Francois Amice Romeril

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Journalist Francois Amice Romeril (1804-1873) was the son of George Romeril and Elizabeth Luce, who married in 1794. Born in St Helier in 1804, he was the younger brother of Charles (1797- ) and Philippe (1799- ).

He lived in Paris from 1825 to 1830, and for some time was part-proprietor of an exhibition of performing serpents. Rival journalists later nicknamed him "the menagerie-man", and declared that his snakes' venom had got into his pen.

Newspapers

On returning to Jersey he found that his brother Charles had become a printer, and was planning a number of new papers and magazines. Francois Amice joined him, and in 1831 started a weekly paper, L’Impartial or, in full, L’Impartial, Journal Politique, Anecdotique, Commercial, et Litteraire. In spite of its name its politics were vehemently Rose.

Its opening article said: "Soon you will see the haughty Laurel bow its proud head in the mire, crushed by the People's scorn".

In 1838 he launched a second paper, Le Jersiais, Journal des Interets du Peuple, which ran in double-harness with the Impartial, one appearing on Wednesday and the other on Saturday. In 1844 he amalgamated his papers, dropped the name Le Jersiais, and issued a Wednesday and a Saturday Impartial.

In 1840 he published an English paper, the Jersey Gazette, but, when sued for libel, denied that he was either owner or editor, prtesting that he was merely the printer. In the same year his son, Charles added a fourth paper, Le Miroir, to the Romeril group.

Street fights

The father was one of the stormy petrels of Jersey journalism. In 1840 he was thrashed in the street twice in a single day by members of the Le Quesne family for a sarcastic article on the retirement of Jurat Le Quesne. He prosecuted them, but two months before, he had wriggled out of a libel action brought by Dean Jeune by pleading that the Dean had sued Francois Romeril, whereas he was Francois Amice.

His assailants now escaped by pleading that they were charged with assaulting Francois Romeril, who, so the Court had decided, did not exist. In 1842 he was tilting against the Hospital administration. The three sons of Edouard Sullivan, the director of the Hospital, waylaid him, and, according to the Chronique, "Jean Sullivan knocked him down with a blow of his fist, and then administered sound correction with a whip" ; but, according to the Miroir, Romeril had the best of the tussle:

"When Sullivan stopped, Romeril made for him, armed with a life-preserver, a whalebone implement with a ball of lead at each end. His brother ran to his rescue, and received a blow on the head, which would have cracked a skull less thick than his; but at the cost of a bruise and the loss of his hat he enabled the hero of the whip to escape".

Thus did pressmen fight their battles in the middle of the 19th century. It was useless to appeal to the Court, for Jurats did not like journalists, and, if provocation was pleaded, awarded infinitesimal penalties.

In 1845 Romeril went bankrupt and sold the Impartial, and became editor of the Chronique until 1854. His brother-in-law, Philippe Huelin, then founded the Nouvelle Chronique, and Romeril moved to the new venture as editor.

He died in Birmingham on 20 April 1873.

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