Sir Renaud de Carteret

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From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine

Sir Renaud de Carteret (1338-1381) was Seigneur of St Ouen in succession to his father, probably Philippe de Carteret.

Confusion over ancestry

There is considerable confusion over who exactly was Sir Renaud’s father. George Balleine in his biography of an earlier Renaud in A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey states that he had sons Philippe, Renaud and Guillaume, and that he and Guillaume died in 1349, and Philippe in 1351 “aged 35 or thereabout”.

But in his biography of the younger Renaud, for whome he gives a date of death of 1382, he says that a contract among the Le Maistre manuscripts in the library of La Société Jersiaise records that in 1354 "Renaud De Carteret transferred to Guille De Carteret, his brother, as his share in the inheritance of Philippe De Carteret, their father, the manor of the Fief Estourmy and the Fief de Meleches".

This would seem to prove that he was the son of Philippe De Carteret, who died in 1352, and not the brother, as the J Bertrand Payne’s Armorial of Jersey states. Another contract, which he passed in 1351, shows that he was already a Jurat, to which office he would probably have been appointed on the death of his father.

The Hundred Years War with France had been dragging on for nearly 20 years when, in 1356, the French made a raid on Guernsey, and recaptured Castle Cornet. When this news reached Jersey de Carteret, with Richard de St Martin, Seigneur of Trinity, Jean de Garis, Seigneur of St Germain, Raoul Lempriere, Jean de La Hougue, and other Jerseymen, "assembled their strength, and after a severe combat took the Captain of the Castle, who ransomed himself from them for 80,000 florins called moutons" (French coins stamped with a lamb and the text, 'Behold the Lamb of God').

"They might have taken those florins in aid of their expenses; yet they surrendered the Captain without ransom in return for the surrender of the Castle". After its recovery, a prominent Guernseyman named William Le Feyvre "was slain as a traitor and adherent of the enemy by the common assent of the armed men and others there present". This execution caused deep resentment in Guernsey, and his wife Nicholaa, sister of Matthieu de Saumarez, one of the leading Seigneurs, moved heaven and earth to avenge him.

Prosecution

She secured the arrest of all the killers, and prosecuted them before the Guernsey Court. Renaud had not been present either at the court-martial or execution, but “considering that the accused had nothing to be ashamed of, he said before the Bailiff and Jurats that he was as blameworthy as any of those impeached, whereupon the Bailiff and Jurats recorded that he was guilty of the death, and adjudged him to the King's Prison to be detained till justice were done on him in respect of the said acknowledgement".

In August 1357 Thomas of Langhurst, the Warden's deputy, appeared before the Council to plead for the prisoners, and secured an order from the King "to supersede till further notice all processes against those indicted for the death of William Le Feyvre, because Thomas de Langhurst has testified before the Council that William was a traitor at the time of the death". The Warden was permitted to release the prisoners "if they shall each find mainpernors, who undertake to have them before the King's Justices at the next Assize".

But the inexorable Nicholaa would not tolerate this. In November she obtained a new order:

"Whereas the King ordered the Warden to supersede all processes against Renaud De Carteret, knight, and other men of Jersey, now Nicholaa, late wife of the said William, has shown the King that William, at the time he was slain, was under the King's special protection and his liege man, and that he neither adhered to the King's enemies nor abode with them, and that he was killed out of ancient enmity and malice, and not for treason".

The Warden was ordered "to take diligent information on the matter, and, if he finds that William was the King's liege man, and did not deserve death, to cause justice to be done". Renaud was rearrested, and again imprisoned in Castle Cornet, and did not obtain his freedom until March 1359, when a Letter Patent arrived:

"The King, having regard to the good service often done by Renaud de Carteret, and specially to the assiduous labour which he performed in the recovery of the island and castle from the King's enemies, and because he was not at the killing or consenting to it, has pardoned him, whatever the Bailiff and Jurats have recorded against him".

Bertrand du Guesclin

In 1373 Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, was besieging Brest. On 6 July the garrison agreed to surrender, if not relieved within a month. Du Guesclin used that month to raid Jersey. About this attack Payne in his Armorial has given publicity to a de Carteret legend, which had appeared in the British Compendium of 1731:

"To Sir Reginald belongs the signal distinction of having repulsed du Guesclin, confessedly the greatest soldier of his age, who crossed from Brittany with 10,000 men, including the elite of the chivalry of France. Sir Reginald however, having secured the Castle, defended it with such distinguished skill and valour that the French General

after many fruitless assaults withdrew his discomfited forces decimated by sword and disease. For this gallant achievement de Carteret and his seven sons were knighted in one day by Edward III".

The truth was very different. De Carteret was not in command, but William de Asthorp. Du Guesclin won a lightning victory. The Black Mastiff of Brittany wasted no time on a siege. He stormed the walls with scaling ladder, and drove the garrison into the inner keep. There, like their comrades in Brest, they promised to capitulate if relief did not reach them by Michaelmas.

Within ten days of landing du Guesclin was back in Rennes, having left a French force to guard the Castle. The surrender was apparently due to divided counsels within the walls. Jerseymen had long resented the fact that the Constable of the Castle was always an Englishman. As far back as 1358 Otto de Holand had warned the Chancellor that certain Jerseymen had promised Edmund de Cheny £300 sterling a year, if he would agree, when appointed Warden, to entrust the Castle to them. Later in 1373, when the French had been ejected, Jean de St Martin, the Bailiff, was accused of having sold the Castle "to a certain enemy, Bertrand Claykin, 'knight’. (This spelling of Du Guesclin's name appears in more than one contemporary English document.)

King's rebuke

He was imprisoned in the Tower of London, but eventually acquitted. The King, however, sent a stern rebuke on 1 February 1374 to the Bailiff and Jurats for intermeddling with military matters:

"Inasmuch as we learn on sure authority that we have sustained and are sustaining intolerable injuries through your negligence and rebellion and frivolous answers and disobedience to ourselves and our order, we forbid you in the most peremptory manner possible at your own peril henceforth to interfere in any trials, inquests, or disputes with which you have no concern".

In all this de Carteret must have been deeply involved. The terms on which he held his Fief required him to take part personally in the defence of the Castle. As senior Jurat he was implicated in the action of the Royal Court. But we hear nothing of any `gallant achievement' that won knighthood for the whole family. As a matter of fact, Renaud is described as a knight as early as 1357 and, since his eldest son was still a minor at the time of his father's death eight years after the recovery of the Castle, there cannot have been seven sons all of knightable age.

On 18 August 1373 the King sent orders to his Admirals to proceed at once to Jersey "to liberate our Castle of Gurry". They evidently succeeded, for on 20 November Edmond Rose was placed in command of the Castle. But the rest of the island remained at the mercy of the French.

In 1374 and again in 1375 the Receiver reported that it was impossible to raise the King's revenue "owing to the frequent incursions of the enemy and the ravages they commit". In 1376, when the Pope was trying to make peace, Edward III complained to the Cardinal Commissioners at Bruges that "Bertrand Du Guesclin, with whom our subjects in Jersey arranged a ransom for one year only, and then arranged again a ransom for one year only, which ransoms were paid in full according to the terms agreed, has forced them by harsh imprisonments and burnings to agree to another ransom for a year without our knowledge, and contrary to the truce".

What part Sir Renaud played in these troubles we are not told. We only know that he was dead by 15 March 1382, when the King made Roger Walden guardian of "all the lands belonging to Sir Renaud De Carteret, deceased, because his son, Philippe, is still a minor".

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