Geoffroi de Carteret

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From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Geoffroi de Carteret (Galfridus) ( -1368) was Dean of Jersey. He was the son of Renaud de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen.

In return for many benefactions of the de Carterets to Mont St Michel the Abbey had promised always to receive one member of the family into its brotherhood. Geoffroi had claimed that privilege, and become a Benedictine monk. In 1295 he was appointed Rector of St Martin.

His father had received the Fief of Meleches from the King, and at the partition of the estate this fell to Geoffroi's share, but, since a Priest might not marry, it was to revert at his death to his elder brother Philippe, or his heirs. For this Fief he had to pay the King 60 livres tournois annually and a pound of cummin.


He was evidently a man of impetuous temper. At the Assize of 1299 he was amerced for entering the house of Nicolas De La Hague, and beating Thomasia, his wife, and dragging her from her home; for breaking a window in the house of Lucie De Carteret by night, and entering, and abstracting a green overcoat (supertunicam) with cape; for beating Simon Le Coveror in his cart till blood flowed; and striking Pierre Le Marchand, the Viscount's servant, though he raised the Clameur de Haro.

He had by this time ceased to be Rector of St Martin. At the Assize of 1309 he was summoned to show by what warrant he claimed wreckage on his Fief. The Viscount failed to return the Writ to the Justices, and "when it was urgently demanded, at last brought it back vilely mutilated. As this seemed to the Court a grave contempt, the Viscount was heavily fined. Thereupon he complained of Maitre Geoffroi, saying that as a favour at his urgent request he had given him the writ whole to be copied and returned, and afterward had great difficulty in recovering it; but at length one of Geoffroi's brothers had returned it thus marred. Geoffroi being present acknowledged this, but solemnly swore that he did not know how the writ got damaged. So the Viscount's fine was remitted".

But worse trouble lay ahead. The Justices had been ordered to stop the practice of summoning Jerseymen before the Bishop's Court at Coutances. Bishops at this time insisted on their right to try all cases connected with marriage, divorce, or legitimacy, since marriage was a sacrament; all cases connected with wills and executors, since these were intimately linked with the dying man's last confession; all cases connected with oaths and perjury, since an oath pledged a man's hope of salvation; all cases of sexual immorality, of usury, or of defamation, and of course of blasphemy, heresy, and witchcraft.

Moreover, they claimed every case in which a cleric was concerned either as plaintiff or defendant, and they stretched the word 'cleric' to cover men in minor orders such as acolytes, and even tonsured church-servants, such as bell-ringers and sextons. In Jersey this was especially objectionable, as it meant haling the King's subjects before a foreign Court.

The King had written to the Bishop: "We expressly forbid you to cite any from the islands to appear before you or your commissaries". He had ordered the Warden of the Isles to proclaim "that no one under pain of forfeiture of his lands and tenements shall cause anyone to be cited before the aforesaid Bishop".


But Pierre Faleyse, Dean of Jersey, ignored this proclamation, protesting that it was a breach of the Church's liberties; so, when the Justices reached Jersey, they arrested and heavily fined many of his summoners and apparitors. De Carteret was present at the meeting in St Helier Rectory, when the clergy and their lay supporters decided to defy the Justices.

Early next morning he was one of those who accompanied to the Court the Dean, who demanded the withdrawal of the proclamation, and, when the Justices refused, excommunicated them by name. The Justices ordered the Dean's arrest, but "the clergy who accompanied him violently rescued him from prison", and he escaped to Normandy. When "the Justices inquired concerning the names of the aforesaid clergy", de Carteret's stood first on the list.

"Immediately after the said Maitre Geoffroi had sworn fealty to the King" (ie for his Fief of Meleches) "he abetted the Dean, inciting and encouraging him to stir up the islanders to ignore the Justices, and he together with his brother Robert was ringleader in taking the Dean out of the jurisdiction of the Court in the very presence of the Justices".

On the death of Faleyse in 1515 de Carteret succeeded him as Dean. He at once resumed the struggle for the rights of the Bishop's Court, arresting sinners and sending them to Coutances, as though nothing had happened, and even claiming prisoners from the Royal Court. So great was the prestige of the church, he largely succeeded.

Among presentments made by jurors of St Saviour at the Assize of 1324 was a complaint that "many persons are causing others to be cited to the Court of Christianity".

Two examples

Two cases may be taken as examples. The same jurors reported that

"Guillaume Diervaunt, Lieut-Bailiff of our Lord the King, was slain with a knife on the King's Highway while on his way home from St Helier after holding the Royal Court. Roger de Costillon, cleric, did this deed three years ago. Guillaume Diervaunt carried under his arm a large Gascony blade naked, which the said cleric slowly drew out, and by so doing caused Guillaume's death, for the veins of his arm were severed, and the blood gushed out.
“It is said that the cleric had no ill-will against Guillaume, nor did he mean to kill him: and this we believe to he true. Pierre Ugon, cleric, and Guillaume Le Petit, cleric, were in Guillaume's company. Pierre was taken to the Bishop's prison at Coutances, and set free; but Roger De Costillon remains in the said prison".

From the Bishop's certificate presented later to the Justices Itinerant we learn that the two clerics were first "committed by the secular authorities to prison in the island, but afterward liberated by the Dean, who committed them to our prison at Coutances". After three years a strong effort was made to secure de Costillon's release. The Dean took ten other clergy to Coutances: "neighbours of Roger, whose word can be trusted", who "swore on the Holy Gospels, laying their hands upon them, that they believed Roger innocent".

"Therefore," wrote the Bishop, "regarding this purgation as legally correct and canonical, we declared the said Roger not guilty, and have liberated him, and allowed him to depart". He arrived home while the Assize of 1329 was sitting, and was at once rearrested by the Viscount, who brought him before the Justices; but the Dean compelled them to recognize the Bishop's acquittal as final.

One other case shows how completely de Carteret had won recognition for the Church Court. "Ranulf Hamond, arrested for breaking open the chest of Oranga De Bovere of St Lawrence and purloining a skein of wool, on being indicted, declared that he was a cleric, and could not be tried before any lay judge. On this point came Geoffroi de Carteret, Dean, and demanded that he should be set free; and he was released to him".

In 1339 began the Hundred Years War with France, interspersed with brief intervals of truce. The first of these lasted from September 1340 to October 1342, the second from January 1343 to 1349. In Jersey they seem to have been celebrated by a spate of charges and countercharges of treason.

Many Jersey families had intermarried with families in Normandy, and had obtained in this way estates on the mainland. In January 1342 an order had come to confiscate the land and chattels of traitors, "as the King is informed that divers landowners have absented themselves from the island during the war, tarrying among the King's enemies, and adhering to them, and returning afterward in time of truce to reoccupy their lands".

In October the war was resumed, and de Carteret and others placed some of their property in Mont Orgueil for protection. In December they complained to the King that "Henry de la More, who represents the Warden, is detaining divers sums of money, victuals, garniture, and goods, brought to the Castle for safety against the King's enemies".

The King ordered their property to be restored. By March 1343, however, there was so much unrest that three Commissioners were sent "to inform themselves by such means as shall seem expedient touching the dissensions that have arisen between Thomas de Hampton, Warden, and the men of Jersey, whereby divers evils have happened in those parts, and greater loss will ensue, as is feared; to hear complaints of any that will come forward, and find by inquisition by whom the dissensions were set in motion; to inquire touching conspiracies among themselves and with the King's enemies; touching those who have sent good money, victuals, and armour out of the island to the King's enemies, and brought bacic base money; touching those who since the outbreak of war have left the island without licence from the Warden or sent their wives and children to Normandy, and why; and touching who have arisen against the King in the islands, and by whom the houses called loges, erected on account of the war, have been burnt down.

Before the Commissioners arrived de Carteret and his friends had fled. In May they sent a petition from Barneville in Normandy "in the name of the Jerseymen driven from the island by their enemies", asking for safe conducts to return, that they might lay before the Commission their complaints against de Hampton and de la More. Meanwhile the King's Council had decided against them.

In August an order arrived that the Warden was to retain the animals and goods, "as the King has learnt that they belong to enemies and rebels"

The Dean was now branded as a traitor and, as a monk of a French monastery and an official of a French Bishop, he may well have been suspect; but the charge was not pressed home, for Meleches was not escheated.

We hear no more of him until 1333, when he was appointed by his Abbey Prior of the Vale In Guernsey. Unless he had been made Rector of St Martin much below the canonical age, he must now have been over 80, but his fighting spirit had not abated. He began his incumbency with a lawsuit as to whether he or his Abbot had the right to appoint the Seneschal of the Priory. In 1364 he had a lawsuit with the Warden, claiming a quarter of all wreckage washed ashore at Castle Cornet.

In 1368 he was still alive, though now well over 90, and contesting the claim of the Treasurer of St Michael in the Vale to receive a contribution from the Priory toward the repair of the church.

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