briefly that a Welsh soldier of the Castle garrison, named Richard Appivin (probably Ap Evan) had a suit against another soldier which was heard by Carteret as Bailiff after his restoration to office. When the case was obviously going against Appivin, he stabbed his opponent in open court and escaped to sanctuary before anyone could seize him. He got out of the island by a trick¬, some said by the secret favour of Vaughan.
The Records also refer to a case of murder committed in open Court by one Richard Apivin. One of the petitions sent in in 1529 says that a certain " John Apyw (doubtless Ap Hugh" went to England to complain and returned with the King's letters under great and privy seal", but while he was pleading before the Jurats a servant of Vaughan's stabbed him. The murderer has not been punished".
The case was referred to the Royal Commission of 1531, and the Jurats found (Article 18):
- ”Touching the said murder and homicide it is true that it was committed in his (ie Richard Mabon, acting Bailiff's) presence without the doer of the said crime being in any way apprehended or arrested or any order given for his arrest by the officers whom the said Sir Hugh appointed …. as the procureur, vicompte, etc …. all of whom were present when the said murder was committed. And the common report is that the porter (of the Castle) advised him who committed the said act, viz Richard Apivin, to do so."
It is natural to conclude that these two accounts relate to the same case, especially as they coincide so closely in details, even down to the small points indicated in the notes. The difficulty is that the Chronicle says that Carteret was the presiding Bailiff and (naturally) attributes no blame to him or the other officers of justice, whereas the contemporary account makes it plain that Dean Mabon was the Bailiff, and regards the affair as highly discreditable to him and all the King's officers, and through them to Vaughan.
How is it, then, that the Carteret family tradition, usually as we have seen accurate in detail, has attributed to the family hero, Hilary Carteret, a discreditable episode which really belonged to Dean Mabon, whom the Chronicler manifestly dislikes and despises?
But if the stories relate to two different incidents, it is necessary to believe that Richard Appivin twice murdered a man in open court and both times got away unpunished, which seems unlikely, even in so rough a place as Jersey appears to have been under Vaughan, and further that the petitioners of 1529 and the jurors of 1531 only mentioned one of Appivin's two murders (unless of course the other is concealed among the unspecified murders by Vaughan's servants, which are said in Article 8 to be duly and fully proved).
Chapter XXIV, p 83 – Henry Cornish as Lieut-Governor
The story of the complaints against Cornish as Lieut.-Governor and his quarrel with Edmund Perrin, Seigneur of Rozel, is confirmed by contemporary documents as follows :-
- On 2 May 1546 the Privy Council wrote to Lord Hertford as Governor that one Perrin complained of injuries done to him by Hertford's Lieutenant, and orders were given to replace the Lieutenant until the matter was heard and determined. No reply had come from Hertford, and the Council did not know how to answer Perrin's further petition. Hertford to take present order with his servant and report the result.
- On 11 May 1546 Hertford wrote to the Council that he had heard that they wished to send for Cornish. Being in the King's service and having no one but his steward to whom he would entrust so important a matter at a time when the enemy might annoy that isle, he desires them to forbear the matter till towards winter, "if the peace follow not" : for from what he has heard he is sure that Cornish is wrongfully accused. If, however, they think it unmeet to forbear so long, he begs them to send a commissioner thither to examine the matter, upon whose return, if the case so require, he will send for Cornish".
- On 16 June 1546 the Council ordered Hertford to appoint another Lieutenant and that Cornish should be sent up to answer the matter objected against him.
Chapter XXIX, p 98 – Thomas Cooks’s robberies
The Chronicle tells at considerable length how Thomas Cook and four or five other soldiers of the garrison robbed Carteret the Bailiff and another well-to-do man of their money and valuables, after getting admittance to their houses by a trick. They fled to Normandy and were arrested at Coutances. The local authorities refused to surrender the prisoners on their own responsibility, and the Governor, Sir Hugh Paulet, applied to the Privy Council, who instructed the Ambassador of France to write to the King, which he did and thereby procured the extradition of the robbers.
There is confirmation of this in the Records for 1551. On 2 April instruction was given for a letter to Sir John Mason, the Ambassador at Paris, to apply for the surrender of the robbers: it gives the names of Cook's accomplices, viz William Moore, William Smythe, Thomas Sayer, John Gullin, and Walter Maxwell. The actual letter to Mason is dated 30 April 30 and sets out that the ancient custom of extradition between Normandy and Jersey having been refused in this instance, the Council desire that he will apply to the King or the Constable that those fellows may be delivered up for execution to the officials of Jersey, the more earnestly that they have secret information that these individuals are plotting for the betrayal of the Castle to the French.
There is an autograph note by Mason on the letter saying that this was forthwith attended to by the Constable, who delivered to the bearer of the message (Sir Hugh Paulet's son) a letter to the Bailli of La Foi for the speedy redress of that and some other robberies.
This corresponds with the chronicle in every respect, except that the business was done through the English Ambassador in Paris and not, as the Chronicle says, through the French Ambassador in London.
Chapter XXIV and XXXIII – capture and recapture of Sark
The narrative in the Chronicle, which is a summary one, is confirmed in its essential points by the documents printed by the Societe in Vol X, p 102 sqq.
The Chronicle says that Sark was taken by the French in July 1549 and that Captain Breuil was left in command of the island. This is confirmed by letters from the Constable and the King (Henry II), dated in August and September 1549, relating to the sending of reinforcements and supplies to Breuil in Sark.
The King addresses him as " Captain of Sark". As to the recapture, he says that this happened about five or six years later, and that meanwhile most of Breuil's garrison had drifted away from boredom and want of supplies. The island was recaptured by privateers from Holland, who took Guernsey guides with them and landed at night finding all the garrison asleep. The Dutchmen sent to Queen Mary (as the wife of their sovereign Philip) and made her a present of the island, but received no recompense or pay from her, and came back much discontented.
Mr Nicolle, in his article above referred to, calls attention to the despatches in the Calendar of State Papers (Spanish) for 1553, Vol XI. These show that in September 1553 one Adrian Crole of Enkhuisen was cruising off Guernsey with a licence from the Admiral of Holland, when the Lieut-Governor of Guernsey suggested to him to surprise Sark and offered him local guides.
He undertook it at once with four Guernsey¬men for pilots, and found sentries and garrison asleep. Apparently Crole only found about 22 men in the island, though the garrison was supposed to number 90. As the French documents show that Breuil received a reinforcement of 200 men shortly after his original landing, the Chronicle is quite justified in saying that most of the garrison had deserted. Crole at once went to London to report to the Emperor's ambassadors.
A diplomatic discussion then followed as to what was to be done with the island. The English Government did not want to take it over direct from the Emperor for fear of offending the French; their idea was that Crole should be ordered to abandon it and they would then reoccupy it as being de jure English territory.
They steadily refused to make any payment to Crole, and they thought that if any such payment were necessary the Emperor should do it. It appears that Crole did abandon the island and it was left uninhabited. The Chronicler's further statement that the Sire de Glatigny got a grant of Sark from the French King and occupied it afresh is con¬firmed by a despatch of 4 December from the Ambassador, in which he says that the French had retaken Sark. They must have given it up again, probably as the Chronicle says when war broke out between France and England in 1557, for it was certainly derelict in 1565.
Chapter XXVIII, p 95 – execution of the prises, Richard Laverty
It is surprising that under the Catholic regime of Queen Mary the civil power should have ventured to condemn and execute a priest in defiance of the Church; but the story in the Chronicle is confirmed in detail by the Act of the Royal Court printed in Le Quesne (p 150). It is dated 27 June 1555, and makes it clear that Laverty, being a priest, was convicted of infanticide by the Royal Court, that the Dean pressed for him to be handed over to the Ordinary (the Bishop of Coutances), that the Royal Court firmly refused to modify their sentence of hanging, and that the Governor and Bailiff supported the Court.
Chapters XXXIII-XXXVI – Colonisation of Sark
The letters patent granting Sark to Hilary Carteret are to be found in the Patent Rolls Chancery) 7 Eliz Pt 3 M16. They are dated 5 August 1565: the date 1572 in the Chronicle is a mistake.
It is noteworthy that the Chronicle gives a full account of the measures which Carteret took to colonise Sark, but never says a word about the trouble which he got into with the authorities of Guernsey for exceeding his powers under the charter, although this happened during the years (1580-5) when he was writing the Chronicle.
It appears that in 1579 the Seigneur and inhabitants of Sark provided themselves with a constitution, appointing a Bailiff, 12 Jurats, and other officers. The Royal Court of Guernsey took drastic action: they held that it was not lawful for a subject to establish any such jurisdiction without the authority of the Prince, imprisoned the Bailiff for usurping public office, and deprived Carteret¬, subject to his defence if any, of possession and seizing of Sark for not complying with the conditions of his patent. The matter came before the Council, who made an Order settling the form of government of Sark, and this was supplemented in matters of detail by an Ordinance of the Royal Court of Guernsey.
It was evidently very distasteful to the Chronicler that the Seigneur of St Ouen should be called to account in this way by the Guernsey authorities and that the Council should have ruled that his seigneury of Sark was subordinate to Guernsey, and here as elsewhere he quietly ignores the part of the story which he does not like.
Chapter XXX, p 104 – Death of Hilary Carteret
The account in the Chronicle – that Carteret died at the house of the Governor, Sir Hugh Paulet, while he was in London on island business - is borne out by a letter of the Governor announcing his death, which is preserved in the Acts of the States for 8 March 1560. It is thoroughly characteristic that, while the Governor most correctly ascribes Carteret's journey to concern for the interests of the island ("in travelling more about your affairs than any of his own"), the Chronicler says frankly that Carteret’s chief object ("ce qui plus menait le dit Bailli en Angleterre pour lors") was to procure a grant in perpetuity of the manor of St Germain, which he held for life.
The Chronicler’s dealing with documents
The Chronicler often refers to and sometimes professes to give the full text of original documents, and this affords a useful means of testing his reliability. He gives in full five important documents, the Ordinance issued by the French Governor in 1463, Henry VII's Ordinance of 1494, the order as to the Reformed Service of 1563, and the two Orders in Council as to appeals of 156S and 1572.
On comparison of his versions with recent and reliable transcripts (in the documents prepared for the Privy Council in the Prison Board case) it becomes plain that the Chronicler has actually consulted the originals and reproduced them quite accurately. There are a few verbal variations in the two long Ordinances, but they are quite unimportant and are obviously due merely to slight misreadings of the manuscript, to casual mistakes in copying, or to printers' errors. The Chronicler certainly understood the importance of original authorities and was careful and conscientious in using them.
In the conclusions of the foregoing it should be possible to form a definite opinion upon the value of the Chronicle as a historical authority. It is apparent at once that the Chronicler was an educated and well-read man with an accurate and careful mind ; he shows a sense of the importance of original documents, which is unusual in the 16th century: he has studied the insular records carefully and takes pains to reproduce them accurately.
This however is only part of the question; it is not enough to be assured that the Chronicler himself is trustworthy; we want to know if the tradition which he follows is also accurate and reliable. For it is obvious that a great part of his narrative must rest entirely on insular and family tradition; no man writing in 1580*85, even if he were very old, could possibly have had any personal memory of events of 80 or 90 years before. And it is a curious feature of the Chroniques that it is precisely the earliest parts of the story that are the best and fullest.
The accounts of the struggles with Baker and Vaughan are full of brilliant narrative and vivid detail ; for the 40 years or so before the actual time of writing the matter is briefer and less interesting and the style is duller.
The reason for this is not far to seek. The years 1490-1530, which contain the cream of the story, are precisely the years when Margaret Harliston and her son Hilary Carteret are in the centre of the stage. They were people of high spirit and strong character and their forcible personalities left a sharp impress on the family tradition: in other words these chapters are practically their reminiscences.
This comes out very clearly in Chapter XIX, the account of Carteret's struggle with Wolsey and the most striking passage in the book. It contains details, as eg Carteret's commending himself to God before braving the wrath of the Cardinal, which no-one but Carteret himself can have known. The triumph over the Cardinal was the great day of Carteret's life; and it is obvious that this chapter is practically his own account of it: he told the story to his children and his grandchildren till they knew it all by heart.
In the same way, the details of Margaret Harliston's secret journey to London must have come from herself: no one else in Jersey could have told how she escaped at Poole by landing in a sudden rainstorm which had driven everyone into shelter. Only a practised novelist could have invented such picturesque details, and the Chronicler was not that. If he had been, he would not have expended all his invention on the first half of his period and left the last 40 years comparatively bald and unadorned.
Apart from this consideration, the evidence set out above is all against his having invented anything. The family tradition which he followed appears to have been singularly accurate and faithful both in substance and detail. Wherever we can check it we find that it is confirmed even in unimportant particulars, and that points which are irrelevant or unexplained in the Chronicler's narrative prove to be true and intelli¬gible when the contemporary documents are consulted.
The strong bias of the Chronicler in favour of the Carteret family is obvious at the most casual glance into the book and naturally raises suspicions as to his trust¬worthiness. But in fact this bias affects the accuracy of the narrative very little. His family feeling is so thoroughgoing and so naif that he scarcely realises that anything which is good for the Carterets may not be good for Jersey.
He goes so far as to say in one paragraph that Vaughan was a tyrant addicted to rape, violence, and extortion and in the next that he was on the best of terms with the Carteret family and made the connection still closer when an inquiry into his conduct was pending.
An author who is capable of such devastating candour is clearly immune from any temptation to alter the truth for the credit of the family. In fact, no instance can be traced in which the Chronicler has misrepresented or garbled anything in order to put the Carterets in a better light. On the contrary, he sometimes preserves details which taken together with the documents throw an unfavourable light upon his heroes' proceedings. His prejudice has affected his narrative in quite a different way: he does not misstate facts, but he sometimes quietly omits what he does not like. Thus he tells us that Harliston adhered to Perkin Warbeck and took refuge with the Duchess of Burgundy, but entirely passes over his earlier attempt to hold Jersey for the Yorkists or the French and his expulsion in 1486: with regard to the suit about the manor of La Trinite he tells us - no doubt truly - that the plea put forward by the defendant and accepted by the Court was a denial that any treason had ever been committed and does not say that this defence was flagrantly untrue.
And again he dwells at length and with much satisfaction on the colonisation of Sark, but never refers to the trouble which the Seigneur brought on himself by exceeding his powers, though this happened while he was actually writing. Obviously he did not care to record that a Carteret of St Ouen had been successfully brought to book by the Royal Court of Guernsey and his lordship of Sark held to be subject to the Guernsey authorities.
The result of our examination therefore is that, setting aside the legendary matter in the first few chapters, and the patriotic myth about the resistance of the Carterets and the western parishes, the Chronicle is to be regarded as in substance an accurate and faithful record of facts. Even where the actual events have been somewhat embellished by legend, as in the case of Hugh Vaughan's early exploits, there is always something in the facts which has given rise to the mythical element. And the practical conclusion is that the historian may and ought to accept any direct statement of fact in the Chronicle as ‘’prima facie’’ true unless there is evidence to the contrary.
While this paper was going through the press two further points came to my notice which seem worth appending here.
- Under the heading "Vaughan's Misgovernment" are particulars of a case of the imprisonment of a Crown Tenant for non-payment of rent alleged to be due. As to this, it should be added that Vaughan may very probably have claimed that he had a right to imprison Crown tenants who did not pay their rent. There is a clause in Maulevrier's Ordinances (which purport to be based on insular custom) under which Crown debtors might be summarily imprisoned in the Castle without legal process.
He was quite ready to follow French precedents when it suited him - he continued to collect de Sourdeval's export tax on wheat. In support of this view it may be noted that when the tenants of St Germain complained of imprisonment for not paying their rents, Vaughan answered that he never sent for the tenants to the castle, but only for the rent-gatherer (Prevot) to ask why he did not pay over the rent, and the Prevot, being in the Castle for inforcement, for his discharge sent for the tenants.
The rule in Guernsey was the same as that laid down in Maulevrier's Ordinances. Power to the Governor to imprison "for martial causes and farms" is expressly reserved by the Order in Council of 11 March 1568 ; and a Law Officers' Opinion of 1580 (Addenda Elizabeth Vol XXVI, No 31) relating to complaints from Guernsey says that imprisonment by the Queen's Receiver for unpaid rents has been usual there: the Law Officers think the practice undesirable because the Receiver " is a man of little stay of living and guided by the Porter of the Castle, whose commodity it is to have many prisoners."
As to "Henry Cornish as Lieut-Governor", confirmation of another incident of Cornish's government is forthcoming from documents relating to Guernsey. The Chronicler says (Chapter XXIV, p 87) that during a war with France certain French merchantmen were chased into Guernsey by English ships and Cornish with the help of the islanders upheld the neutrality of the island and protected ships and goods against the English.
This affair is mentioned in a letter from Sir Amias Paulet to Walsingham, written in 1587, when the neutrality of the Channel Islands was a burning question in relation to Guernsey, and was under the serious consideration of the Council. Paulet was consulted in view of his long experience of the islands ; and he says in his letter (dated 14 May 1587) that he had been Lieut-Governor and Governor of Jersey for 36 years during all which time neutrality had been in force
- "and I have been credibly informed and do take it undoubtedly to be true that some years before my first coming to Jersey and during the Governorship of Mr Henry Cornish, Lieutenant to the Duke of Somerset, an English man-of-war chasing a Spanish bark into one of the roads of the said isle, and there entertaining his fight with the said bark, was repulsed by the said Cornish with the aid of the inhabitants, and the Spaniard maintained in quiet possession of his ship and goods."
This is an independent and nearly contemporary confirmation of the main facts of the Chronicler's story. The mistake as to nationality - Paulet says the ship was Spanish instead of French - which is clearly wrong, as there was no war with Spain in Cornish's time, is obviously a mere slip of memory due to lapse of time and the fact that at the date of writing the point at issue was the protection of Spanish goods.