The Minquiers, in Jèrriais: Les Mîntchièrs, known to most islanders as the 'Minkies', are a group of islands and rocks situated nine miles south of Jersey forming part of the Bailiwick of Jersey. They are administratively part of the Parish of Grouville.
The islands have no permanent inhabitants, though fishermen, vraic collectors, yachtmen and even sometimes canoeists make summer landfall.
The main islands in the group are:
- Maîtresse Île / Maîtr' Île
- Les Maisons
- Le Niêsant
- Les Faucheurs
- La Haute Grune
The etymology of the name is disputed. While some say that the name comes from the Breton language minihi meaning a sanctuary, others maintain it comes from minkier meaning a seller of fish.
Thousands of years ago, around the time of the Ice Age, the Channel Islands were high ground forming part of a plain connecting the European Continent and southern England, when sea levels were much lower than today.
The 1911 Britannica says that Maîtresse Île "affords a landing and shelter for fishermen."
In 1950 Britain and France went to the International Court of Justice for a decision as to which country the Minquiers and Ecréhous belonged. The French fished in the waters, but Jersey exercised various administrative rights. The court considered the historical evidence, and in its Judgment of 17 November 1953, awarded the islands to Jersey.
In 1998 there was a light hearted "invasion" of the Minquiers by some French on behalf of the 'King of Patagonia' in 'retaliation' for the British occupation of the Falkland Islands. The Union Jack was restored the next day.
Les Minquiers in literature
Notably, Les Minquiers are mentioned at length by Victor Hugo in his novel Ninety-Three, about the French Revolution. He mentions how treacherous they are, and says that their combined area is bigger than Jersey itself. Hugo lived in both Guernsey and Jersey at various points in his life, and so was familiar with local lore.
The British/French dispute over Les Minquiers is a plot element in Nancy Mitford's novel Don't Tell Alfred, as an occasional cause for dispute between the 'two old ladies' - France and Britain.
The Minquiers feature in the seafaring adventure novel The Wreck of the Mary Deare, by Hammond Innes, and its 1959 film adaptation.
- Les Minquiers: article published in Hidden Europe Magazine
- Histoire des Minquiers et des Ecréhous. Robert Sinsoilliez. Editions l'Ancre de Marine.
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An official visit to the Minquiers in 1895 by the Lieut-Governor, Bailiff and Members of the States. Before the International Court ruling in the mid-20th century that the Minquiers were British and not French territory, it was deemed important that regular official visits should take place to assert Jersey's claim to the islets