Jean Le Vavasseur dit Durell

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Jean Le Vavasseur dit Durell (1625-1683) was Dean of Windsor and translator of the new Prayer Book into French and Latin after the Restoration.

Early life

The son of Jean Le Vavasseur dit Durel of St Helier and Susanne Effard (1600-1685), daughter of Nicolas, Rector of St Saviour, he was born at St Helier in 1625. He had a younger sister Susanne born in 1633.

He entered Merton College, Oxford, aged 15, in 1640, but three years later, when Oxford was garrisoned for the King, he withdrew to Caen, and took his MA there in 1644. His thesis, Theoremata Philosophiae rationalis, moralis, naturalis, et supernaturalis, was the first of his published books. He then took a two-year course in divinity at Saumur, and wrote one of the Disputationes published by President Placens.

In 1647 he returned to Jersey in Presbyterian Orders, and became Chaplain to Elizabeth Castle under Sir George Carteret. In 1650 he went to Paris and received Anglican Orders on Trinity Sunday from the Bishop of Galloway in the Chapel of the British Ambassador, being ordained Deacon and Priest on the same day. In March 1651 he became Acting Rector of St Ouen, during the exile of Etienne La Cloche.

When the Parliamentarians reoccupied Jersey in October, he withdrew to Elizabeth Castle with Sir George. The latter realized that the castle could not hold out indefinitely ; so he sent Poindexter, and then Durel, to Paris to the King to ask for instructions. They returned with orders to surrender on the best terms obtainable. Durel spent the next nine years in France, first with the English exiles in Paris, than at St Malo.


He was invited to act as Minister of the Huguenot Temple at Caen, and to become Chaplain to the Landgrave of Hesse; but he accepted the post of Chaplain to the Duc de la Force, father of the Princess of Turenne, in whose household Daniel Brevint was chaplain. At the Restoration in 1660 he was offered the choice of the Rectory of St Helier or St Mary in Jersey; but he preferred to go to London.

As an ordained Minister of both the Huguenot and the Anglican Church, his ambition was to unite the numerous Huguenot congregations in England with the Church of England. The King gave him the use of a chapel in the Savoy, where the services would be in French, but the Prayer Book would be used, and the authority of the Bishop of London recognized. The wearing of the surplice was not to be enforced.

The opening Service was held on 14 July 1661, and Durel quickly gathered an elegant and distinguished congregation, consisting largely, as the registers show, of French Protestant nobles and their families who were in exile, a number soon to be swollen by the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. But the majority of London Huguenots refused to dally with Prayer Book or Prelates, and maintained the full Presbyterian system in their Threadneedle Street Chapel.

Prayer Book

At first Durel used an old French Prayer Book issued in 1616, when David Bandinel was made Dean of Jersey. But the entire revision of the English Prayer Book, which was completed in February 1662, made a new translation necessary. Durel was entrusted with this task. On 6 October 1662 the King ordered that his translation, as soon as it was completed, should be the only one used in Jersey, Guernsey and all Huguenot Churches that conformed to the Church of England.

The Bishop of London's Chaplain passed it for publication in April 1663, but it did not appear until 1667, its title being, La Liturgie, c'est a dire le Formulaire des Prieres Publiques, de l'Administration des Sacrements, at des autres Ceremonies at Coatumes de l'Eglise, selon l’usage de l'Eglise Anglican.

This book remained in use with certain modifications in every Jersey church for more than 200 years.

The Act of Uniformity made a Latin Prayer Book also needed for use in the Universities and at Convocations. This translation was first entrusted to Earle, Bishop of Salisbury, and Pearson, later Bishop of Chester; but Earle died, and his manuscript was lost in the Great Fire, and Pearson was too busy to carry through the work; so this task also was handed to Durel, high compliment when England was so full of good Latinists.

His book appeared in 1670 with the title, Liturgia seu Liber Precorum Communium et Administrationis Sacramentorum aliorumque Rituum atque Ceremoniarum Ecclesiae juxta usum Ecclesiae Anglicanae. Of this at least seven editions were printed in the next 34 years.

Durel had been made Rector of Overton, Hants, in 1661 and in 1677 Rector of Great Haseley, Oxon. Honours were pouring in upon him. In 1662 he was appointed Chaplain to the King. In 1663 he became Prebendary of Salisbury, in 1664 Canon of Windsor, while still continuing his work at the Savoy Chapel. In 1668 he was made Prebendary of Durham. On 28 February 1670 Oxford conferred on him the degree of DD. On 27 July 1677 he was installed as Dean of Windsor, and on 9 November as Registrar of the Garter; and shortly after he was also made Rector of Witney.

Loan to King

He seems to have been a rich man, for the Treasury books show that in 1671 he lent to the King £15,000 sterling. He published many books of theological controversy directed against Nonconformists

He married on 21 September 1664 in the Temple of Quevilly, Rouen, Marie de Langle, daughter of the Huguenot Pastor. He died on 8 June 1685, and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor.  

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