King John's hostages

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The rules of warfare in the Middle Ages were based on chivalry and trust. Frequently one side would offer hostages to the other to secure an agreement, and so it was when the Channel Islands were separated from Normandy in 1204 and the English King John wanted to ensure that the principal landowners in Jersey would remain faithful to his cause rather than reverting to their Norman ancestry.

Prominent families

It is believed that some 25 hostages from prominent Jersey families were sent to England in about 1206 onwards to assure the support of their families for the Plantagenet cause.

The hostages were taken to England and distributed among a number of custodians. Many of them are only known by their given names because family names were still not commonly in use at this time. Hostages held by Engelard de Cigogné are recorded as John and Ralph (probably Jean and Raoul) and those in the custody of the Sheriff of Northampton as Henry, RIchard and William (probably Henri, Richard and Guillaume).

Only ten of the 25 hostages named in various documents of the time can be associated with particular families. Philippe de Carteret the son of St Ouen Seigneur Renaud de Carteret; Colin Petit; William Malet, son of Robert; Colin Norman; Ralph Le Gallichan; Robert Hurman, Reginald Gervase Beket; Robert de la Roche and John de la Croix.

Undoubtdely the most important was Philippe de Carteret. Along with many other Jersey land owners with property in Normandy as well as the island, his father Renaud would have to have made a difficult decision as to which of his lands he was to sacrifice. His Normandy lands would certainly have been more extensive than those in Jersey, but in the island he was a 'very big fish in a small pond' and, along with several others, he chose to abandon his holdings in the Cotentin peninsular.

By 1208 when the islands had been secured by King John's supporters against the French the hostages were released from severe restrictions - Philippe de Carteret, for example, was given into the custody of his uncle Richard, Constable of Winchester - and by 1214 all the hostages had been returned to Jersey.

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