Jean de Carteret (1552-1608)

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From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Jean de Carteret (1542-1608) was Seigneur of Vinchelez de Haut. He was the son of Nicolas de Carteret, who was the son of the Richard de Carteret who received the Manor of Vinchelez de Haut as a gift from his godmother, Catherine de Vinchelez.

Paulet family

On 8 December 1570 Jean de Carteret was sworn in as Solicitor-General, a post which he held until he became Jurat on 30 January 1580. Sir Amias Paulet was the Governor and his son Anthony Lieut-Governor.

This powerful family ruled the island for 50 years. Sir Hugh Paulet was Governor, 1550-1571, his son Sir Amias, 1571-1588, and his son Sir Anthony, 1590-1600, and George Paulet, brother of Amias, was Bailiff 1583-1586, 1587-1591, and 1596-1614.

Thanks to Jean de Carteret it is generally believed that the Paulets were tyrants, whereas they seem to have been remarkably honest and efficient rulers, who gave the island 50 years of peace and prosperity. The only trouble-maker was de Carteret.

It began through a cod fish case tried by Bailiff Paulet in September 1587. The Jurats could not agree, and during the heated discussion Jurat Henri Dumaresq made a remark which the Bailiff resented, and he threatened to report him to the Privy Council. Two other Jurats, Jean de Carteret and Philippe Journeaux, took Dumaresq's part, and at last Anthony Paulet, the Lieut-Governor, who was present, removed the three obstreperous Jurats to the Castle.

Four days later they were released on bail, but de Carteret could not forgive the Paulets for this humiliation. He now began his career as agitator. He chose as his point of attack the Cour Extraordinaire. In spite of its name this was an old-established Court dealing with small debts, shipping disputes, and petty crimes. De Carteret suggested that the Bailiff was accumulating cases in this Court, because here he got fees, whereas in the other Courts he had to give justice freely.

He began to collect signatures to a petition for the abolition of this Court, knowing that, if he succeeded, he would cut off a slice of Paulet's income. Circulating a petition sounds quite a constitutional act, but it provided wide scope for agitation. The Commissioners reported later: "A dangerous faction was bred in the isle, and many conventicles in great numbers were held day and night".


The Lieut-Governor asked the advice of the States, who unanimously resolved "that it was necessary that the Cour Extraordinaire continue". The three Jurats were rearrested, fined, and suspended from office. They appealed to the Privy Council, but only de Carteret prosecuted the appeal.

In London he met no encouragement. On 25 March 1588 the Council minutes record:

"This day John de Carteret being heard upon appeal from a sentence given in Jersey for procuring signatures to a petition for extirping an ancient Court in the isle, her Majesty's Attorney-General and Solicitor made report that the sentence was just and his appeal without cause. Whereupon their Lordships have committed Carteret to the prison of the Marshalsea, as well for soliciting to overthrow an ancient Court of Justice, as for appealing without cause from a sentence justly given".

In September he was released, but as he was embarking for Jersey, he heard that Sir Amias had died on 21 September. He returned at once to London to present a petition against the appointment of his son, Anthony, the Lieut-Governor, as his successor. He then crossed to Jersey, where he began a vehement agitation against Anthony, adopting his old plan of collecting signatures to a petition. This asked for the appointment of Lord Seymour as Governor. The Commissioners reported later:

"Carteret and his confederates combined themselves into a new league and solicited from house to house. During the time of which unsettled estate, what insolent behaviour, riding, assembling, and practising to alienate the subjects from due obedience to her Majesty's Lieutenant. How they made themselves patrons of the lewd and unruly people within the isle, that her Majesty's Lieutenant was forced to keep his guards about him. What affray all the best subjects were in, did appear most evidently to us by the relation of all the Jurats and States, who especially remembered the dangerous time they lived in".

Rector's evidence

Helier Faultrart, Rector of St Martin, gave evidence:

"I do certify that these two years there have been very dangerous factions in this isle, whereby the people have been greatly out of order, giving themselves unto divers insolencies whereunto they were not wont".

On 4 May 1589 de Carteret was again before the Council:

"John de Carteret being heard at length upon certain injurious and slanderous articles framed against Anthony Paulet, her Majesty's Lieutenant, and George Paulet, Bailiff, and not being able to produce any proofs of any of his aforesaid articles, which, it appears to their Lords, proceeded rather from former spleen than upon just cause and reason, their Lordships have committed him to prison of the Marshalsea, there to remain during their Lordships' pleasure, until he submit himself unto their Lordships and to the said Anthony Poulet".

Within a fortnight however he produced another long list of charges, which he offered to prove by many witnesses. He was allowed to return to Jersey to collect his evidence, and a local committee of five was appointed to investigate the matter on the spot. This apparently produced no result so on 15 December it was decided to send a Royal Commission to the island. Meanwhile on 4 July 1590 Anthony Poulet was at last sworn in as Governor. De Carteret had succeeded in holding up his appointment for nearly two years.

About this time Jean Perrin, Seigneur of Rosel, joined de Carteret. He, too, had a private grudge against Bailiff Paulet. He had been imprisoned in the Castle for slandering his stepmother, and the Bailiff, who had married a Perrin, had taken a prominent part in the family quarrel. He and de Carteret now drew up a formidable-looking list of charges against the new Governor:

He had sold cannon from the Castle as scrap-iron and pocketed the proceeds. He had sold corn to Spain, when Spain was at war with England. He had kept innocent men in prison without bringing them to trial. He had removed Jurats and other officers from their posts contrary to the Constitution. He had exacted forced labour from the people. He had cut down trees on private property, etc, etc. In March 1591 the Royal Commissioners, Dr Tertullian Pyne and Robert Napper, arrived in the island.

Under their examination every one of these accusations broke down. They reported wholly in favour of Paulet, and recommended that de Carteret and Perrin should pay the whole cost of the Commission.


In June we find de Carteret again before the Council protesting against this report, and for the third time he was sent to the Marshalsea, until he should acknowledge his fault, and pay his half of the expenses (£83 10s). On 29 July he made his submission:

"I, John Carteret, do humbly confess my unadvised offence in neglecting that duty I owe the Governor as her Majesty's Lieutenant, and for going about to work his discredit by such informations as have not been proved true, promising that hereafter I will lay aside all malice and factions, and behave myself as becomes a good and dutiful subject toward the Magistrate set in Authority by her Majesty".

On his return to Jersey, however, he again became awkward. He refused to appear before the Royal Court to make his submission in person to the Governor, and went into hiding. On 5 January 1592 a warrant was issued for his arrest and removal to the Castle. On 15 January he appeared, and made his submission. Soon after he was restored to his seat on the Bench, for on 6 September 1595 we find him sitting as Jurat.

His next interest was a dispute between the two Vinchelez Manors. In 1595 the Procureur of John Dumarest of Vinchelez de Bas raised the Clameur de Haro against de Carteret for holding his Court on the Grand Becquet des Tenets, which was claimed as Dumarest property. In 1598 the case reached the Privy Council, who decided in de Carteret's favour, but the Dumarests still fought on; and at last, to avoid the great cost of these lawsuits, de Carteret consented to arbitration.

Three arbitrators carefully mapped out the boundaries of the two manors, certain fields being exchanged to make the boundaries simpler, one curious point being that each manor retained half the Chapel of St George, and the two Seigneurs were to share its upkeep.

By 1598 the feud with the Paulets seemed to be dead, for in December George Poulet appointed de Carteret Lieut-Bailiff. But in 1602 it flared up again, and Sir Walter Raleigh, who was then Governor, had to hurry back from England to settle it. After investigation on 10 July he committed de Carteret to the Castle. On 24 July he succeeded in reconciling the two men.

"The Governor insisted that peace and concord must be restored. He pointed out to de Carteret how grave had been his fault in insulting the Bailiff on the seat of Justice, not considering that he represented there the authority of the Prince. The said de Carteret being touched by these remonstrances voluntarily recognized and confessed that he had made grave mistake in using such words toward the Bailiff. Nevertheless the Bailiff did not feel satisfied with this apology ; but the Governor and the States after due consideration found the apology adequate, and prayed and exhorted the Bailiff to accept for the sake of the peace of the island; to which under these considerations he consented to agree".

Jean de Carteret married Jeanne, widow of Richard Le Brocq, and daughter of Clement Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samares. He had three children, Philippe who became Attorney-General, Jean and Esther. He died in 1608.

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