Popular History of Jersey Chapter 3

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Norman rule onwards

Conquest

For the proper understanding of the history of Jersey subsequent to the year 1066, it must be remembered that when William the Conqueror ascended the English throne he was in his own right Duke of Normandy, hence Jersey and the rest of the Channel Isles, as belonging to the Norman dukedom, became in a way attached to the English Crown, though they in reality were separate possessions belonging not to England, but to its king as his own personal property. When William the Conqueror died he bequeathed the Channel Islands with, and as a portion of, the Duchy of Normandy, to Robert of Normandy, his eldest son. William Rufus (1087 to 1100), the second son, succeeding to the throne of England. Upon the death of Rufus, Henry, the Conqueror's youngest son, became King in his brother William's stead (1100 to 1135), and dispossessing his elder brother Robert of the Duchy of Normandy at the battle of Tinchebrai in the year 1106, he thus, as King of England, came into possession of the Channel Islands, which since that date have, with short intervals, been, in their entirety, dependencies of the English Crown; and as still keeping up the old connection with Normandy, it is interesting to note that Her Majesty Queen Victoria is at times named as Duchess before that of Queen in Jersey, even to the present day.

Two invasions

But to return to the early days of the twelfth century. Although, as was naturally to be expected, considerable changes took place in the laws, customs, and perhaps more than all, the language of England, as a result of the conquest of William 1, Jersey, from the fact that its constitution was like that of Normandy, from which country, to use a homely illustration, it had been broken off, suffered none of these inconveniences. The inhabitants, indeed, seem chiefly to have employed the peaceful times that intervened from 1111 to 1204 in the building and consecration of churches, as will be seen in due course. In the early part of the reign of King John (1199 to 1216), however. Jersey was twice invaded by France "under those powers of Philip Augustus which compelled Normandy, Maine, Anjou and the Continental domains appertaining to the Kings of England to be delivered up."

King John

The first of such invasions took place in 1204, the year that the unfortunate Prince Arthur so mysteriously disappeared at Rouen Castle, but no particular result followed other than that through the brave efforts of the Islanders the enemy was beaten off. In consideration of this and their faithfulness during the separation of Normandy from England, and also to show his appreciation of their conduct, King John is held by some local historians of note (Falle, Stead, and Plees) to have personally visited the Island in 1213, the year after the appointment of one of its first Governors or Guardians, Philippe d'Albigny, who took office in November, 1212. Though Le Quesne, a writer of later date, author of the "Constitutional History of Jersey," and a man of no mean authority, after a careful examination of the "close-roll" still preserved in London, containing an account of the daily doings of John during this period, throws considerable doubt upon the assumption.

In any case, whether he visited the Island or not, it is clearly evident that John, during the year 1213, gave special attention to those weaker spots which had admitted the French, and caused the same to be fortified, and appointed officers under the name of wardens or keepers to have a watchful eye over the ports and harbours, so that none who were suspected to come with an hostile intention might be suffered to land.

Constitutions

In the same year, too, John granted his "Constitutions" to the Island (the original of which is unhappily lost, though they are extant in an Inquest of Henry III, which recites and affirms them), such constitutions, styled by many the Magna Charta of Jersey, forming the foundation of all the privileges and immunities it possesses to the present day, and by which amongst other things he set the Island free from all foreign dependencies, at the same time agreeing to adjudicate personally upon such matters as formerly, in the last resort, had usually to be carried to the Duke's Eschequier in Normandy, and also constituting a Royal Court in Jersey. In other matters, however, John seems to have dealt with the Islanders in that tyrannical spirit which ruled his life, making hostages of many of the principal ones — amongst others Reginald de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen's — and placing them in custody of officers in various parts of England, besides otherwise asserting that predilection to absolutism that so marked his inglorious reign and eventually stirred up the Barons of England against him.

Monk invades

Jersey was again invaded by the French in 1214: the attack being this time headed by Eustace de Moine, originally a monk, who, throwing aside his cowl, had taken up the life of an adventurer, and had caused his name to spread universal terror, he being sent by Philip Augustus of France to take possession of the Island if possible. The affair, however, not only resulted in de Moine's defeat, but also in the capture of his brother, who was afterwards detained for a time in Porchester Castle, some half score or so of the knights amongst de Moine's followers being at the same time taken prisoners, while one main consequence of the victory to Jersey was that John liberated the hostages he had caused to be taken and allowed them to return to their homes.

Shortly after this Eustace de Moine again appeared on the scene, at a time, too, when John was not able to afford any protection to the Island, and when Philippe d'Albigny, its governor, was away from it commanding the fleet stationed for the protection of the East Coast of England. In this expedition de Moine was undoubtedly successful, for, seizing so favourable an opportunity, he took possession of Jersey, but only to hold it for a short space of time.

English barons

It was just about this period, also, that the commotions between John and his Barons, as is well known to all readers of English history, caused the most alarming apprehensions: the Barons having gone so far as to depart from their allegiance and invite Louis, son of Philip Augustus of France, to accept the English Crown. John, however, died (19 October 1216) and was succeeded by his son Henry III, then a minor, when the disaffected Barons, in pity to his youth and innocence, withdrew from their promised support to Louis.

Louis, notwithstanding this disappointment, having made some advances towards the accomplishment of his designs, pursued such advantages as he felt to possess, and sent to France for additional troops, which, fortunately for the Island, were met and defeated at sea by Philippe d'Albigny, who thus caused Louis to give up his pretensions and retire.

Upon ascending the English throne one of the first actions of Henry III, through the Council formed to conduct his affairs — composed of the Earl of Pembroke (Regent), Peter des Roches, and Gualo, the Papal legate — was to release Jersey from the hands of the de Moines, the record of which is contained in the agreement drawn up between Henry III and Prince Louis after the latter's defeat at Sandwich in May, 1217 (during which engagement Eustace de Moine lost his life whilst fighting on the side of the French), wherein is inserted an article ordering the brothers of Eustace to immediately restore the Island to the King of England under pain of forfeiture of all lands and fiefs and being declared extra pace istam.

Royal Commission

After this, until we come to the year 1248, when a Royal Commission was sent to inquire into the constitution and laws of Jersey, there is little or nothing worthy of record so far as the Island is concerned. Such Commission, which was addressed to Drogo Barentin, then Governor or Guardian (and which contains the interesting information that, according to the "Constitutions" of John, Jersey owed "as an aid" the annual sum of seventy-three livres tournois to the King, in consideration of which the inhabitants were free from all military service, taxes and impositions, except when they should accompany the Duke of Normandy to recover possession of England, together with the confirmation of King John's "Constitutions", being, in fact, the main things connected with the Island during the long reign of Henry III (1216 to 1272); though it must be added that afterwards, fearful, no doubt, for the safety of the Island, he issued forth a royal mandate to the Barons of the Cinque Ports to give the earliest possible assistance upon requisition from its Governor, adding "that it deserved well of him and that he owed it both commendation and thanks".

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