Extracts from Chevalier's diary

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Extracts from Jean Chevalier's diary of 17th century Jersey
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These extracts from the diary of Jean Chevalier (Chevallier), who lived in a house overlooking the Royal Square in St Helier and chronicled the events of the 17th century at the time of the English Civil War, were first published in French in the 1879 and 1881 Annual Bulletins of La Société Jersiaise. They have been translated by Mike Bisson who comments:"The original diary runs to some 400,000 words, recording the period from 1643-1651. These extracts culminate in the invasion of the island by Parliamentary troops in 1651. They were published in their original French. Not only is this the French of 500 years ago, but it is mixed to a degree by Chevalier with the local patois and written in a style which is as dated as the English of the day would seem to a 21st Century audience. Suffice it to say that the diary is extremely difficult to translate, and others with a better command of French than I have struggled with it in the past.
A page from Chevalier's diary in 1650

1647

12 July Sir George de Carteret instructed workers to knock down the Royal Court building which one knows not when it was built; nobody remembers anything, nor is anything written which would be able to give any clue. One estimates that it was built at the same time as the temples, chapels and parishes of the island. This old courthouse here was a house which did not have a good appearance, resembling a barn from the outside, in asmuch as it did not have pointed cement and was always covered in straw.

25 July The Seigneur of St Ouen (referred to as Mr de St Ouen) and Clement Le Montais were elected [Jurats] in place of the late Jean Dumaresq and Thomas Saelle.

18 December The death has occurred of Benjamin Bisson, Jurat of the Royal Court and one of the Committee addressed by the commission sent by the Parliamentary Committee to seize Sir Philippe de Carteret and send him to Parliament.

1648

Two women burned for sorcery.

28 December This Thursday night the thunder knocked down the bell tower in the Parish of Trinity. On Wednesday and Thursday the thunderstorm did not cease and the two nights were punctuated by strong winds and rain and dragons which roamed through the countryside shattering trees and damaging buildings.


1649

Sir George Carteret summoned the States to show them two letters sent to them by the King for the building of a road and to levy a tax on a bottle of wine in the island. The imposition of the tax began on 18 March. Wine which was 8 sols a bottle became 9.

Sir George Carteret summoned the States to raise a silver tax to pay for a present for the King [This was Charles II, who had been proclaimed King in Jersey, but was still in exile while England was under parliamentary rule].

He presented 11 persons before King Charles II pour avoir garison sous Dieu du mal qu'on appelle les escruelles [unable to translate] on which he placed a cherub with a collar of white ribbon.

1650

Mons Brevin, Rector of St John, who died on Sunday 26 January, was 80 ytears old. He had been the most constant adherent to the reformed church, having embraced the Order of Service completely unwillingly.

On Sunday 16 February the Lady of St Ouen, mother of Sir Philippe de Carteret, died at the age of 87, having married at the age of 13 and been a widow for more than 50 years.

4 July This Thursday the fonts and basins (bénitiers) which have been used in the Priory church on l'Islet ever since mass was celebrated in Jersey were brought back to the Town Church.

1651

12 April This Saturday Edouard Hamptonne took the oath as Viscount, having succeeded his father by Royal Patent.

17 April Laurens Hamptonne, formerly Viscount, took the oath as Jurat in place of the late Jean Payn.

20 October This Monday the Parliamentary army came to Jersey, consisting of 84 vessels and 2,600 men, and seven or eight knights, who arrived in the bay of St Ouen at the Port de la Mare. They left St Ouen on Tuesday and came to the bay of St Brelade to see if it was more suitable for disembarking. Then they returned to Port de la Mare having left 12 of their large vessels at St Brelade, which split the island into two areas, because Sir George left a garisson there and the bulk of his men went to St Ouen with their cannons, where they saw that the fleet had made its way. Having arrived on Wednesday it stayed at Port de la Mare and sent one of their tenders to the shore to talk to Sir George and islanders before putting them in danger by landing, to try to reach some agreement before going into battle, but Sir George impeded them having fired a canon over their heads, which gladdened the hearts of the islanders, who were not all strongly on the side of Sir George because of the taxes which he had levied in the island .... the people being disgusted with him because of his taxes which he levied on the poor people who had been tired for a long time.

Another page from the diary

To return to the army and their landing on Wednesday, the large frigates were positioned in the range of their cannons to fire on the people who were encamped along the length of the coast without battlements or any defence to protect their bodies, and Sir George and his captains held the length of the plain in the bay bordering the coast of St Peter where they wanted to make their landing. It is worth remarking that on Monday when they arrived the wind was blowing from the north and on Tuesday and Wednesday the wind calmed and dropped entirely in the evenings. The sea was as calm as a millpond where the wanted to beach their frigates which were targeting the men Sir George had ranged along the coast, and the parish cannons were trained on them. At the same time as the frigates opened fire they landed their men on the opposite side to that targeted by the Jersey guns.

The first infantry regiment which landed was challenged by the island cavalry which fired on them, and when they returned fire, the cavalry thought that the other cavalry regiment would come to their support, but they had fled and by nightfall all the infantry had gone home. The part of the cavalry which had discharged their duty honourably, seeing that they had no support, were forced to flee like the others. It was between 10 and 11 at night before the raiders had disembarked with their horses and munitions. The infantry was the first to land.

Sir George's cavalry having discharged itself, as one says, only three men were left, one of whom fired alone on the enemy, but he was wounded and lost much blood so quickly. He was taken by the enemy while still alive and stripped and left moaning, to live for little time after. He was called Roger Drue, a soldier at the old castle [Mont Orgueil]. The other was COlonel Bovile, an English cavalry captain, a courageous man who was kneeling wounded having had his bones broken. He died at Elizabeth Castle after four or five days. The other was called Jean Langlois and he was killed in the field.

The other company which landed was commanded by Captain Harrison, and it was this company which caused the cavalry to disband having killed a lieutenant and others, some say 16 and others 24 ...really one doesn't know the truth

The desertion of the Militia at the first opportunity seems to prove that the Royalist cause found little favour among ordinary islanders and that the government of Sir George Carteret inspired disgust. The arbitrary actions of this Governor and his extortions alienated the people and one finds that at the time of his surrender he attempted to obtain money from his friends saying that it was to pay the soldiers, but they saw none of it.

The garrison of St Aubin's Fort [called La Tour de St Aubin by Chevalier] was composed of English and Jerseymen, one from each parish, who said that they would no longer raise their weapons against Parliament, and there was no resistance. Colonel Haines having occupied it, he went with his company to town on Thursday to relieve it. Having arrived close to the town he sent two men on horseback to see if there was any ambush, and they having reported that there was nothing to fear they then entered all jumbled up and found quarters in houses, having posted a guard at both ends, holding the majority in the town on account of Elizabeth Castle, which fired its cannonades on them . We saw them hold their position then go back to the other company consisting of 900 soldiers who had come from Guernsey and were held in the western parishes of St Ouen, St Peter, St Brelade and St Mary, where they were creating havoc. Called on to yield Elizabeth Castle to Parliament, Sir GEorge replied that he would hold it for His Majesty as long as there was life in his body.

Colonel Haines having only Elizabeth Castle to conquer, had some battlements constructed on Mont de la Ville on the sea side opposite the castle where he positioned a battery of cannons and mortars to rain grenades on the Castle. The day after their arrival the frigates and barques of Parliament came into St Aubin. There was a frigate of 36 guns which was lost in bad weather overnight, having hit a rock; 90 men perished.

Colonel Haines had brought three mortars and 300 grenades which were known as bombs. The large mortar weighed 450 lb and the explosive charge to launch the grenade was 10 lb of powder.

The third grenade which landed in the castle fell on the old church in the lower ward. Having pierced the vault of the church it fell inside where there were eight barrels of powder which the grenade set on fire, lifting the church and upending the walls, which had been constructed with cement made of straw and sand and collapsed instantly. The walls collapsed on 16 men, of whom 10 were injured. They were mainly Irish. This strongly intimidated Sir George and his company and made them want to escape from the Castle.

Colonel Haines told Sir George that he could fire his cannons at the town but they would do little damage because of the distance. He sent his men away by boat, mainly to St Malo, others to Granville, having sent the main part of his possessions before the arrival of Colonel Haines.

5 December On Saturday Sir George sent his drummer with letters to Colonel Haines calling for a peace treaty and then he sent Sir Philippe, Seigneur of St Ouen, and Jurat Laurens Hamptonne, and Mr de Sausmarez of Guernsey, who discussed the treaty for eight days [in the following some phrases remain to be translated] ou c'est que Sire George n'avoit pour faire ces articles of capitulation which two men known as M Bigue, English, and Jean Poingdestre, of Jersey, ayant laissé le Justice qui est le corpe de l'Estat and his principal friends who were with him at the Castle a costé without taking their advice, making them unhappy at his departure, not having taken advice from the States who had assisted him with his affairs when he was in prosperity. I heard it said that he demanded 1800 pounds sterling and his possessions to leave the Castle.

I close my diary calling on the reader to pardon me as much for my writing as for the poorly polished grammar and lack of eloquence.
Your servant and friend
Jean Chevallier
[Mike Bisson's footnote: Chevalier's diary ceased at this point. It is surmised that his Royalist sympathies persuaded him not to continue with a diary which would not find favour with the newly installed Parliamentary establishment. Be that as it may, it is clear from some of what he wrote above that while he may have been a Royalist, like many others in the island supporting this cause, this was not coupled with any admiration for the ultimate Royalist, Sir George Carteret.]
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