The Great Rebellion - Prince Charles' first visit

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This is the fourth part of a 54-page article by F H Ellis first published in the 1937 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

April arrival

In April 1646 came the Prince of Wales. Forced to leave Pendennis by the advance of Fairfax through Cornwall, he crossed to Scilly where he remained for some weeks, during which time he was invited, 'in a loving and tender way', to repair to Parliament, a large squadron under Batten cruising round the islands meanwhile to give point to the invitation.

The Prince's Council did not think Scilly strong enough to be a safe refuge, besides which the resources there were very limited, so when bad weather conveniently dispersed the enemy ships, his Royal Highness and part of the suite set sail for Jersey. The ship which carried them, the Phoenix commanded by Captain Baldwin Wake, entered St Aubin's Bay at sundown on the 17th and anchored near Elizabeth Castle, where the Prince took up his quarters in the Lieut-Governor's lodging in the Upper Ward.

Two more ships followed shortly afterwards, bringing other members of the retinue, which was said to comprise upwards of 300 persons, including Sir Edward Hyde, Lord Hopton, Lord Capel, Sir Henry Mainwaring, Sir Richard Grenville, etc. Those for whom accommodation could not be found in the Castle were installed in houses in St Helier and the neighbourhood. The prince's arrival was celebrated with great rejoicings and bonfires were lighted all over the Island, Chauxcun y apportant son fagot fort voullanterement.

In Guernsey there was grave anxiety, for it was reported that the Prince had come with a large force to attack the island and Russell wrote urgent letters to Warwick and Batten beseeching them to send ships to his assistance.

On 26 April Prince Charles appeared in Jersey for the first time and was present at service in St Helier's Church. A cavalcade of gentlemen formed a guard of honour and the streets were lined with militia and thronged with spectators. During the royal visit, attendance at St Helier's Church was rare, owing to the difficulty of getting to the town when the tide was in, otherwise service was held in the Chapel which Carteret had recently fitted up in the Old Priory Church in the Lower Ward of the Castle.

Visits to gentry

At first the Prince's Council would not allow him to go further afield than the neighbourhood of St Helier for fear of capture by a landing party from one of the Parliament ships, but afterwards, though always well escorted, he made excursions to other parts of the Island and visited some of the local gentry.

One day he dined with Colonel Philip Carteret, Sir George's brother, at Mont Orgueil Castle and later reviewed the militia when he knighted the Seigneur of St Ouen, Philip Carteret, son of the late Sir Philip.

Charles seems to have found his greatest pleasure in sailing about the wide landlocked bay, where he was protected from the danger of Parliament ships by the guns of Elizabeth Castle and of St Aubin's Tower. Sir Henry Mainwaring, the greatest seaman of his day, had joined the Prince's suite not long before he left Scilly and doubtless entertained him with stories of his many adventures during that dreary anxious time and fired him with enthusiasm to learn something about ships.

The boy's pleasure in taking the helm of the Phoenix on the way to Jersey seems to suggest this, as does also the order, given shortly after his arrival, for a pinnace with two masts and sails and 12 pairs of oars to be built for him at St Malo. This boat only arrived about a fortnight before he left Jersey, so that most of his sailing in St Aubin's Bay was done in the Governor's galley, a boat of similar size which had been quite new at the time of the expedition to Sark two years previously.


There can be no doubt that it was during his nine weeks in Jersey that Charles learned his first lessons in seamanship from Sir Henry Mainwaring, whose great work, The Seaman's Dictionary, had not long since been published by Parliament, and who was able to carry out the principles therein laid down by giving his pupil both theory and practice.

Though barely 16, the Prince showed marked interest and intelligence and took up his new hobby with enthusiasm. With his innate love of the sea, following the instructions of Sir Henry Mainwaring must have been far more congenial than obeying some of the precepts of his Councillors and the old sea-captain must have gloried in rendering a service to the cause he loved so well by developing in the boy that taste for things nautical which was to remain with him all his life and which was to produce a lasting effect on the English Navy.

Charles' extraordinary insight into maritime affairs remarked by Pepys, is a point upon which all historians are agreed. After his pupil's departure Sir Henry remained in Jersey till the early spring of 1649 ; he and Chevalier were intimate and no doubt the latter gleaned much information for his Journal from conversations with his friend.

Charles, by sundry acts of courtesy, endeared himself to all classes in the Island. Levees were held at the Castle at which the local authorities and some of the principal gentry were presented; on one of these occasions he confirmed Carteret's patent of knighthood and created him a baronet; he also knighted Captain Baldwin Wake, shortly to become Lieut-Governor of Cornet Castle. Ladies of the disaffected party were gratified when, by the Prince's desire, jewellery and other valuables which had been sequestered were restored to them and some of the people of St Helier were delighted at being allowed to gaze upon the royal visitor while he dined in state. Among them was Chevalier who gives detailed accounts of the proceedings, being evidently much impressed by the gold and silver plate, the variety of the dishes and the orderly deft service of the attendants.

Castle Cornet by Jacob Knyff

Castle Cornet

A fortnight after Russell's ineffectual attack, Sir Thomas Fanshawe arrived at Cornet Castle bearing a letter from the Prince of Wales written before he left Cornwall in the hopes of composing the differences between Osborne and Carteret. Sir Thomas had been three weeks in Jersey meanwhile and had no doubt heard Carteret's version of affairs. He found the garrison disposed to mutiny, but the trouble subsided after a kindly speech, in which he told the men that he had been sent to thank them for their good and faithful service.

The long detention and lack of proper food must have been very trying to all concerned and it is small wonder that difficulties should have arisen. Fanshawe persuaded Sir Peter to resign. The Royalists were planning an attack on Guernsey and no doubt it was felt desirable that at such a time the Castle should be in the hands of an experienced soldier and of a younger man. Sir Thomas had written to Sir Peter from Jersey asking his advice concerning the attack and telling him that Carteret proposed either an invasion of the island by means of a considerable force of ships and men if such could be obtained, or else for a smaller body to surprise St Peter Port, for he believed that once the town was captured, the rest of the Island would offer no difficulty.

Sir Thomas said that Carteret stipulated that "in any case he must enter by the Castle and if there bee occasion upon any blowe receaved hee may secure the remainder of his forces there".

Carteret was determined to get Cornet Castle into his own hands as later events were to prove.

Among the Osborne papers is a document embodying Sir Peter's advice upon the reduction of Guernsey, drawn up at Fanshawe's suggestion and probably forwarded to Paris whither Culpepper had already gone to consult with Jermyn concerning the proposed attack.

"The number of men required for the reducing of this island and to secure it reduced, can be no less than 800 men, furnished with able officers, expert pylots and good land guides; no considerable partie lyke to appear for the king; if any doe it wil be feare that brings them in rather than love. Let not this number be thought too greate since the busines is not with the islanders alone but backt with the parliament of Engl; that wil not loose theire footing they have gotten heere. The action would be wholly committed to English, both for commanders and souldiers. The islanders never lyke to submit to the French. And the naturall animosity betweene the islanders of Guernsey and Jersey is so well knowne that I believe it might make those that els might yield, more obstinate to resist to the uttermost any of Jersey that shall endeavour to reduce them".

Lord Digby

At the end of April Lord Digby arrived unexpectedly in Jersey with a retinue of friends and retainers and 107 Irish soldiers. He had left Waterford with three ships and over 300 men to reinforce the garrison at Scilly, but finding that the Prince had already left, he sent back two of the ships and 200 soldiers and followed on to Jersey, where he propounded a hare-brained scheme for taking the heir to the throne to Ireland, where everybody would rally round him and all would be well. Two days later Lord Culpepper landed from France to press the Queen's desire, already made known at Scilly, that her son should join her in Paris.

Digby agreed with Hyde and others that such a project was 'the most pernicious counsel', that the King would be against such a plan, for it would not please his supporters in England to learn that the Prince had left the comparative security of Jersey and was in a foreign country under the orders of his Papist mother. Digby continued to urge his own plan even, to the great horror of the Council, going so far as to suggest kidnapping Charles by inviting him aboard the frigate and sailing off to Ireland. Finding he could do nothing in Jersey, he crossed to France in order to persuade the Queen, leaving his friends and retainers who had nothing on which to subsist during his absence, as well as the Irish soldiers who had not been allowed to land.

On 14 May Sir Baldwin Wake set out for Cornet Castle to take up his new command, but the boats were chased back by Parliament men of war. Next day he again set sail, this time with a stronger convoy, which included the Phoenix and Digby's frigate, hoping to arrive during the night, but was attacked by warships and Guernsey boats in a thick mist off Sark. A sharp engagement followed resulting in a number of casualties on both sides, but eventually Wake and his stores landed at the Castle and the ships returned to Jersey.

A painting of a young Charles at the time of the Civil War

Elizabeth Castle defences

The Prince's Council deemed it advisable that the defences of Elizabeth Castle should be strengthened, and a Flemish engineer came over from France to superintend the work. It was decided to scarp the rocks round the Islet to prevent them from being readily scaled by an attacking force — which must have entailed very heavy work in the days before blasting — and to build a fort afterwards called Fort Charles at the Northern end to command the approach from St Helier. Timber cut down on the estates of disaffected persons was used in the work of construction and over 50 men were employed every day.

Part of this labour was provided by Douvres, the old feudal usage by which every inhabitant was obliged to contribute a day's labour, either actual or by payment, to the repair of the castle. Sometime before Carteret had assembled the States to consider strengthening St Aubin's Tower by means of a wall round the islet on which it stands, for which purpose a special tax had been authorised. The Prince and some of his suite inspected this work, now well under way and he contributed 50 pistoles towards expenses.

On 29 May, while Charles' 16th birthday was being celebrated, Sir Peter Osborne arrived from Guernsey. The Prince and his suite received him cordially and for a time he stayed with Lord Hopton in St Helier, but his relations with Carteret were very strained and before long he left Jersey and settled at St Malo. During the already lengthy siege, he had suffered much anxiety and great hardships, for most of the time the garrison had been in sore straits for lack of food and Sir George's ungenerous treatment must have been very bitter to him.

Digby's intention of giving solid advice to the Queen was not crowned with the success anticipated. Instead the wily Mazarin, by means of promises and flattery, soon won him over to the view that the Prince would be better in France, and Digby returned to Jersey with the astute Jermyn, Lord Wilmot and others to escort him to Paris, The Council still disapproved strongly and Lord Capel offered to take the risk of going to Newcastle to try and get into communication with the King, but this suggestion was not adopted. The King had written to the Prince that he must obey his mother in all things except religion. This, added to the persuasions of the Queen's envoys, prevailed over the advice of his Council and he announced his intention of going to Paris.

When after making vain attempts to induce him to remain, the members of the Council saw that he was determined to go, they all, with the exception of Lord Culpepper, told him that this decision dismissed them from his service and kissed his hand in farewell. The departure was delayed by contrary winds and in the interim Hyde, Capel and Hopton "went once a day from the town to kisse his handes . . the other lords sittinge on the rocke of the water syde, whilst they walked upon the bouling green with the Prince, who quickly left them and they returned".

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