Philippe de Carteret (1432-1470)

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From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Philippe de Carteret (1432-1470), Seigneur of St Ouen.

Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses had grave repercussions in Jersey. In 1460, when the Lancastrians were losing ground, Henry VI's French Queen, Marguerite of Anjou, was hatching some secret plot with her first cousin, Pierre de Breze, Comte Maulevrier, the French Seneschal of Normandy.

"If those around her knew her intentions", he wrote to the King of France, "they would put her to death".

The scheme almost certainly was that de Breze should raise troops to support the Red Rose in England, and be rewarded by the post of Lord of the Isles. The royal family would then have a harbour of refuge if the Yorkists should triumph. John Nanfan, a Cornish veteran of Henry V's wars, devoted to the House of Lancaster, was Constable of Mont Orgueil. He possibly agreed to allow de Breze to surprise the Castle, an act which would not seem to him treason, but a handing over of his charge by the Queen's orders to the new Lord of the Isles, who was the Queen's cousin.

Whether he did this deliberately, or, as the Chroniques say, through "culpable carelessness and neglect of duty", cannot now be proved, but one summer night in 1461 Jean de Carbonnel, de Breze's cousin, seized the Castle without resistance.

The Seigneur of St Ouen at this time was a Philippe De Carteret. Payne's Armorial of Jersey, following Collins' History of the Carteret Family, identifies him with Philippe, son of Renaud, who was under the guardianship of Roger Walden in 1382. But this Philippe came of age in 1385, and would have been a centenarian at the time of his famous ride mentioned below.

More than one generation must have intervened between the two Philippes. An Act of the Court shows that the later Philippe was the eldest son of Philippe De Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, and nephew of Renaud De Carteret, Seigneur of Vingt Livres, and that in 1441 he was still a minor. In 1452 his name appears on a contract as Jurat; so he had then come of age.

In 1453 he appealed to the Court against the judgement of 1441, which had left his uncle in possession of Vingt Livres, protesting that it had been given while he was a minor under the guardianship of the Prince. His mother (not his wife, as Payne states) was daughter and heiress of Sir William Newton, of Gloucestershire.


The Chroniques make him the hero of the French occupation:

"The French captured the Seigneur of Samares and many other men of substance who dwelt near the Castle, to whom they wrought no small hurt both in their goods and bodies; but they could not subdue the six parishes in the West; they durst not pass the town of St Helier, for Philippe De Carteret with the men of those parishes raised a force and fought stoutly against them all the time they held the Castle, and oft-times skirmished with them even under the Castle walls".

Poingdestre, followed by Falk, adds that Grosnez Castle is "famous for having been a retiring place to Philippe de Carteret and his party against Peter de Bresse.

For the last assertion there is no evidence. Grosnez Castle had probably long been in ruins. Nor will the legend of the defence of the six parishes bear investigation. For seven years, after the seizure of the Castle, de Breze's officers controlled the whole island. Life seems to have gone on quite normally. There is no hint of war between the east and west. Nicolas Morin, the Bailiff, remained in office, signing himself during the occupation, "Bailiff under the high and puissant lord, the Count of Maulevrier, Lord of the Isles", nor, after the island was liberated, was he regarded as a traitor.

The Court met regularly. A contract, printed by De la Croix, shows that on one occasion the Bailiff was at St Ouen to pass an agreement to pay a priest to say Mass in St George's Chapel. In December 1463 the French investigated an alleged pro-Engish plot in which the chief suspects were the Seigneur of Rosel and the Rector of St Martin. Much was said about surreptious communication with Guernsey, but nothing of any pro-English force in arms in the western parishes.

On the contrary, we learn that when John Hereford, an English soldier of fortune, landed in St Ouen Bay in 1462 with a party on plunder bent, de Carteret arrested him, imprisoned him in the manor, and then handed him over to the French authorities, who put him in irons in the Castle.


Later he was released on parole, perhaps as a French spy. He then wandered freely about the Island, which was certainly not rent by internal war, dining sometimes at Rosel Manor in the east, and sometimes at St Ouen Manor in the west.

We learn, too, that the Lady of St Ouen and the Lady of Rosel dined in the Castle at Whitsuntide 1463 with the French Commander, whose wife had just returned from Normandy. Moreover, on the Feast of the Assumption, the French Marshal gave a dinner to the Fraternity of our Lady in the de Carteret house. Clearly there was no open warfare between de Carteret and the Castle, though de La Croix's statement that de Carteret was Lieut-Bailiff under de Breze is based on a careless mistake.

By 1467, however, the position had materially altered. In England the White Rose seemed to have triumphed. Edward IV was on the throne. His rival, Henry VI, was a prisoner in the Tower. Marguerite was an exile. In France Pierre de Breze was dead. Louis XI's policy of centralizing the French government and suppressing any autonomous rights that survived in Duchies like Normandy, had provoked the Norman barons to rebel. De Breze had fallen in battle, and Carbonnel was so deeply involved in the revolt that he could hope for no help from Louis.

In Jersey there was a real chance of throwing off the French yoke. It was probably then that de Carteret began to show pro-English sentiments, and the French tried to kidnap him.

"It befell one day that he went to catch freshwater fish in his pond near St Ouen's Bay, and the French came stealthily along the beach between the shingle and the sea, thinking to take him unawares, and bring him captive to the Castle. But the Seigneur ever kept a good horse, and he espied them, and sprang to the saddle, seeking to attain his manor. But, ere he could reach the crest of the hill, another troop appeared, hoping to cut him off, and he was constrained to swerve toward the Val de la Chariere. Thereupon, since he was so hard-pressed that he could not gain the end of the track, he made his horse leap the sunken road at its deepest place, where it is 18 feet deep and 22 feet wide, and, spurring toward the Landes of St Ouen, so made his escape. But, ere he could arrive at the Manor, his horse fell dead beneath him; whereat the Seigneur was greatly grieved, and he would not suffer it to be devoured by dogs or birds, but caused it to be buried in his garden for the good service it had done him".

A slight confirmation of this story was found in 1904, when a bone was dug up in the manor grounds, which London experts identified as the shoulder-blade of a horse, which had been buried for several centuries.

Richard Harliston

In 1468 Edward IV informed Parliament of his intention to invade France "to subdue Louis, the usurped King, and recover his Duchy of Normandy", a project which came to nothing. But he sent Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Harliston with part of the fleet to Guernsey.

The Chroniques record:

"Sir Richard was minded to visit Jersey privily by night so, leaving his ships in Guernsey, he landed at Plemont, and made his way through the darkness to St Ouen Manor. The Seigneur received him right gladly, and they communed together, and agreed that Harliston should go back to Guernsey, and set his ships in array, and return with all speed, while the Seigneur, who had now the most part of the island under his sway, would recruit all men available. Meanwhile he spared no pains to keep their plans secret, merely warning his folk to be alert and armed, whenever a call should come. When Harliston had set all things in trim, he again came ashore during the night at Plemont, and led his troops at once to the Manor.
"The Seigneur mustered his men forthwith, and they marched right stealthily all night along the north coast, and so well did they do their duty, that — God be thanked — ere day dawned they were encamped before the Castle. Thus they encircled it on every side, so that no one durst come out".

The siege began on 17 May 1468, and after 19 weeks lack of provisions forced the garrison to surrender.

"After the fall of the Castle Sir Richard tarried in the island awhile to gain full possession and to restore order, and then committed the defence of the Castle to the Seigneur of St Ouen, while he himself hasted to the King with all speed to acquaint him with what had happened".

Meanwhile Lancastrian risings were again breaking out, and Louis gathered a fleet at Harfleur for the invasion of England; so it was two years before Harliston could again spare time for Jersey, and de Carteret remained in charge. Soon after Sir Richard's return as Governor in 1470, de Carteret must have died, if the family tradition is true that his eldest son Philippe was so young when he inherited the estate that "when he performed his homage alder trees did grow in the hall and other places of his manor house by the covetousness of those that had custody thereof during his nonage". The son was old enough to become a Jurat in 1476 so, if the father died in 1470, this would have given the trees only six years to grow.

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