Popular History of Jersey Chapter 15

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Elizabeth Castle falls

Surrender demanded

It was on 23 October 1651, when St Aubin's Fort and Mont Orgueil fell into the hands of General Haines and his forces, after which calamitous events, Sir George de Carteret, with the chief magistrates, clergy, and principal inhabitants of Jersey, sought refuge in Elizabeth Castle, where, at the time, there was a garrison of some 340 men, with stores and provisions for some eight months to come; and against this stronghold General Haines marched his victorious troops immediately after the success attained at Mont Orgueil, summoning those in charge to an immediate surrender.

Haines, however, called upon the wrong man for such work, and received in reply a dignified yet obstinate and determined message of defiance from Sir George, on receipt of which a bombardment of the Castle took place without further parley, and a siege, lasting in all from six to seven weeks, was commenced four days subsequently. Twelve 36-pounders were placed on St Helier's Hill, about a quarter of a mile off, from which an almost continual fire was poured upon the devoted place for twelve successive days, though the damage wrought by them appears to have amounted practically to nothing; all the apparent harm done being the beating down of some parapets, which were quickly repaired with turf.

Large mortars

Upon the failure of the 36-pounders, more deadly weapons were brought into play. Two mortars of the largest size known, and throwing explosive shells 13 inches in diameter and two inches thick, were directed against the Castle, and brought about that havoc which was to all intents and purposes "the beginning of the end". One shell, on a date strangely enough unrecorded, fell into the old church of the Abbey of St Helier, which still subsisted in part, and underneath which was a magazine stored with, amongst other things, in the way of provisions and the like, twelve barrels of gunpowder, and the bomb exploding in this, blew it and its surroundings to atoms, destroying all the stores of food, besides slaying forty of the best soldiers of the garrison, together with armourers, carpenters, and other workmen.

The terrible consternation that ensued seems to have been almost indescribable: such like messages of death had never before been heard of or seen by those occupying the castle, and much talk of surrender was given vent to amongst the weaker members of its defenders, though Sir George de Carteret was equal to the occasion. In stirring words he called upon the whole garrison "not to disgrace their loyalty and allegiance" to their lawful sovereign, Charles II, "by an ill-timed and unnecessary surrender to the rebels", thus quelling, for the time, their quaking fears. He seems to have found it advisable, however, to acquaint "King" Charles (of whose safety he had learned during the earlier part of the siege through a message sent by the Rev John Durel, afterwards Dr Durel, Dean of Westminster, with what had happened, and the danger that overhung the defenders of the Castle, at the same time asking for advice.

No help from France

Charles's reply to de Carteret's message was anything but encouraging. France would not help. The conjunction between Cromwell on the one side and Cardinal Mazarin on the other was too great to allow of it; hence there was no use in deceiving with false promises of help. The best thing to be done was to make an honourable composition with the enemy, rather than, by a too obstinate resistance, run the peril of being made prisoners of war.

Sir George, being determined to hold out to the last, concealed, for the time at any rate, the "King's" permission to capitulate. But provisions ran short, whilst death and desertion worked their part, until at length a council of officers was called, and it was at once decided to yield to necessity, though not without provision being made that such was to be done with all the honours of war, and with the strictest conditions of respect.

Indemnification

Amongst other items Sir George de Carteret was to be fully indemnified for all he had done. To enjoy his possessions on the Island, and to be allowed to visit France without let or hindrance; whilst all persons then within the Castle were likewise to retain their possessions, and receive indemnity upon composition: such "composition" not to exceed two years of their income, and some little time allowed for settlement, while no civil action for debt or other matters was to be brought against them during that period. All such persons desiring to live abroad were still to enjoy their possessions in Jersey, and any one of them was to have permission to emigrate to Virginia or other American settlements, provided only that they did not undertake anything against the English Government; and particularly John Le Brun, belonging to the establishment of Sir George de Carteret, was to enjoy his property of eight "Jacobuses" of yearly rent (about £10 16s sterling). Sir George and all his officers, naval and military, were to march out of the Castle, with their horses and arms of all sorts, and with all their personal effects — though with colours flying and drums beating — to a stipulated place, and in this manner, "without being searched or plundered," to surrender themselves to those appointed by General Haines on Monday 15 December 1651.

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