Otto de Grandison's Royal patronage

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Othon de Grandison was born in 1238, in the castle of Grandison in Switzerland. His father was Peter, first Lord of Grandison.

Sent to England

In 1252, at the age of 14, Peter sent his son to England to cement peace between the two countries. Known in the English records as Otto, he was made a page to the Court of King Henry, became a friend and confidante of his son, Prince Edward, and was knighted by him in 1268. With his new title, Otto accompanied Edward on the Crusade that lasted from 1269 to 1271 in the Holy land, and saved his master's life.

Edward began heading for home when his father died in 1272, but it was to be two years before he was crowned King. Three years later Otto received his reward; the Channel Islands were given to him for life in 1277.

He never had time to visit his new possessions. That same year, Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, refused to recognise Edward I's sovereignty and war broke out with the Welsh. Otto fought alongside his King and when the Welsh were beaten in 1284, a strong hand was required to keep the peace. Edward appointed Otto as Chief Justice of Wales for the next ten years.

After a while he managed to hold his Welsh position in absentia, appointing others to do the work for him. He had always administered the Channel Islands this way. One of the reasons being that, because of his conduct on the Crusades and his proven diplomatic skills, he was appointed by the Pope as the Papal Legate for Basel and the Emperor of Germany gave him the castle and town of Laupen.

Otto fought in another Crusade and was present at the defence of Acre in 1290, which failed. The Saracens destroyed the city and massacred the inhabitants, and he was forced to flee to Cyprus. During this period he was reputed to have accompanied the Holy Shroud of Christ to Europe.

Unpopular officials

During all this activity in Europe and the Middle East, the Channel Islands had to contend with an English-French war in 1296 and Otto's officials made themselves unpopular with the locals, commandeering supplies, knocking down houses to fortify castle walls and breaking up fishing boats to build palisades. A flurry of petitions were sent to the King and the Assizes of 1299 were the records of the English judges (the Eyre) that Edward sent to hear the complaints of the Islanders.

Otto had a hand in picking the judges; Henry, Prior of Wenlock, was his nephew and throughout the first Eyre and succeeding ones in 1304, 1309 and 1320, very few of the Islanders' complaints were addressed and many of them were fined heavily for bringing the cases to court. Most of the money ended up in Otto's treasury, rather than that of the King.

Edward II succeeded his father in 1307 and Otto retained all his privileges. This King was much too busy dealing with the Scots to bother keeping an eye on the Channel Islands.

By the time of the fourth Eyre, both Jersey and Guernsey had petitioned Edward II to have Otto removed, complaining of extortion and imprisonment without trial by his officials.

This time some of the judges were local men and Otto's officials found themselves in trouble. Gautier de la Salle was condemned to death during this Eyre for executing a man who had returned to Guernsey with a King's Pardon for an old offence. Otto became alarmed that he was losing control of his possessions and visited the Islands for the first, and only time, in 1323 with a bodyguard of knights and crossbow men. He was 85 years old and still active.

Fear of reprisals

His appearance during the fifth Eyre intimidated the Islanders and the previous court judgments were all overturned. The Islanders lived in fear of reprisals.

In 1327 Edward II was deposed and murdered. His son, Edward III, ascended the throne and soon became embroiled in his father's war with the Scots.

In 1328 Otto travelled to Avignon in France to assist some friends who were under siege. There he was attacked, robbed and killed.

When the news reached the Pope it was ordered that his body should be placed in the Cathedral at Lausanne and a tomb was built, carved with a lifesize statue of the knight.

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