Le Breton

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Bailiff Thomas Le Breton, born 1763
Bailiff Thomas Le Breton, born 1791
Le Breton family at 9 Ann Street in 1930

Origin of Surname

Did the earliest Le Bretons come to Jersey from Brittany or England?

The logical assumption is that they were Bretons from Brittany, but Le Bret, or Le Brit, is also thought to indicate that someone in post-1066 England was born there, rather than having come from Normandy with William the Conqueror.

The descendancy below, thought by some genealogists to be feasible and by others to be highly fanciful, suggests that the lineage of Jersey's early Le Bretons can be traced back through England, and thence to the Dukes of Brittany, but it is probably more likely that they were simple folk who crossed the short sea journey from Brittany to Jersey.

It is possible that both versions are true, and that there were more than one unconnected Le Bretons in Jersey in pre-medieval times. Payne, in his Armorial, sides with the French connection, but throws in the possibility that there are stronger Norman links.

Payne's Armorial of Jersey

It is supposed that this family is derived from Brittany, although the arms borne by it differ but slightly from those of Le Breton, of Normandy. One of its early members is reputed to have given to the parish church of St Brelade its service of communion plate. In 1283 Philip Le Breton, l'homme du Mont St Michel, held the franc-fief of Noirmont, the fief es Guarauz, and the fief Burnouff. In 1370 William Le Breton was a Jurat of the Royal Court.

The family formerly possessed much land in the parish of St Clement. It has given to the Island three Deans and two Baillies. Of the former, the Very Rev Thomas Le Breton was Rector of St Mary and Dean of Jersey in 1714; the Very Rev Francis Le Breton, Rector of St Saviour and Dean in 1775; and the Very Rev William Corbet Le Breton, who at present holds the two last-named preferments.

Of the latter, Sir Thomas Le Breton, was the eldest son of Dean Francis Le Breton, and was born in 1763. He received his early education at Winchester College, whence he removed to Pembroke College, Oxford, and while there obtained the Chancellor's prize. He was elected a Fellow in 1786, but declining to take orders, returned to Jersey to prosecute his studies for the insular bar. In 1799 he was sworn an Advocate of the Royal Court, where he soon became eminent. He was appointed Attorney-General of the Island in 1802, and Lieutenant-Bailly to Lord Carteret in 1816. In 1824 he was deputed by the States of Jersey of Jersey to plead the cause of the Islanders before the English Government in resistance of the encroachments of the French on the local oyster fishing limits

On this occasion, Mr Le Breton had conferred on him the honour of knighthood. On the death of Lord Carteret in 1826, the patronage of the office of Bailly, long held by his family in hereditary succession, reverted to the Crown, and Sir Thomas succeeded to the vacant chair. He died in 1838. His portrait, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, is in the possession of the family, and has been engraved.

His eldest son, also named Thomas, was for many years Attorney-General, and afterwards Bailly of the Island. He was born in 1790, and studied jurisprudence at Caen, in Normandy; and whilst there was presented to Napoleon I on the occasion of the Emperor visiting that city. Subsequently, he became a member of the Jersey bar, Vice-Consul for France in Jersey, and a Receiver of the King's dues in the Island. He had, before this, entered the St Hclier Battalion of the Militia, in which he rose to the command in 1820; and on the auspicious visit of her Majesty to the Island in September, 1846, the whole of the insular troops being under the command of Colonel Le Breton, Her Majesty conferred on him the honour of knighthood.

In July 1848 Sir Thomas succeeded the late Sir John De Veulle as Bailly of Jersey, a post which he held until his death in November 1857.

Arms (as borne by Philip-Hemery Le Breton, : Azure, two chevronels, or; a mullet for difference. Impaling: Argent, an oak-tree, ppr. ; on a chief, gules, three mullets of the field, for Aikin. Crest : A rose, gules, slipped and leaved, vert.

Variants

  • Le Breton 1291
  • Le Bretton, 1287
  • Les Bretaus 1331
  • Le Bretoun 1309
  • Le Bretun 1286
  • Le Britun 1274
  • dictus Brito, 1270
  • Brito 1236-7
  • Le Bret
  • Le Brit

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Family trees

These four trees are referred to in the family history below

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