Sir George Carteret - a summary of his life
Sir George Carteret (1610–1680) was Bailiff of Jersey when King Charles I was executed and had his son Charles II proclaimed King in Jersey. He had been a naval officer and was later to serve as Treasurer of the Navy. He was given large tracts of land in the American colonies by Charles II, who named New Jersey in his honour.
He was the son of Helier de Carteret and Elizabeth Dumaresq of Jersey, who both died in 1640. George dropped the "de" from his surname when he entered the English navy, concerned that the "de" sounded too French). In the Chapel of Mont Orgueil Castle in May 1640 George married his cousin Elizabeth de Carteret, daughter of Philippe de Carteret, 3rd Seigneur of Sark.
Civil War and Commonwealth
He served as an officer in various naval ships in the 1630s but when the Civil War started he retired from the navy, and withdrew with his family to Jersey.
He subsequently returned to aid the projects of the royalists but then went back to Jersey to succeeded his uncle as Bailiff, holding the office for eight years. After subduing the Parliamentary party in the island, he was commissioned (1644) a vice-admiral of Jersey and "the maritime parts adjacent", and by virtue of that office he carried on an active privateering campaign in the Royalist cause. Parliament branded him as a pirate and excluded him specifically from future amnesty. His rule in Jersey was severe, but profitable to the island; he developed its resources and made it a refuge for Royalists, among whom in 1646 and again in 1649-1650 was Prince Charles, who created Carteret a knight and baronet.
George Carteret also had Charles proclaimed King in Saint Helier on 17 February 1649, after the execution of his father, Charles I. Charles II never forgot that Jersey became the first of his realms to recognise his claim to the throne.
After his proclamation in Jersey Charles rewarded de Carteret by ordering that his privateering could resume. He sent Carteret a bundle of Letters of Marque, signed by himself in ink, with a blank for the names of the captain and boat left for Carteret to fill in, and soon once more, Jersey privateers were making the Channel dangerous for ships flying Cromwell’s flag
- Know that we, reposing trust and confidence in your courage, experience in sea affairs, a good affection to Us, do by these presents nominate and appoint you Captain of the good ship ………………………, giving you authority with your ship manned, equipped, and armed for war, to enter any River or Port of England, and, either there or at sea, to apprehend and possess, and in the case of resistance to sink, fire, or otherwise destroy, all ships together with their men, goods, and lading, belonging to any place or person of our subjects in actual rebellion against, or not in present obedience to Us, together with the ships, persons, and goods, of all their aiders and abettors.
- And to bring all ships, persons and merchandize as you shall take, without breaking the bulk or altering the property of any of the said goods, to our Island of Jersey, there to cause the same to be adjudged lawful prize by such Judge of the Admiralty as is settled there, and after such adjudication to pay the tenths and fifteenths to Our use to such person as shall have authority to receive the same.
- Provided that you do not permit any injury to be done to any ships belonging to subjects of any Prince or State in league or amity with Us,
- And that you make the Isle of Jersey the constant place of your abode, and obey the orders of the Governor there, whilst you enjoy the benefits our this Our commission,
- Provided that you enter into bond of one thousand pounds sterling to Us for the performance of all these particulars.
- CHARLES R
In addition to this naval win for Carteret, he received a highly unexpected prize. The execution of King Charles I caused considerable discontent within the Navy. One of their frigates, the “Heart” changed sides and, to the surprise of all, arrived at Jersey. Carteret, not one to miss an opportunity, took advantage of the fact that nobody knew this change of loyalties had occurred. He sent the Heart off to Guernsey to capture another ship, the “Secant”. The crew of the Secant, unknowing that the Heart had pledged their loyalty to the King, was an easy target and the captured ship and its prizes went to Jersey. An unusual characteristic of Carteret is revealed here. Although he did “imprison the Jerseymen and Guernseymen on board, he sent the others to St. Malo and gave each of them a piece of eight so that they might be able to pay their expenses in getting back to England”
Carteret had to surrender Jersey to the Commonwealth on 12 December 1651 after an invasion by parliamentarian troops. He then went into exile in France. Although he had command of a French naval vessel for some time, he was imprisoned in 1657 and then exiled from France, after which he went to Venice.
At the Restoration, having shared Charles II’s banishment, Sir George formed one of the immediate train of the restored monarch on his triumphant entry into London. The next day Carteret was sworn into the Privy Council, appointed Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, and Treasurer of the Navy. His career for the next decade is documented in the diary of Samuel Pepys who joined him as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board in 1660. In 1667 he exchanged his office as Vice-Chamberlain with Lord Anglesey for that of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, an office which he sold two years later for £11000.
The fidelity with which Carteret, like John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, had clung to the royal cause, gave him great influence at court. He had, at an early date, taken a warm interest in the colonization of America. In recognition for all the help given to him during his exile in Jersey in the 1640s, Charles II gave Carteret a large grant of land in the American colonies, which he named New Jersey. With Berkeley, he became one of the proprietors of the Province of Carolina, prior to their becoming jointly interested in East Jersey. Carteret County, North Carolina and the town of Carteret, New Jersey are named after him.
In 1665, Carteret was one of the drafters of the Concession and Agreement, a document that provided freedom of religion in the colony of New Jersey. It was issued as a proclamation for the structure of the government for the colony written by the two proprietors, Berkeley and Carteret.
He was elected in 1661 to represent Portsmouth in Parliament but his lax methods of keeping accounts led to his being censured by parliament, having initially been accused of embezzlement. After an announcement from the king expressing his satisfaction with Carteret and an acquittal by the House of Lords, the inquiry against him lapsed.
In 1673, he was appointed one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and continued in the public service until his death on 14 January 1680.
Shortly before Carteret's death, the king proposed to give him the title Baron Carteret, but Carteret died too soon, so the honour was granted to his grandson George Carteret, 1st Baron Carteret.