Constitution

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There is a popular misconception that Jersey's constitution was laid down by King John after he lost his territories in France in 1204 and the Channel Islands ceased to be part of the Duchy of Normandy.

King John's rules

This is either a fabrication, or a considerable exaggeration of what happened. At the time John was determined to regain his former French possessions and fully intended that the islands would again come under the control of the Duchy, so it is unlikely that he would have made any sweeping changes to their status. It is more likely that he laid down a few rules about how the islands should conduct themselves in isolation from Normandy.

King Henry III

There is a belief that King John visited Jersey in August 1213, three years before his death, and granted his "Constitutions". There is no specific record of this, and it cannot be proved or disproved, but over the centuries such an event has come to be accepted as the basis for the relationship between the islands, the Crown and the British Government. The existence of the "Constitutions" and the visit of King John to Jersey were given greatest credence in The Rev Philippe Falle's An account of the Island of Jersey, the greatest of those islands that are now the only remainder of the English dominions in France, with a new and accurate map of the Island, published in 1694, and for a long time recognised as the definitive history of the island 1734 reprint.

King's visits

Falle not only mentions the 1213 visit, but claims that King John came to Jersey earlier, in the wake of the split from Normandy in 1204 and subsequent attempts by the French to capture the Channel Islands.

"No sooner was he apprized of the hazard they ran of being overpowered and being born down at last, should the French return with a greater Force, but he, not thinking it enough to send over the necessary succours, hastened himself in person to animate the People, and keep up their Courage by his presence among them.
"He visited the islands with great care, viewed those weaker places which had let in the French, and caused the same to be fortified. he appointed proper officers, under the name of Wardens, or Keepers, to have a watchful eye over the ports and harbours, so that none suspected to come with an hostile intention might be suffered to land. And having provided for the Military Defence, he next took into consideration the Civil State of the Islands. He set us free from all Foreign Dependances, and settled us upon our own Bottom. Matters that in the last resort used to be carried to the Duke's Eschiquier (Normandy's supreme court) he drew to himself and his Council in England. All others he left to be determined within our ownselves, by a Royal Court, which he instituted in each of the two principal islands, Jersey and Guernezey. He gave us a Body of Constitutions, which have been the Foundation of all our Franchises and Immunities to this Day and may not improperly be called our Magna Charta, like that of England, and prior in Time to it.
"I do not suppose that all these things were done at once, and at the King'f first going to the Islands. The framing of the Constitutions and adapting them to our Laws, to which he would not derogate, required some deliberation. But I find him again in Jersey in the fifteenth year of his Reign, ie three years only before his Death; which I take for a further Proof of his Care of us, continued to the last, and from which even the Troubles he was then under by the Rebellion of his Barons could not divert him."

King John and his courtiers certainly do not seem to have made a record of any agreement with the islanders, because in 1248, his son Henry III, one of England's longest reigning monarchs (he was on the throne for 52 years) ordered Warden of the Isles Drouet de Barentin to ascertain what laws his father, King John, had instituted in the islands.

King John

"Constitutions of King John"

De Barentin conducted an inquest into the rents and services due from the islanders to the crown, and what appears to be part of the record of this inquest relating to Guernsey, is preserved in the Public Record Office. It consists of the original Royal Mandate for the inquest with a sheet of parchment attached. On this someone has written Constitutiones et provisiones constitute per dominum Johannem regem postquam Normannia alienata fuit (Constitutions and provisions constituted by the Lord King John after Normandy was alienated).

This is the document which has been perpetuated over the centuries as the islands' constitution, and every time the inhabitants of either island have complained about their treatment by the representatives of the English monarch or the Privy Council, the response has been to demand of them what they believe their rights and privileges to be. The problem is that the so-called "Constitutions of King John" do not actually set out rights and privileges and they also do not appear to have been issued directly by King John, because they are written in the third person, rather than the customary "royal We".

The document contains eight clauses, two of which relate to the access by islanders to justice, and the remainder to the security of the islands, access to their ports and regulations regarding fishing and trade.

But Falle's history contains a list of 18 clauses allegedly making up The Constitutions of King John. The likely explanation for this is that when, in 1603, Sir John Peyton was appointed Jersey's Governor is succession to Sir Walter Raleigh, he asked the Rector of St Helier, Thomas Olivier, on his arrival to brief him on the island's constitution. He took five of the eight clauses from the 1248 Guernsey document, added to them 13 clauses from a petition sent 100 years later to Edward III, pleading for the retention of ancient customs, without any mention of King John. The Rector was simply complying with the Governor's request and gave him a summary of the island's constitution as it was viewed in the island. But because all 18 clauses came under the heading "Constitutions and provisions ...", it was assumed that that was what they were, and that was what they remained, even to the extent of being accepted by a Royal Commission in 1860.

Not only is it unlikely that King John had anything personally to do with Jersey's constitution, it is also unlikely that he ever visited Jersey. Research since Falle's account by Sir Thomas Duffus Hardy, former Keeper of the Record Office, led to the publication of an itinerary which traced the day-to-day movements of the King. This leaves no room for a visit to the Channel Islands at the time.

Disputes

As time went by and one English monarch succeeded another, Jersey (and Guernsey) became embroiled in frequent disputes between the insular administration and the Wardens and Governors imposed on the island, and whenever such arguments arose, and Royal Commissioners were sent to inquire into the islanders' complaints, reference would be made to the "Constitutions" and subsequent confirmations made by successive monarchs.

It became a well-established tradition that, usually within a relatively short time of a new King or Queen acceeding to the throne, a Charter would be issued confirming the rights and privileges of the islands.

Henry III

Henry III had been king for ten years when, in 1226, he gave orders that islanders should enjoy the same liberties as they had in the times of Henry II and Richard (Close Roll, 10, Henry III, m15. Public Record Office). It is not clear what happened 22 years later to cause him to issue his 1248 demand to know what his father might have commanded which was at variance with his grandfather and uncle's instructions.

Jersey's Royal Seal
Edward I

Edward I

In 1279 Henry's son Edward I granted the Bailiff of Jersey the Public Seal bearing the Royal Arms of three leopards, to be attached to all official documents.

In 1298 a barrage of complaints from the island against the officials of Lord of the Isles Otto de Grandison led Edward to send Justices in Eyre to Jersey the following year to inquire into the Customs, rights and privileges claimed by the islanders. These Justices included Henry, Prior of Wenlock, the Chief Justice, who was himself one of de Grandison's officials, and acted as his attorney when he was abroad. Indeed, records show that the Prior was one of de Grandison's lieutenants in the Channel Islands at this time (he would therefore have been a Warden of the Isles and is shown as such in lists of holders of the office. Because de Grandison, who was Lord for over 50 years, never visited the islands until 1232, the Prior would almost certainly have appointed the very officials about whom islanders had complained.

Edward II

Edward II

It was another ten years before the process was repeated after further complaints from the islands. THe visiting Justices for the 1309 Assize were the Constable of Carisbrooke Castle and John de Fresingfeld, a lawyer from Dublin. They immediately went on the attack, producing quo warranto writs requiring the Seigneurs to justify the seigneurial rights they claimed. They merely claimed "that they and their forbears had ever been wont to enjoy these". Then the whole community was challenged to justify the election of 12 Jurats "who arrogate to themselves the functions of the King's judges".and the questions were referred to the Court of the King's Bench (Assize Roll, No 1163, m14, Public Record Office) and again quietly forgotten.

It was another 11 years before the Justices were back in Jersey in 1320, and this time two of them had strong connections with the island: Sir Nicolas de Chesney held the fiefs of Pinel and Morville and Sir Jean de Carteret with the brother of the seigneur of St Ouen. They gave their judgment in favour of the islanders, much to the detriment of many of de Grandison's officials. The Constable of Castle Cornet in Guernsey was hanged, his counterpart at Gouray Castle fled for his life, other officials were fined and significant areas of confiscated land were restored to their previous owners.

De Grandison was furious, and reminded the King that this would have a serious impact on his income when the islands' revenues reverted to the crown on his (de Grandison's) death. The King revoked the judgments of the commission and gave Otto and his officials their confiscated land back.

However, this brought the islands close to revolt and Otto's nephew was thrown into prison when he arrived to take up a position as sub-Warden. Otto arrived in Jersey for the first time on 1 June 1323 at the age of 90, but his visit did little to calm furious islanders and another Assize was ordered. De Grandison returned to his home in Switzerland, where he died in 1328, a year after Edward II had been deposed.

The islands had undoubtedly suffered during de Grandison's tenure of office, but they now had a steely determination to retain all their rights and privileges, whatever they believed them to be and however they believed that they had originated.

Edward III

Edward III

Another Edward came to the throne and paid little attention to the islands, being preoccupied with a struggle against the Scots. In 1331 another visit by Justices in Eyre was ordered. It was to be the last of these visits, and it was not without controversy. In Jersey 23 men got together under the leadership of Pierre Bernard de Pynsole and Laurens de Gaillard, two Basque merchants who were joint Wardens of the islands, de Gaillard having purchased the post. They probably feared that the visiting justices might adversely affect their incomes and persuaded the others to resist to the death any interference with the ancient liberties of the island.

On landing in Guernsey the justices, Robert de Norton, Guille de la Cour and Alias de la Rue, were met by the conspirators and 500 rowdy men. The justices refused to confirm any customs and liberties without consulting the King, leading to a near riot and the arrest of the men. They were acquitted after trial by a local jury and discharged. The justices ordered a retrial in Jersey, but the record of these proceedings has been lost and the final outcome is not known.

In 1333 the islanders again petitioned the King, demanding confirmation of their privileges. On 12 February that year Edward suspended proceedings in the King's Bench and it was not until eight years later that on 10 July 1341 he confirmed by Chrter the customs and privileges of the Islanders (Patent Roll, 15, Edward III, Part 2, m 28 Public Record Office).

"Considering how faithfully the beloved men of our isles maintained their loyalty toward the King of England, and how much they have suffered in defence of their islands, and of our rights and honour, we concede for ourselves and our heirs that they hold and retain all privileges, liberties, immunities and customs granted by our forebears or of other legal competency, and that they enjoy them freely without molestation by ourselves, our heirs or officers."

This is a charter that has never been revoked, and is often quoted in support of the islands' claims to self-determination. Significantly, it does not state what islanders privileges, liberties, immunities and customs are, but simply refers back to earlier unspecified grants.

By now England was embroiled in the Hundred Years War with France and in 1360, in one of the temporary truces, the French abandoned all claims to the CHannel Islands by the Treaty of Brtigny. This state of affairs did not last long.

Richard II

Richard II

Things seem to have settled down under Richard II, although islanders were more concerned with invasions by the French rather than their constitutional relationship with England. In 1378, the year after his accession, RIchard II issued a Charter confirming the privileges and liberties of the islanders (French Roll, 2, Richard II, m 11, Public Records Office). In 1394 he issued another Charter granting islanders quittance from tolls and customs within the realm of England, and two years later he appointed his cousin Edward Duke of York as Lord of the Isles for life.

Richard was succeeded by Henry IV in September 1399 and the following year he issued what had by then become the customary charter confirming the privileges, liberties and immunities of the islanders. The process was repeated by Henry V a year after his accession in 1412. It took the next monarch, Henry VI rather longer to get around to doing the same, because his charter confirming the privileges and liberties of the islanders, and recalling how nobly they had acted for the safety of the island, was not issued until 1441, 19 years after he came to the throne.

French occupation

The next stage in the consolidation of Jersey's constitution took place, ironicaly, whille the island was occupied by the French.The invasion by Comte Maulevrier in 1461 resulted in seven years of occupation. In October 1462 Maulevrier ordered a Commission of six to hold an Assize in the island and a deputation of clergy and notables presented a petition requesting that they should be governed "as of old by the custom of Normandy with certain exceptions which were granted some time ago in writing" - presumably another veiled reference to the "Constitutions of King John".

A charter known as The Ordinances of Maulevrier was drawn up, confirming all existing institutions, and requiring the Bailiff, Jurats, Rectors and Constables to choose future Jurats. This is thought to be the embryo of today's States, with the Jurats becoming involved in forming new legislation with input from the Constables and Rectors on behalf of the parishes. It is believed that Etats, a word already in use in France, may have been coined at this time to stand for Jersey's three "estates" of bench, church and parish.

Edward IV

Edward IV

Edward IV had been on the throne for nearly nine years when, on 28 January 1469, he issued a charter acknowledging the assistance which the men of Jersey had rendered in recapturing Mont Orgueil Castle from French occupation (the castle seems to have acquired this name during the period of French control) and granting quittance from tolls in the realm of England ("freedom from pontages, pavages, murages, carriages, fossages, and other similar charges in all the cities of England") and further directing that the people of Jersey should enjoy their liberties and franchises as ever. (Patent Roll Edward IV, Part 2, m 3 Public Record Office). In 1483 Edward and Louis XI of France agreed that the Channel Isles should be regarded as netural in time of war and the following year Pope Sixtus IV enforced this agreement with a Papal Bull. It was to have more effect than many other agreements between England and France and remained in force for over 200 years.

Henry VII

Henry VII

The next two monarchs, Edward V and Richard II were only on the throne for two months and two years respectively, so never became concerned with the status of the Channel Islands, but within six months of his accession on 22 August 1485, Henry VII resumed normal service with a Charter on 10 February 1486. Local tradition has it that Henry visited Jersey before his accession, taking shelter in the house of Clement Le Hardy, who was made Bailiff as soon as Henry was on the throne.

On 17 June 1495 (although possibly November of the previous year) Henry was forced to issue an order defining the Governor's powers. The Privy Council had received a barrage of complaints about the high-handed actions of Governor Matthew Baker, presented by St Ouen Seigneur Philippe de Carteret. Baker attempted to trap de Carteret with a concocted charge of treason, the ramifications of which led to Baker's dismissal. The King ruled that the Governor should no longer have the power to nominate the Bailiff, Dean, Viscount or Attorney-General, which appoimtments would lie with the Crown alone in future. The Governor was also barred from any interference with the administration of justice and lost his right of arrrest for treason. Henry VII's orders went even further. He curtailed some of the powers of Jurats and defined their duties more clearly than before.

The Captain or Guardian on admission to office should be sworn and give sufficient security loyally to keep Mont Orgueil Castle for the King, and should not appoint any deputy or admit any soldiers except such as could be depended on for their faithful allegiance to the King and his heirs; they likewise being individually sworn in and held to be amenable to the law, if guilty of injury to any of His Majesty's subjects; the Governor, too, was specially bound not to interfere with the free exercise of trade; whilst Saturday was fixed upon as market day, and the price of provisions ordered to be regulated by the Royal Court — a power which was used subsequently for many years by the Jurats.
All persons holding fiefs in capite were to be continually ready and equipped when called upon by the Captain for defence of the Island according to ancient custom; whilst permission was accorded to the said Captain to employ people for reasonable wages at Mont Orgueil Castle, over and above the day's work due from them to that fortress, power being given to him also to grant licences to such persons as desired to leave the Island for any place outside the King's dominions. The Governor at the same time was to be informed concerning all or any exportation of goods from the Island, and both he and the Jurats were forbidden to levy any taxes except such as were for public good or for the Island's defence.
This Charter also confirmed the order that the nomination of the Bailiff, Dean, Viscount, and Procureur rested alone with the King, adding also distinctly that such was to be without the interference of the Governor or Jurats, neither of which latter body were to be allowed to keep either a tavern, a public bakehouse or a brewery while in office; and except in the presence of seven of them the public seal was not to be used.
The Constables of each parish were ordered to be freely elected by the elder portion of the inhabitants without recommendation from any official, also that neither the Governor nor his deputy could grant pardon or remission to anyone guilty of robbery or murder without the express commands of the King, nor were they allowed to interfere with or in any way disturb the Courts either spiritual or temporal, their functions being purely confined to military affairs, whilst perhaps the most remarkable order contained in this celebrated Charter was that which ordained that no inhabitant was permitted to receive a stranger into his house except he had informed the Governor of his intention to do so.

This charter confirmed the liberties of the people, protected them in the exercise of their elective franchise, guarded them against unnecessary taxation, shielded them in a measure from official oppression, regulated the powers of the Governor, secured independence in the Court of Justice, and provided for the due and impartial administration of the same.

Henry VIII

Henry VIII

The next king also had a difficult time with the Channel Islands. Ten months after his accession in April 1509 he issued the customary charter confirming the liberties of the islanders, but by 1513 the Governor Sir Hugh Vaughan, a boyhood friend of the King, had so outraged the people of Jersey with his conduct that Bailiff Thomas Lempriere went to Westminster to complain. He was accused of "wenching and become so lecherous that he would rape young girls by force, so that they dared not walk in the lanes alone for fear of him" and of violently seizing estates from landowners.

Vaughan dismissed Lempriere in his absence, despite Henry VII's rule that this could only be done by the King, and appointed Helier de Carteret. A 1515 visit to the isladn by two Commissioners sent by the Privy Council left Vaughan in charge, but he then fell out with de Carteret and the two clashed violently at a Court hearing over disputed ownership of Trinity Manor. A prolonged dispute between the two at Westminster led to de Carteret's suspension for five years from 1524,as the Lord Chancellor Wolsey delayed the case in response to bribes from Vaughan.

When Wolsey fell from grace, de Carteret returned to Jersey and his position of Bailiff, and further complaints about Vaughan's behaviour, including drawing wages for 54 soldiers when he only had eighteen, led to his removal from office.

The quarreling continued, however, with the Jurats clashing with the Bailiff, and both coming into conflict with Lieut-Governor Robert Raymond. He was replaced by Governor Sir Edward Seymour, the King's brother-in-law (brother of Henry's third wife Jane Seymour) who in 1542 made an extraordinary attempt to persuade the States to elect two of their number to attend the English parliament. The States had his letter translated into French and circulated to the parishes, and the matter was quickly forgotten.

Queen Elizabeth

Elizabeth I

Henry's son Edward VI issued a charter confirming the liberties of the islanders on 6 March 1548, 13 months after his accession, and although no charter was issued by his sister and successor Queen Mary, four years after the accession of younger sister Elizabeth in 1558, she issued a charter granting the islanders confirmation of their liberties and citing that henceforth they should not be cited by any form of legal process to appear before English Courts. This Charter reasserted the neutrality of the Channel Islands and their surrounding seas. This was followed three years later by an Order in Council that all suits were to be heard before the Royal Court with an appeal only to the Privy Council

Elizabeth's successor James I confirmed the privileges and liberties of the islanders within a year of his accession in 1603 and on 9 August 1615 issued Letters Patent confirming Henry VII's ruling that the Bailiff, Dean, Viscount and Attorney-General should be appointed directly by the Crown, adding the Solicitor-General to the list. Once again the Bailiff and Governor were arguing over their respective rights and Royal Commissioners Sir Edward Conway and Sir WIlliam Bird were sent to Jersey to report on the dispute between Bailiff Jean Herault and Governor Sir John Peyton. They ruled in the Bailiff's favour and on 15 June 1615 Orders in Council gave precedence to the Bailiff in the Royal Court and States Assembly. A year later supplementary orders were made relating to meetings of the States and the Governor's right of veto. By 1621 there were further conflicts between Herault and Peyton which led to the former's suspension for two years.

Charles I

Charles I

Charles I succeeded his father in March 1625 and two years later issued a charter confirming the libterites of the islanders. On 12 June 1635 an Order in Council was issued containing orders for the correction of certain defects in the civil government, but all this was overshadowed by the growing dispute between King and Parliament in England. Bailiff and Lieut-Governor Sir Philip de Carteret was firmly on the King's side, but he was far from popular in Jersey and his opponents declared for Parliament, largely as a snub to de Carteret.

Had England not been in a state of turmoil it is likely that further attention would have been paid to the way Jersey was being run, but as it transpired Jersey became embroiled in the Civil War and its administration changed back and forth until the Restoration of the Monarch and accession of Charles II in 1660 brought the return of some degree of order. Within two years he had confirmed the privileges and immunities of the inhabitants of Jersey by Charter and the following year he presented the States' mace as a token of his gratitude for the support he received from the island throughout his exile.

James II confirmed the islanders privileges and immunities in a 1687 charter two years after his accession, but the tradition appears to have died with this monarch.

Code of Laws

In 1771, after a short, peaceful but significant popular 'revolution' two years earlier, the States draw up a Code of Laws, which received Royal Sanction. This was a significant point in the development of the island's constitution because it ended the power of the Royal Court to legislate and finally constituted the States as the Island's legislative assembly. Between 1783 and 1790 disputes arose between the Royal Court and the Rectors and Constables as to their respective rights. Many Orders in Council were issued defining the rights of the States and the powers of the Bailiff.

The election of Jurats came under the spotlight in 1811 and a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the system. Despite their misgivings, the existing system of popular election was confirmed in 1813. Controversy over the role of Jurats reared its head again in the mid-1800s, led by a political agitator Abraham Le Cras, but despite his view that they should be replaced with paid magistrates receiving support from a Royal Commission, the States stood their ground and the status quo was maintained.

A major conflict with the Crown had already occurred in 1852, when, on 11 February, the Privy Council ordered the establishment of a lower criminal court, a Petty Debts Court and a new police system, claiming the right to legislate for the island. The States were having none of this and challenged the orders, which were revoked at the end of the following year on the ground that serious doubts existed whether suchc legislation without the assent of the States was consistent with the constitutional rights of the island. But it was clear that changes in the island's administration were again needed and the States themselves passed the necessary legislation and in 1856 it was decided to add 14 Deputies to the composition of the House.

Prison Board case

It might have been thought that by now the Privy Council and the Island had resolved their differences and worked out what the relationship was between them, and also that Lieut-Governors knew where they stood in relation to island affairs. But that was far from the case, and a complicated legal action brought everything to a head again.

In the early 19th century, conditions in Jersey's prison were much criticised, and it was decided to erect a new building and form a Prison Board, to oversee its running. The importance of this body can be judged from the fact that the Order in Council of 11 December 1837, which constituted the board, provided that it should consist of three members chosen from the States, one of whom should be the Bailiff, and the Lieutenant Governor, Viscount, and Receiver General.

The Bailiff had presided from the inception of the Board but in his absence one day the Lieut-Governor insisted that he should take the chair, not the Lieut-Bailiff, and ended up walking out with the Crown Officers and the minute book. The dispute went to the Privy Council, which ordered on 23 June 1891 that the Lieut-Governor should preside at any meeting of the board at which he was present. This flew in the face of previous rulings about the relative positions of the Bailiff and Lieut-Governor, particularly in relation to civil affairs, and the Royal Court refused to register the order and referred it to the States. The States petitioned the Crown, seeking to have the order overturned.

At the eventual hearing before a very distinguished body of Privy Councillors including the Lord Chancellor, both English Law Officers and the Attorney-General for Jersey, W H Venables Vernon, represented the Crown. Robert Haldane QC appeared for the States. Haldane’s brilliant career at the Bar and in politics was crowned by his appointment as Lord Chancellor in 1912.

On 23 May 1894 the hearing began. After some time Haldane was interrupted by the Lord Chancellor and asked to deal first with the question whether the 1891 Order constituted a substantial departure from the arrangement constituted consensually by the 1837 Order and ought on that ground not to be sustained. The following day the English Solicitor-General addressed the Council. Haldane was not called upon to reply, and the councillors subsequently advised Queen Victoria that the 1891 Order should be withdrawn. On 27 June 1894 an Order-in-Council was issued recalling the 1891 Order. Argument was thus never heard on some of the interesting points which arose from the mass of material collected in the pleadings.

Governor's "negative voice"

The waters had been further muddied in 1861, when the Lieut-Governor dissented when the States decided to put off a decision on a site for a lunatic assylum. He did so based on three Orders in Council dating back to the 17th century, which it was claimed had never been revoked and defined the Governor's rights in relation to the proceedings of the States.

These Orders were:

15 June 1618 :—" It is ordered . . .. that there be no Assembly of the States in the Isle (Jersey) without the consent of the Governor, or his Lieutenant in his absence, in which it is to be understood that the Governor or his Lieutenant in his absence has a negative voice, to the end that it may be provided that no ordinance may be agreed upon prejudicial to His Majesty's Service or the interests of the people"
19 July 1619:— "And concerning the Governor's negative voice in the making of ordinances it is now ordered that he shall not use his negative voice but in such points as shall concern our special interest, the rather in regard that such Acts as are made in their Assembly are but provisional ordinances, and have no property of Laws until they be confirmed by us."
The 2004 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned by Jersey Heritage to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the events of 1204
28 March 1771 :— " . . . in case it should happen that the Governor, Lieut.- Governor, or Commander-in-Chief of the said Islands should not be present at the Assembly of States, then before any acts or matters determined therein shall be effectual, application shall first be made to the Governor, Lieut.-Governor, or Commander-in-Chief, to know whether he chose to make use of the negative voice which he hath."

The Lieut-Governor won this argument, on the basis that the Crown had specific responsibility for lunatics, but it was a hollow victory because the legal arguments delayed work on the construction of an asylum by a further three years.


20th Century

Jersey's exact constitutional relationship with the Crown, through the Privy Council and the British Government has still not been entirely clarified, though the island maintains pretty much the same position that it has since the days of King John, claiming the right to self-determination "because that it the way it has always been". From time to time disputes arise over detail with the British Government, which has traditionally appointed a minister, formerly at the Home Office and now at the Ministry of Justice, to be responsible for Channel Island affairs.

In 1969 the Kilbrandon report concluded that the UK Parliament could legislate for the Channel Islands, but that it should think very carefully before doing so. "Our own conclusion, therefore, is that in the eyes of the courts, parliament has a paramount power to legislate for the islands in any circumstances, and we have proceeded on this assumption. This does not, of course, mean that parliament should be any more ready than in the past to interfere in the islands’ domestic affairs and any less mindful of the need to preserve their autonomy. On the contrary, in the changed international situation greater vigilance may be needed. But if, exceptionally, circumstances should demand the application to the islands without their consent of measures of a kind hitherto regarded as domestic, then Parliament would, in our view, have the power to enact the necessary legislation."

Whether the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey would be any more prepared to register and enact such legislation than they have in the past remains to be tested.

The Lieut-Governor is the conduit for the flow of information between the States and Whitehall, and ultimately the Privy Council is expected to sanction changes in legislation enacted by the States. In practice there is now a system of pre-audit, which ensures that everyone is satisfied with new laws before they are enacted; a process which avoids open conflict but slows everything down.

And islanders still cling informally but erroneously to the ancient concept that the Queen is their ultimate ruler as Duke of Normandy and the loyal toast is drunk at important dinners to Notre reine, le Duc

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