The Royal Commission of Sir Edward Conway and Sir William Bird

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The Royal Commission of
Sir Edward Conway and
Sir William Bird

By A C Saunders


Philip Maret took the opportunity of the arrival of Sir Edward Conway and Sir William Bird in Jersey to bring before them his grievance against Bailiff Herault and the Seigneur of St Ouen. He had been deprived of his office of Procureur without being convicted of misdemeanour, and the office had been given to a relative of de Carteret. He had already brought his grievance before the English Government and had been told to submit it to the Commissioners, who would carefully look into the rights of the matter.

He had been appointed to the office by the Governor, but as he also held the position of Receiver, and was not at all popular in the Island on account of the harsh way in which he had carried out his duties, the Bailiff and Jurats decided that he could not hold the two posts at the same time, and therefore his Procureurship had been taken away from him.

He stated he intended to prove that the Bailiff had caused an Act to be written in the Rolls of 25 May 1616, wherein "he taxed him of prejudice to the King's honour and contempt of justice"; and the Bailiff further said that "He deserved to have his ears cut off for his past record".

The case came before the Court, and the Bailiff and Jurats refused to hear his objections to some of the Jurats then sitting on the Bench, although Maret said he was prepared to offer his reasons in writing. Maret complained that he had been hurried in preparing his case as he was summoned to appear at Court within 40 days, whereas the law allowed a period of three months, and that the Court, without examining his allegation, directed him to make a public apology and fined him 50 crowns. So Maret fled to Guernsey, but the Bailiff there, Amias de Carteret, had him arrested and sent to prison and adjudged him to be fettered and manacled and kept there for five months.

On 28 May 1617, Bailiff Herault appeared before the Commissioners and said that Maret had been appointed to the office of Procureur by the Governor, who had no right to make the appointment as such nominations are reserved for His Majesty under Statute 10 of Henry VII, and that it was very prejudicial to the King's interests for the same person to execute the two offices of Procureur and Receiver of His Majesty's Revenues.

He stated the reason why Maret had been sentenced by the Bailiff and Jurats was that he refused to attend the Court when summoned, and, when sent for a second time, again refused, whereupon he was directed to recognize his fault and ask pardon. That the Seigneur of St Ouen had complained that Maret had libelled him by saying in Court that de Carteret and his friends had tried to kill him at night in his house, and the Court, having considered Maret's conduct in accusing de Carteret of having tried to murder him, ordered Maret to make an apology and fined him 50 crowns, but he, refusing obedience, was ordered under penalty of 100 pounds to appear before Council within 40 days, and, as he still maintained an offensive attitude, he was sent close prisoner to the Castle until Council's pleasure was known.

Witnesses examined

The Commissioners examined several witnesses, and John Le Hardy, of St Martin, His Majesty's Advocate, stated he was present in Maret's house when Elie de Carteret and several others went there in the night in a friendly manner and Maret sent for drink for them, but from drinking and discussion they came to quarrelling and Elie challenged Maret to come out of his house ten feet if he dared, but the others persuaded them not to be such fools and they became reconciled. Peter de la Rocque of St Helier, Sheriff, said that when Maret appeared before the Court he stated he had not yet received a reply to his petition to the Privy Council and that it had not as yet been heard, whereupon the Bailiff read a letter he had received from Secretary Winwood stating that Maret's case had been twice heard. Maret still persisted that it had not, so then the Bailiff called him Etourdi and said he was well worthy to be committed to prison in fetters and manacles. Benjamin La Cloche, of St Saviour, said he visited Maret at Elizabeth Castle and saw him walking up and down the ramparts without fetters.

Bailiff Herault stated that Maret was never lawfully appointed Procureur, and that, when Sir John Peyton made the appointment, the then Bailiff Pawlet opposed his admission and quoted the Act against the Governor's appointment; that Maret had adopted a most contemptuous attitude in the Court against the Bailiff and Jurats which as it was a public place and before a large audience would have led to dangerous consequences if he had not been censured; that when Maret was judged worthy of censure, he, as Bailiff, had asked the Seigneur of St Ouen, the first Magistrate on the Bench, his opinion, whereon Maret said: "S'il est question d'aller aux opinions, j'ay des recusations."

When de Carteret gave his opinion, Maret become very violent and accused the Seigneur of an attempt to assassinate him, upon which Seigneur St Ouen insisted on reparation. On 27 June 1617, Amos Messervy, of St Saviour, a Jurat of the Court, stated that he had been present at the Court when Maret complained that his brother had been ill-treated by Joshua Carteret, to which the Seigneur of St Ouen answered: " You have still to do with those of my house, and you will get no good by it, more than others have done before."

Others examined were John Durell, son of Daniel, of St Helier, John Pain, of Grouville, Nicholas Allin, of St Helier, and on 1 July, after very careful consideration, the Commissioners, after warning Maret against making reckless accusations about a person in the position of Bailiff, decided to submit the case for His Majesty's decision, but stated they considered the Bailiff free from all the imputations laid upon him by Maret in his memorandum dated 26 May 1617, and Maret worthy of punishment.

King's ruling

On 25 June 1618, the King from his Palace at Greenwich decided that: "Peter Maret, sometime Procureur, having laid foul and false imputations upon the Bailiff of bribery, etc, it is ordered that Maret, having left the Isle to live here, return, acknowledge his offence, and make his public submission".

The Bailiff had won the second round against Sir John Peyton and his followers, who were ready to seize any opportunity, religious and otherwise, to belittle the power of the Chief Magistrate and his supporters. Apart from all the petty squabbling, it was a desperate fight between might and right.

For generations might, represented by the Captain and his friends, had had full power in the Island, and until Herault came on the scene, there were few public-spirited men who dared to take up the cause of the great mass of the people who were groaning at the impossibility of obtaining justice in the Island.

Unfortunately Herault was too apt to offend those who differed from him, and by his haughty demeanour, gave many opportunities to those against him to belittle the good work he was doing.

It was fortunate for the Islanders that the two Commissioners were wise and capable men who were very anxious to ameliorate the condition of the people and encourage the return of justice to the Island.

From their report which based the Ordinances issued by the King from Greenwich on 16 June 1618: By this it was directed that 30 soldiers and a Master Porter and Master Gunner were to be in constant pay at Elizabeth Castle, and 20 men besides Master Porter, Master Gunner and Minister at Mont Orgueil Castle. The Master Porter and Master Gunner were to be paid at the rate of one shilling a day and the soldiers at sixpence a day.

Instead of deducting 16 shillings a year, as in former years, from each soldier, as a check for any negligence of duty, the Governor was directed to corporally punish any soldier who deserved it, and all officers and soldiers must be natives of England and Wales. All abuses of the stores and munitions are to cease, a proper store-list be kept, and a proper inventory prepared by the Governor, and, at each change of Governor the inventory is to be checked by the Bailiff and Jurats, and the Islanders are to be mustered twice a year and trained by qualified porters or experienced officers.


That the Bailiff shall take precedence in Session House, Seat of Justice and in the Assembly of the States, and the Governor at other places and Assemblies. That the Governor is to be called Governor and not Captain, and no Assembly of the States is to be called without his sanction and he has a negative voice, so that no ordinance may be agreed to prejudicial to His Majesty's service or the interest of the people.

It was also decided that a Dean should be appointed, and the Governor and States were directed to nominate three grave and learned ministers out of which the King might choose one.

And in order to provide arms and ammunition for the Militia the fortifications at Elizabeth Castle and the defence of the Island, the States are authorized to levy a sou tournois on every pot of wine sold retail in the taverns, and a petty custom on all importations, so as to provide and maintain a good harbour.

The petition was granted that some place for scholars at the Universities in His Majesty's gift might be reserved for the students from the Island. Thus many questions were settled by the report of Commissioners Conway and Bird.

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