Jersey and the other Channel Islands were ‘given’ to France by Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI, in consideration of the great services rendered to the Lancastrian cause when Edward IV was contending for the English throne. She bestowed Jersey and the sister isles on the Comte de Maulevrier (Pierre de Brezé), Chamberlain to the King of France and Grand Seneschal of Normandy.
He sent his son-in-law, a Norman chieftain, Jean de Carbonnel, Sire de Surdeval, with a considerable force, to take Mont Orgueil Castle—the stronghold of the Island. The Channel Islands were at this time under the ultimate control of the only female Warden of the Isles Lady Anne de Beauchamp, with military control in the hands of a sub-warden, John Nanfan. He surrendered the Castle, and Maulevrier immediately proclaimed himself Lord of the Isles of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark; insinuating at the same time that the inhabitants thereof were henceforth subjects of the French Crown.
Maulevrier (who probably never went to Jersey, although historians differ on this point) installed his troops in Mont Orgueil and they soon controlled most of the island, although the far north-west, which was the domain of Philippe de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, was perhaps never entirely subdued. It is said, however, that Philippe visited the Castle to dine with Maulevrier's senior lieutenants.
Attempt to capture Seigneur
Regular skirmishes took place and eventually de Carteret grew tired of the situation, perhaps angered by an attempt by French forces to capture him at St Ouen's Pond, which was only thwarted when he and his trusty steed managed to outrun the enemy in a chase back to St Ouen's Manor.
This account of the ending of French occupation was given by respected Jersey historian the Rev Philip Falle in his 1734 history of the island.
- De Maulevrier was still in possession of Jersey when Edward IV (1461-1483) ascended the throne, and then, in 1467, there appeared on-the scene one whose name will ever be remembered upon the Island - Admiral Sir Richard Harliston - and an event happened which marks an epoch in its history, for the French were forcibly expelled, never more to claim possession of any portion.
- Sir Richard, with a considerable fleet of ships, had arrived at Guernsey, and Philip de Carteret, ever on the watch for an opportunity to rid Jersey of its enemies, after much scheming, and with cautious care, contrived an interview with the gallant Admiral. The result of the interview was a siege of Mont Orgueil Castle, which lasted six months, a final victory being gained through the combined bravery and wisdom of de Carteret and Harliston.
- On an appointed night, generally supposed to be 7 June 1467, when de Maulevrier was absent from the Island, the greatest secrecy being observed - and Admiral Harliston, with his fleet, securing that no aid should come by means of the sea - the Islanders, with de Carteret at their head, drove the French into Mont Orgueil and surrounded the Castle; the enemy thus, in the morning, found themselves blockaded prisoners.
- Frequent and desperate sallies were made, in one of which another Seigneur of Rozel, Reginald Lempriere, lost his life; and in the end it appears that the French were forced to surrender, though they eventually were allowed to depart with al1 the honours of war.
- Besieging the Castle of Mont Orgueil both by sea and land, they at length forced the enemy, after a stubborn resistance, to capitulate. For this eminent service Harleston was, with William Hareby, created joint-Captain, or Governor of Jersey ; but, strange to say, no adequate recompense was bestowed upon the originator of the enterprise. Sir Philip married the sole daughter and heiress of Sir William Newton, Knight, of the county of Gloucester, by whom he had issue Philip (who died vita patris, and who, marrying Perrine, daughter of Penna de Caux, of the Pays of Caux in Normandy, left a son Philip, his heir), John ; and three other sons.
- In the year of grace 1462, being the third year of the reign of Edward IV, King of England, sir Richard Harliston, vice-admiral of the said kingdom, being in the island of Guernsey, and with a certain number of the king's ships, having heard told how the lord of St Owen, named Philippe de Carteret, with several gentlemen and also his eldest son, resisted and had always resisted and fought off the French who at that time held sway over the castle of Mont Orgueil and part of the said island of Jersey, and hoped to take that island by means of forces which they expected in the coming days; the said Sir Harliston thought to go at night secretly to that island of Jersey; and reaching Plainmont, have himself taken to the manor of St Owen, where he found the lord of St Owen, who was mighty glad to see him come.
- After discussing together their various interests, they agreed that Sir Harliston would return with all haste, and as secretly as possible, to Guernesey, to put his ships under orders and bring them to the island of Jersey, and that, amongst others, the said lord of St Owen would assemble as many people as he could. Thus, the same Sir Harliston going back to Guernesey hastily, set matters in order, than went returned to Plainmont, all in the night, and reaching there with his men, without delaying the lord of St Owen gave orders to his; being grouped together they lost no time in secretly marching swiftly along the north coast of the island, and so well succeeded, with God's help, that, at sunrise, they were all encamped before the said castle; and thus they besieged the surrounding area, so that no one from the said castle dared go without.
- However, the siege continued for so long that the French, seeing themselves almost starved and very weakened both as regards people and goods, and that their enemies were daily re-supplied as much in men as in provisions, decided to build a boat within the castle, thinking they would be able to descend the walls on the coast suddenly at night, and reach the sea, send to Normandy for help. But since they were unable to build such a boat without the carpenters' work being heard by those to the west, they decided to build another boat in view of those to the west "
- The story continues that as the carpenters struck on the one boat others should simultaneously strike on the other, that the hidden boat was finished first, but that an arrow was shot into the English camp by a sympathiser, informing them of French intentions, and the boat was intercepted by the fleet. The part of the story concerning the two boats is given by other historians as being a myth, and impossible to achieve; its proponent was the historian Falle, who it was thought wanted to give credit to a man of Jersey for the defeat of the French - who at that time held six parishes of Jersey and could have built the boat elsewhere. Other historians give credit to the story. The French capitulated and Jersey returned entirely to King Edward IV in 1468.
- 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. 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 Maulevrier 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." When he 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.
- The French held out and even tried, it is 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.