1847 guide - French invasion

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Durell's 1847 guidebook

French invasion


This is the sixth chapter of the history section of The Picturesque and Historical Guide to the Island of Jersey, by the Rev Edward Durell, with lithographs by Philip Ouless, who also published the book in 1847.

  • Queen Margaret of Anjou
  • Her intrigues to deliver Jersey to France
  • Mount Orgueil Castle surrendered to the Count de Maulevrier
  • His endeavours to render his government popular
  • Philip De Carteret, of St. Ouen, and six of the parishes resist him for six years
  • Fall of the House of Lancaster
  • Arrival of Sir Richard Harliston at Jersey
  • Mount Orgueil invested by sea and land
  • The French garrison capitulates
  • Charter and acknowledgment of Edward IV
  • Perrotine Famget
  • Misfortunes of Harliston
  • Policy of Henry VII
  • French invasion under Edward VI
Margaret of Anjou

Margaret of Anjou

The Queen of Henry VI was of the Royal blood of France, a woman of uncommon talents, and of a most persevering spirit. In proportion as the fortunes of her husband declined, she sought for new resources to retrieve his losses. She accordingly negotiated with Peter de Brese, a French nobleman, and Count of Maulevrier, to put him in possession of the Channel Islands, as the consideration for espousing her cause. The negotiation, however, was carried on apparently without the knowledge of the King of France, who was apprehensive that it might have involved him in a war with England.

Maulevrier was a leader of some military reputation, and found no difficulty in raising a body of 2,000 veterans, who were desirous to try their fortunes with him in an expedition to England. A part of that body was landed in Northumberland, where between the swords of the enemy and the storms which they encountered at sea, the greater number of them perished.

Maulevrier had now to receive his reward, and the Queen gave orders that he should be put in possession of Mount Orgueil Castle. Sir John Nanfan was then governor of the Castle; he farmed the island under the Crown, and it is even uncertain whether he was a British subject. The name is written Nanfan in all the old manuscripts, which a careless transcriber would easily corrupt into L'Enfant, especially as there would be a kind of connection between the name, and the negligence of that officer. His case affords a striking resemblance to that of Major Moses Corbet's surrender of Jersey, on 6 January 1781.

To throw, however, as dark a veil as possible over that nefarious transaction, and to save appearances for the governor, it was contrived that he should be surprised and seized in his bed. As all resistance in that case became impossible, he immediately surrendered the island. Thus for the first time did treachery introduce an enemy within the gates of Mont Orgueil Castle. As soon as the Count de Maulevrier received intelligence of his success, he repaired to Jersey to establish his newly acquired authority. No acclamations of the people welcomed him to its shores. It was everywhere the reluctant submission of a high spirited and loyal race, and that sullen, but expressive silence, which dared not openly to mourn over the loss of their independence.

The Count, however, had recourse to all the means of insinuation which might gain him popularity, and allay the angry feelings of a discontented population. He assumed the title of Lord of the Isles, under his Sovereign Lord, the King of France, and at a solemn assembly which he held in Mount Orgueil Castle, he confirmed all the privileges of the inhabitants in as full a manner as they had ever enjoyed them under any of their former Kings. He also made some valuable additions to their charter, defined the manner of administering justice, and ordered a register to be kept of the transfer of all real property, an improvement which was not however carried into effect till almost 150 years after, under the government of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Island divided

When aversion or hatred have once taken root in the human mind, it is seldom that either gentle usage or forbearance can exchange them for loyalty and affection. The Count was coldly received by the assembly; and out of the Castle, he was openly resisted. The island is divided into twelve parishes; the six eastern of which, as being nearest to the Castle, reluctantly submitted to the usurper. The other half made an obstinate resistance, and repelled all the efforts of Maulevrier during six years. This was probably no more than a war of skirmishes, as the Count and the inhabitants were severally left to their own individual resources; for the contest would soon have been decided, if the Kings of England or France had taken an active part in those hostilities.

It was then that Providence raised a distinguished patriot to avenge the wrongs of the islanders, in the person of Philippe de Carteret, of St Ouen, a name that seemed as destined in the annals of Jersey to appear at the head of their countrymen on all great emergencies, to defend them and to succeed. After encountering many dangers, and performing individually some of the most chivalrous exploits, he checked the further progress of Maulevrier, during those six eventful years, till at length the hour of deliverance arrived. Had such a man, and with such inadequate means, rescued his native island from thraldom in the heroical ages of Greece, his name would have descended to us as one of the brightest ornaments of the classic page.

After such a protracted state of hostilities, it was evident that neither of those chieftains could expel the other from the island; but matters were now altered in England by the quiet settlement of Edward IV on the throne. The Lancastrian party had been conquered, its chiefs had either perished in the field, or on the scaffold, while the few who had escaped from proscription lived in exile and poverty in foreign lands. It was not therefore likely, that Edward would ratify any compromise made by the Queen of Henry VI to alienate any part of his dominions.

Edward IV

He therefore fitted out a fleet to recover what had been lost, and gave the command to Sir Richard de Harliston, an officer of great merit and acknowledged loyalty. He first sailed down the Channel to the relief of Jersey, and having landed, he had an interview with Philippe de Carteret, at his seat, with whom he concerted measures to reconquer the island. Their plans had been so well contrived that the enemy were surprised, and that one morning at daybreak they found the castle was invested by sea and land. The blockading fleet indeed English; but the land army which besieged the Castle was entirely composed of natives, under the command of the gallant de Carteret.

The French commander to whom the defence of Mount Orgueil had been entrusted, did not show less courage and resolution. The fortress was not indeed attempted to be taken by storm, as had been done in the siege, which it had sustained against the Constable Du Guesclin about 100 years before; still there were many severe attacks, in which many of the inhabitants were slain; and among the rest, the Seigneur of Rozel, a gentleman of good property, and one of their principal leaders.

The sallies of the besieged were frequent, in attempting to break through the lines of the besiegers; but they were fruitless, and many of them paid for their temerity with the loss of their lives. The besiegers now limited their operations to a blockade, and trusted for their eventual success to the slow effects of disease and famine in compelling their enemies to surrender. This state of things lasted for 19 weeks, during which time the besieged did all that could be done by brave and skilful men to obtain relief; but force and stratagem were equally ineffectual. Their friends on the continent, who from the short distance were almost eye witnesses of the daily occurrences of the siege, and who could not have been ignorant of the critical situation of the Castle, either dared not, or could not come to their assistance.


At length, Surdeval, the governor, and Maulevrier finding the situation untenable, was obliged to capitulate, which enabled him with his garrison to return to France.

Never had Jersey been in so much danger before, and never had Providence more signally wrought than it had then for its deliverance. The islanders gained much honor by this siege; and as the Castle had not yielded but to famine, its former reputation of being impregnable still remained unimpaired. Edward IV granted them a new Charter, with a special acknowledgement of their good service, which clause has been inserted in every subsequent Charter, to perpetuate the memory of their exploit. Those several Charters are on the whole but repetitions of each other, as they were confirmed by each sovereign at his succession, except on any particular occasion like the above, in which the retaking of Mount Orgueil was introduced. Something of the kind is also found in the Charter of Charles II, where a compliment is paid to the loyalty of the inhabitants, who had thus rendered themselves worthy of the Royal favour.

Perrotine Famget was the widow of Philip Johan, of Guernsey, who had rendered services to Harliston during the siege. According to Mr Falle, the historian, that brave leader rewarded her with a liberal grant of money and ground rents which, according to the present value of money, might be estimated at about £300. This fact is mentioned as highly honourable to the several individuals concerned, and as a strong proof of the good feeling which then existed between the sister islands.

Harliston was rewarded with the government of the Channel Islands, and his daughter, an only child, was married to the eldest son of Philippe de Carteret. Her marriage was one of extraordinary fecundity, and the high conjugal virtues which she displayed in adversity have thrown over her an air of romance, and rendered her name one of the most distinguished of her sex. But after long years of prosperity, mark the vicissitudes, and the nothingness of all human affairs! Harliston, in his old age, was attainted by Henry VII for his attachment to the House of York. He fled, and died abroad in exile and poverty, a miserable dependent at the Court of the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, a sister of Edward IV. Maulevrier had, however, long before preceded him to an honourable grave, having been killed at the battle of Mont l'Hery in the service of Louis XI.

It is from the reign of Henry VII that we may date the abandonment of the long cherished, but chimerical, project entertained by the Sovereigns of England to conquer France, or even to recover those continental provinces, which had once belonged to their antes tors. Hence wars between the two countries became either less frequent, or of short duration, and caused not those immense exertions, which exhausted the national resources. This state of things may be said to have lasted till 1688, and William III , when the restless ambition of Louis XIV., and a regard for her civil and religious liberties, revived the long dormant animosities of England to France.

It must not, however, be supposed that during that long period of more than 200 years, the islands were not kept in an almost perpetual state of alarm. The short wars that occasionally happened, and even the very prospect of hostilities, were sufficient to produce that effect. Once only was the island in any real danger, when under Edward VI, a French fleet landed a considerable force at Bouley Bay; but being attacked by the inhabitants, who were posted on the higher grounds, they drove back the assailants to their ships with great slaughter. Several hundreds of the enemy perished on that occasion. Hence, if Jersey had fallen in that unexpected attack, as Calais did a few years afterwards, it is probable that the enemy would have kept it, or at least would not have restored it but with reluctance, and under the influence of intimidation.

1847 Guide
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