Popular History of Jersey Chapter 8

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Governor threatens Bailiff

Joint Governors

Sir Thomas Overay died and was buried in St George's Chapel, Mont Orgueil, in the year 1506, and in the subsequent year an experiment was tried in connection with the Governor of Jersey that on first sight wore upon the face of it that which actually happened — complete failure. Sir William Vaughan, a copy of whose patent of appointment is still preserved in the Chapter House at Westminster, and David Philippes, were appointed joint Governors; this dual appointment proving of such inconvenience to the public service that it eventually resulted in an agreement between the two whereby, with the sanction of the Crown, Sir William was left in sole charge.

Two years after this Henry VIII (1509 to 1547) ascended the throne, whereupon he immediately confirmed the Charter of liberties already granted to the Island, one of his first acts in connection with which being to appoint Thomas Lempriere as its Bailiff. During the earlier portion of the reign of Henry VIII, too, Jersey appears to have suffered from a visitation of a form of that Plague that devastated London a little more than a century afterwards, supposed to have been imported by some of the crew of a vessel trading with the Island, and to have spread to such an extent that it was deemed advisable to remove the Court and the market to Grouville for the time being. This happened in 1519, and in 1521 another dispute broke out between the Governor and the Bailiff.

Complaints

Sir Hugh Vaughan, it would appear, though by nature brave and courteous, was in disposition only too much like his predecessor, Matthew Baker, so far as his haughty manner and arbitrariness were concerned; and he seems, moreover, to have been both passionate and impulsive, the result being that, as in the case of Baker, frequent complaints were made against him to the Bailiff, Thomas Lempriere, and others. Under which circumstances, for the sake of the people and the upholding of the dignity and rights of his own office, he repaired to England and laid the matter before the King. For doing this, Vaughan took upon himself to bring about his dismissal from office, and evidently had a hand in causing (15 December) Hélier de Carteret, brother of the Seigneur of St Ouen, to be appointed to the Bailiffship.

Matters thenceforth appear to have gone from bad to worse, for in 1524 one of the most disgraceful scenes that have sullied the Royal Court of Jersey arose from the conduct of Sir Hugh in connection with a disputed right to the fief of la Trinité, the Governor and the Bailiff upholding contrary interests: the former, as grantee of the Grown, opposing the claim, and Helier de Carteret, brother-in-law of Drouet Lempriere, whom it was sought to deprive of the property, and who had married Mabel de Carteret, sister of the Bailiff — being, perhaps naturally, in its favour.

Death threat

However, before judgement was pronounced, Sir Hugh, as a means of terrifying the Court to a compliance with his wishes, drew out his dagger and threatened to plunge it into the Bailiff's heart if he gave judgement against him. Upon this de Carteret, declaring to the Governor that if he or any of his men moved from the spot whereon they were standing it would be at the risk of his life, pronounced judgement in Drouet Lempriere's favour. A storm of indignation seems to have arisen amongst the Jurats at the conduct of Sir Hugh, who, in retaliation, threatened to dismiss Helier de Carteret from his office, the latter immediately responding by telling the Governor that he was entirely independent of him; for the office he held as Bailiff was his not through the appointment of any Governor, but of the King.

As might naturally be expected, the affair was laid before the Privy Council, whose time it occupied for many days, though twelve years was allowed to elapse before any decisive action was taken, except, the following year, 1525, to give the reversion of the Governorship to Sir Anthony Ughtred, nearly related, by the way, to Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and mother of Queen Elizabeth.

Star Chamber

Eventually, however, the Lords of the Star Chamber reported their approval of the Bailiff's actions, and condemned Sir Hugh in costs, who, in the meanwhile, seems to have taken his own course by appointing four Bailiffs in succession in the place of Helier de Carteret, the latter not appearing to have acted during the twelve years of waiting, but to whom, after the judgement of the Star Chamber, and in consequence of an order from it, the four thus illegally appointed had to "render an account of their stewardship", and reimburse all the monies they had received; the whole outcome of the affair being that Sir Hugh Vaughan was forced to retire from office on a pension of £200 per annum — a rather ignominious ending, as one historian remarks, to the life of a man who had at one time been Captain of the King's Life Guards and Lieutenant of the Tower of London.

Sir Anthony Ughtred, who, besides his relationship to the Queen of England, seems to have been chiefly noted as having formerly been Governor of Berwick, and for having served eminently in the Scottish wars, died in 1534, and was buried, with Sir Thomas Overay, in the crypt of St. George's Chapel, Mont Orgueil, whilst Helier de Carteret lived on, in his turn to make himself unenviably conspicuous, and in the following manner:

Bailiff assaults Constable

Being asked in public, though, as it appears, in the course of duty, by Nicholas Hue, then Constable of St Mary's, for his contribution to the artillery expenses and defence of the Island, he seems to have considered that his dignity had been insulted; but, taking no notice of it at the time, he requested Mr Hue's attendance at St Ouen's Manor on the following day, when, on the appearance of the latter to keep the appointment, he brutally assaulted him; or, to put it in other words, the Bailiff evidently gave the poor Constable a sound thrashing.

As may easily be anticipated, the affray was immediately brought before the Royal Court, where a peculiar kind of justice seems to have been meted out; for the majority of the Jurats devoted to the de Carterets, either through marriage ties or friendship, gave judgement against the Constable on account of the expression he had used when telling the Bailiff what he thought of the treatment he had received. However, on an appeal to the Crown, a Royal Commission was appointed to examine into the case, and both Helier de Carteret and the Royal Court were severely censured, and the judgement against Nicholas Hue reversed; whilst, in fairness to de Carteret, and as showing another side of his character, it must be added that some little time before his death (18 February 1560) he issued a proclamation promising to recompense all whom he had in any way injured.

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