Popular History of Jersey Chapter 7

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Governors and a charter

Richard Harliston

After the departure of the French the Islanders immediately chose Sir Richard Harliston for their Captain-General, he being subsequently made Governor of the Island as a reward for the services he had rendered: an office which he held from 1473 to 1487, becoming very popular amongst the inhabitants, and leaving as a lasting memento of his work the addition he made to Mont Orgueil Castle still known as "Harliston's Tower", and it was only at the last, in 1485, after he had been Governor for twelve years, that Sir Richard seems in any way to have sullied his good fame, and this by trying to make capital out of the troublous state of the times when Henry VII ascended the English throne. On this occasion, evidently expecting to have the protection of France and the old Duchess of Burgundy, he, being a staunch Yorkist, and as such an opponent of the Lancastrian King, endeavoured to take and retain possession of Mont Orgueil Castle. The majority of the Islanders, however, utterly opposing the project, besieged the Castle and forced Harliston to yield it up for the King before his expected succours could arrive; the siege, carried on by Edmund Watson, Receiver of the King's revenue, lasting about six months, and the inhabitants contributing both personal service and loans of money towards gaining repossession of the coveted stronghold.

Matthew Baker

Following Sir Richard Harliston, a Governor was appointed in 1487 of a very different stamp, in the person of Matthew Baker, who, according to the historian Tupper, was unenviably notorious as being a vindictive, malicious, irritable, revengeful, and arbitrary man, so much so, in fact, that frequent complaints were daily — "jour de jour" — laid against him before Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen's and Bailiff of the Island, whence arose a bitter hatred on the part of Baker, who, to revenge himself, imprisoned de Carteret on a trumped-up charge of high treason, upon which charge he was condemned to a combat with one Roger Le Boutillier, his accuser, a person, so it is recorded, of notoriously bad character. The meeting between the two, however, never came off, for Margaret Harliston, de Carteret's wife, immediately repaired to England and obtained from Henry VII an order for her husband's release.

Henry VII's charters

The consequences of this dispute between the Governor and Bailiff, fortunately for Jersey, did not remain here, but were the primary cause of the first Charter of Henry VII, dated 3 November 1494, which, amongst other things, removed the nomination of the Bailiff, Dean, and other officers from the Governor to the Crown, and ordered that the said Governor should possess no jurisdiction in Jersey, either secular or ecclesiastical, and that matters of contention between parties should be judged by the Bailiff and Jurats (judges elected by the people).

On 17 June 1495, Sir Thomas Overay having been appointed Governor the preceding year — Henry VII granted his second Charter amplifying and supplementing the previous one, which was not only highly important, but is highly interesting and instructive in the light of the 19th century.

By it was ordained that the Captain or Guardian (titles which, with that of Governor, appear to have been indiscriminately used until the year 1614, when it was ordered that the latter should be solely employed) on admission to office should be sworn and give sufficient security loyally to keep Mont Orgueil Castle for the King, and should not appoint any deputy or admit any soldiers except such as could be depended on for their faithful allegiance to the King and his heirs; they likewise being individually sworn in and held to be amenable to the law, if guilty of injury to any of His Majesty's subjects; the Governor, too, was specially bound not to interfere with the free exercise of trade; whilst Saturday was fixed upon as market day, and the price of provisions ordered to be regulated by the Royal Court—a power which was used subsequently for many years by the Jurats.

Ready for defence

Then, all persons holding fiefs in capite were to be continually ready and equipped when called upon by the "Captain" for defence of the Island according to ancient custom; whilst permission was accorded to the said Captain (herein afterwards styled the Governor to save complexity) to employ people for reasonable wages at Mont Orgueil Castle over and above the day's work due from them to that fortress, power being given to him also to grant licences to such persons as desired to leave the Island for any place outside the King's dominions. The Governor at the same time was to be informed concerning all or any exportation of goods from the Island, and both he and the Jurats were forbidden to levy any taxes except such as were for public good or for the Island's defence. This Charter also confirmed the order that the nomination of the Bailiff, Dean, Viscount, and Procureur rested alone with the King, adding also distinctly that such was to be without the interference of the Governor or Jurats, neither of which latter body were to be allowed to keep either a tavern, a public bakehouse or a brewery while in office; and except in the presence of seven of them the public seal, granted, as will be remembered, by Edward I, was not to be used.

Constables

The Constables of each parish (equivalent in office to the English mayors, excepting that, apart from the present Constable of St Helier's, they only report upon and do not "try" cases) were ordered to be freely elected by the elder portion of the inhabitants without recommendation from any official, also that neither the Governor nor his deputy could grant pardon or remission to anyone guilty of robbery or murder without the express commands of the King, nor were they allowed to interfere with or in any way disturb the Courts either spiritual or temporal, their functions being purely confined to military affairs, whilst perhaps the most remarkable order contained in this celebrated Charter was that which ordained that no inhabitant was permitted to receive a stranger into his house except he had informed the Governor of his intention to do so!

Summed up by Le Quesne, the beneficial effect to the Island of the Charter in question is as follows: It confirmed the liberties of the people, protected them in the exercise of their elective franchise, guarded them against unnecessary taxation, shielded them in a measure from official oppression, regulated the powers of the Governor, secured independence in the Court of Justice, and provided for the due and impartial administration of the same.

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