Jean Nicolle, Viscount

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Jean Nicolle,

Jean Nicolle (1599—1668), the younger son of Nicolas Nicolle of St Martin and Jeanne, daughter of Pierre Dolbel, became Jersey’s Viscount after the Restoration

Jean Nicolle was born in 1599 and baptised in St Martin's Church. In 1616, when seventeen, he joined the staff of Lord Dorchester, English ambassador at the Hague, and remained with him 16 years, rising to be his secretary.


Letters of the period frequently mention him as John Nicholls. Thomas Locke wrote in 1625 to Sir Dudley Carleton at the Hague:

"As I was going to send these, John Nicholls being now on his departure".

In 1627, when Dorchester was in England, and Nicolle presumably in Jersey, Conway asked Sir Philippe de Carteret to "send some discreet man into France to gain intelligence with promise of good pay", and Sir Philippe chose Nicolle. In the following year he returned with Dorchester to the Hague. In 1652 Dorchester died, and Nicolle had to seek new employment.

The following letter of his to Sir Francis Windebank, Secretary of State, is a study in place hunting:

"My Lord of Holland, when I sued for the French Secretary's place, objected no manner of impediment therein, only that I spake too late, it being already bestowed ; whereupon I was induced to petition for the reversion of the Bailiff's place in Jersey, which, though his Majesty did not then grant me, he promised I should have, when it fell void; but for that I may wait long, Sir Philip De Carteret having got three lives therein conferred on his house. Lord Dorchester becoming suitor to his Majesty, when Mr Warwick obtained a reversion of the Signet, that it might rather be bestowed on me, was denied. Being afterward suitor for a filazer's place (the officer who filed writs) at the Court of Common Pleas, I was likewise refused. So, having failed in all I ever sued for, being poor and needy, I am forced to implore your mediation with his Majesty for some consideration, either the reversion of the place of Assistant to the Master of Ceremonies, or, unless it be too great presumption, of a clerk's place at the Council, or, in case none of the above be thought practicable, that somewhat be allowed me yearly for intelligence I shall send you from foreign parts, or at least that a blank I have under his Majesty's signature for a Baronet may be filled".

At the same time he was asking the Marquis of Hamilton to get him the Clerkship of the Peace for the County of Middlesex. But all these hopes came to nothing. In 1646 he was collecting information for Sir George Carteret in Paris. In February 1647 Sir Edward Hyde wrote from Jersey:

"Mr Nicholls, heretofore Secretary to Lord Dorchester, sends constant intelligence from Paris".

Chevalier wrote in April:

"Mr Jean Nicolle returned to Jersey from Paris, where Sir George had sent him as agent to glean news at the Court of the Prince, and send word of all that was happening. He wrote to Sir George every week. He also received 20,000 livres tournois , which the Prince had borrowed from gentlemen in Jersey, when he was there. This Nicolle received from the Queen's Treasurers a little at a time as they could spare it. He had been more than six months in France. He brought back some arms with him".

The Clarendon Papers add that he also brought for Hyde "six fair pyes of lamprey".

Admiralty Court judge

He then became Deputy Judge of the Jersey Admiralty Court that dealt with prizes brought in by the privateers, and in 1650 Supreme Judge. In 1648 he drew up a long memorial concerning the Failure of Sir George Carteret's Design upon Guernsey through the Obstinacy of Sir Baldwin Wake .

In September 1648 Carteret sent him to Holland to report what was taking place in the Prince's Court there. He returned in November with news that the Prince meant to visit Jersey. In June 1649 he went with Carteret to Paris to arrange for the Prince's visit. When the royal party arrived in September, Nicolle was made Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the young Duke of York, the future James II.

He left Jersey with the Duke in August 1650, but was back again in February 1651, when he married in St Brelade's Church Sir George's eldest sister, Anne, widow of Jurat Thomas Seale. When the Roundheads recovered Jersey in October, he remained in the island, living in his wife's house at La Moye, and there three of his children were born.

But he still visited France, and in 1654 quarrelled with his brother-in-law. A letter among the Clarendon Papers says:

"Challenges have passed between Sir George Carteret and Mr Nicolls about, as is supposed, the coining of some false gold in Jersey".

This possibly refers to the ill-starred attempt to establish a mint at Trinity.

At the Restoration he was appointed Viscount, and was sworn in April 1661, but did not allow these duties to tie him to the island. He was the first Viscount to appoint a deputy. In May he went as Deputy of the States to the Privy Council to protest against the tax on foreign boats visiting the island.

He resigned in 1668. As his burial does not appear in any local register, he probably died in England.

Family tree


Descendants of Jean Nicolle

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