Philippe de Barentin

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Philippe de Barentin was Seigneur of Samares and Rosel, the son of Guillaume de Barentin, and great-grandson of the Bailiff of the same name.

Colourless figure

Unlike some of his ancestors, Philippe is a colourless figure, whose only interest lies in his connexion with a melodramatic murder, a 60-year lawsuit, and the sale of Rosel to the Lemprieres.

In 1354, when John Maltravers ceased to be Warden of the Isles, Philippe de Barentin bought from him Samares Manor, and some years later on his father's death he inherited Rosel.

A Latin manuscript of about 1340, probably written by Dean Thomas de Soulemont, tells of a scandal about Philippe's wife:

"One day the wife of Philippe de Barentin said to her sons, ‘Jehannet de St Martin has called me an adultress. Avenge this insult on your mother. I would such slanderers had their tongues torn out by the roots’.”

The de St Martins were at this time one of the leading families in the island. Richard de St Martin was Bailiff 1367-8. Jean de St Martin, Seigneur of Trinity, was Bailiff in 1370. But it is not clear who Jehannet was.

"The sons in fury laid an ambush, set a boy to whistle a warning, when de St Martin drew near. When he came, they seized him, and tore out his tongue where today stands the cross called the Cross of Jehannet about 400 yards from St Martin's Church, as one goes toward Trinity. This cross was placed there in memory of the crime. The sons fled to Normandy. One, however, was arrested and hanged. The other made his home near Rouen, and his descendants are there to this day".

It is not surprising that after this Philippe left Jersey. Of his two sons Gilbert had been hanged, and Philippe could never return to the island. So the father began to make arrangements to sell his estates, which included not only Samares and Rosel, but the Manors of La Hougue Boete, Longueville, and Dielament. In September 1362 he was in England, and appointed Raoul Lempriere and Guillaume Payn his attorneys in Jersey.

Sale opposed

His relatives, however, made strenuous efforts to prevent the sale. Their first move was to declare that he was a leper. In October Guillaume de St Martin reported to the Assize that "Philippe de Barentin is suspected of leprosy, and his kinsmen wished to deprive him of his heritage". In the Middle Ages a leper was regarded as dead. The funeral service was read over him in church, while he lay beneath a shroud. He was then taken to a lonely hut, in which he must henceforth live, and given clappers which he must sound, whenever he walked abroad.

The law of Normandy and the Channel Islands was stricter in this respect than that of the rest of Europe; for a leper could not alienate his property, but only draw the income from it. Whether Philippe was really a leper is unknown. More than one de Barentin showed an interest in lepers, which suggests that there was perhaps a taint of leprosy in the family. Alexander de Barentin in 1242 had given land in Hampstead to the leprous maidens of St James without London. Guillaume de Barentin had endowed a leper hospital at Cheveres. But the question was never settled, as Philippe had escaped to England. His two attorneys, Lempriere and Payn, then bought from him all his Jersey property.

The contract passed by the Court in 1367 shows thet they promised to pay him £200 sterling a year as long as he lived. But his nephew, Pierre Payn, Rector of St Brelade, a son of his sister Mabel, challenged this sale, claiming retrait lignager .

By Norman law, if a man sold his property, any of his heirs, beginning with the next of kin, could buy it back for the price paid, if he asserted this right within a year and a day.

There was also a retrait feodal by which the Seigneur had the same privilege, if the heirs did not act. Both these claims were now filed against Payn and Lempriere. The matter was further complicated by the fact that they were of Breton origin, and had omitted to obtain permission as aliens to buy property.

60-year lawsuit

Here were all the ingredients for a really complicated lawsuit, and it lasted 60 years.

Pierre Payn, the original challenger, and both the purchasers died long before it was over, but eventually the attack failed. On Lempriere’s death the property was divided, his son taking Rosel and Payn Samares and Dielament.

Meanwhile the unhappy de Barentin faded out of the picture. When and where he died is not recorded. But he evidently left no son besides the outlawed Philippe, for his English property passed to the family of his brother, Thomas. A daughter married John Lord of Herdington.

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