Popular History of Jersey Chapter 6

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French occupation

Peace and prosperity

For nearly 400 years, ever since the Norman conquest, that is to say, Jersey had been a dependency of the English Crown. Its inhabitants had been staunch, loyal and true. Amidst struggles and warfare, churches had been built, the Island divided into its present twelve parishes, justice dealt out from the Royal Court, and everything denoted peace and prosperity for its hardy inhabitants, when treachery crept in.

Strange as it may appear, the Island was twice given away, and this in the reign of Henry VI (1442-1461). The first time it was by King Henry himself, who constituted it and the adjacent isles into a kingdom, and presented it to Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Fortunately, however, a higher power intervened, and the Earl, dying at the early age of twenty-two, had not time to take possession of the Royal gift; but a darker deed was in store.

French invade

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI, in consideration of the great services rendered to the Lancastrian cause when Edward IV was contending for the English throne, bestowed Jersey and the sister isles on Count de Maulevrier, Chamberlain to the King of France and Grand Seneschal of Normandy. He had still, however, to gain possession. To do this he sent a Norman chieftain, one Surdeval, with a considerable force, to take Mont Orgueil Castle — the stronghold of the Island, and here what fighting could not do, it would appear treachery accomplished; for, however difficult it may be of belief, the then Governor of Orgueil and the Island, Nanfan, under the mask of a surprise, surrendered the Castle, and Maulevrier immediately proclaimed himself Lord of the Islands of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark; insinuating at the same time that the inhabitants thereof were henceforth subjects of the French Crown.

A current of virtuous indignation seems to have spread through the Island at the treacherous deed, and it was not without bloodshed that de Maulevrier was able to gain even the first fruits of this dark deed. With all his powers he never possessed more than the eastern portion of Jersey; the western parishes, under the command of Philip de Carteret, Lord of St Ouen's, and after innumerable struggles during the six years (1460-1466) Maulevrier remained on the Island, preserving their independency, though there seems to be little doubt but that he endeavoured by judicious conduct and conciliatory rule to reconcile the inhabitants.

Admiral Harliston

De Maulevrier was still in possession of Jersey when Edward IV (1461-1483) ascended the throne, and then, in 1467, there appeared on the scene one whose name will ever be remembered upon the Island — Admiral Sir Richard Harliston — and an event happened which marks an epoch in its history, for the French were forcibly expelled, never more to claim possession of any portion.

Sir Richard, with a considerable fleet of ships, had arrived at Guernsey, and Philip de Carteret, ever on the watch for an opportunity to rid Jersey of its enemies, after much scheming, and with cautious care, contrived an interview with the gallant Admiral. The result of the interview was a siege of Mont Orgueil Castle, which lasted six months, a final victory being gained through the combined bravery and wisdom of de Carteret and Harliston. On an appointed night, generally supposed to be 7 June 1467, when de Maulevrier was absent from the Island, the greatest secrecy being observed — and Admiral Harliston, with his fleet, securing that no aid should come by means of the sea — the Islanders, with de Carteret at their head, drove the French into Mont Orgueil and surrounded the Castle; the enemy thus, in the morning, found themselves blockaded prisoners. Frequent and desperate sallies were made, in one of which another Seigneur of Rozel, Reginald Lempriere, lost his life; and in the end it appears that the French were forced to surrender, though they eventually were allowed to depart with al1 the honours of war.

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