Philippe de Carteret (1452-1499)

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Philippe de Carteret

Seigneur of St Ouen

Philippe de Carteret (1452-1499) from A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by George Balleine


Philippe de Carteret (1452-1499) was the eldest son of Philippe de Carteret (1432-1470) and Penna de Caux of Normandy, he was a minor when his father died, and, according to Collins, when he came of age, "alder-trees did grow in the hall of his manor by the covetousness of those that had custody thereof during his nonage".

He married, when she was 16, Margaret Harliston, daughter of the Yorkist Governor, and by her had 20 sons and a daughter. Of these, Philippe, the eldest, died young; Edouard became Seigneur of St Ouen and Jurat ; Helier became Bailiff; Pierre became Jurat and Lieut-Bailiff; Jean became Rector of St Ouen ; Thomas became Rector of St Sampson's, Guernsey; Richard became Seigneur of Vinchelez; Mabel married Drouet Lempriere, Seigneur of Trinity.

==Fortified manor-- In 1476 Philippe De Carteret was elected Jurat, an office which he held for 25 years. On 28 January 1484 his father-in-law, Harliston, granted him in the King's name permission to crenellate his manor:

"Whereas our dear friend Philippe De Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, has made clear to us that his manor, goods, servants, and tenants are in peril both night and day from malefactors and the King's enemies through the propinquity of his house to the sea, we grant him leave to fortify his manor, without and within, with towers, battlements, bulwarks, moat, drawbridge, and artillery for the defence of himself and his family".

From 1484 he was involved in one of those interminable property disputes so common among Jersey families. Katherine de Vinchelez gave her manor of Vinchelez to his youngest son Richard, then a minor, who was her godson. The Dumaresqs, however, claimed right of succession. Philippe died before the case was settled.

Quarrel with Governor

Like many Jerseymen of the official class he is chiefly remembered for his quarrel with a Governor. The story is told in the Chroniques.

When the Yorkist Kings lost their throne, Harliston lost his Governorship, and was succeeded in 1486 by Matthew Baker, Constable of Kenilworth Castle, one of the nine Esquires For the King's Body - his most trusted servants - who had been Henry VII's companion in exile. King Henry awarded Baker the Manor and Fief of Handois and St Germayne for Lyfe, to serve as his residence and central "command post".

The Letters patent appointing Matthew Baker and Davy Phillip as joint-Governors 'in survivorship' are extraordinary, because they delegate to the joint-Governors almost "Vice-regal" powers; and among all of Henry Tudor's 400 loyal followers from exile being rewarded in 1486, that Letter Patent of early 1486 is the only example delegating such powers to any - Noble or commoner.

The Chronicler describes Baker as "very peevish, malicious, and vindictive". However, the 18th Century Historian Phillip Falle identifies the Chronicler as Guillaume de Carteret, writing some 70 years after these events, who could not have known Baker personally nor spoken with anyone who had. Thus the evidence as to Baker's character is third-hand, and readers should draw their own conclusions as to it's reliability; keeping in mind that the de Carterets were Yorkists, that Matthew Baker was a Lancastrian, and that Jersey had paid no dues to the Crown since the death of Edward IV.

The de Carterets owed the Crown the 1494 equivalent of £250,000 at the time, and Baker was insisting these arrears of taxes should be paid for use in equipping the militia and improving the defences, as King Henry VII had ordered.

Between him and de Carteret a bitter feud arose, aggravated by Baker's demand that all Seigneurs should produce their title deeds to prove their right to their estates, so that he could assess what monies they owed to the Crown Exchequer. At last, in 1494, Baker forged a letter from de Carteret to some Norman nobles offering to betray Mont Orgueil to them. He caused this to be dropped in a road near Longueville, along which he always rode on his way to Town. One of his followers, Roger Le Boutillier, picked it up.


Baker laid it before the Royal Court, accusing de Carteret of treason. When de Carteret repudiated the letter, Le Boutillier threw down his glove, and challenged de Carteret to ordeal of battle. De Carteret demurred on the ground that Le Boutillier was a notorious criminal, whom he had saved from the gallows; but Clement Le Hardy, the Bailiff, ruled that the combat must take place.

A wager of battle at this time was often fought on foot with staves and leather shields, although the choice of weapons was in the power of the presiding judge, as had always been the case. The defeated party was judged guilty and punished.

Le Hardy committed both men to the Castle. Here Le Boutillier was allowed fresh air and exercise, and fed like a fighting cock, while de Carteret was kept in close confinement. But Baker knew that de Carteret had friends at Court, and it is recorded that he hurried to London to tell his side of the story first, leaving an order that no other boat was to leave the island.

However, such a blanket order is probably unlikely, since Jersey and Guernsey were busy ports of call for the English merchant shipping voyaging up-channel and down, involved in wool and cloth exporting, and wine importing - trades which were the foundation of English prosperity and much of the basis for the Crown's income. Protests from delayed Shipmasters would have gone all the way to the King.

Wife's journey

The story goes that four days before this, Margaret de Carteret had given birth to the last of her 21 babies; but she rose from her bed, crossed in a fishing boat from St Ouen to Guernsey, where she appealed for help to Guillaume Beauvoir, a Guernsey Jurat, whose mother hod been a neighbour of the de Carterets at St Ouen. He took her in his own boat to England. [1]

As they approached Poole, they saw Baker on the quay; but a hailstorm drove him indoors, and they landed without being recognized, and rode via Salisbury to the Palace of Shene, now Richmond on the Thames, a ride of over 100 miles. [2]

At Shene, by the help of Bishop Foxe of Winchester, Margaret is said to have obtained an interview with Henry VII, who, after hearing her story, gave her an order, sealed with the Great Seal, for the release of her husband, until the case could be heard by the Privy Council. [3]

As she left the Presence Chamber, Margaret met Baker just going in. She rode to Southampton, found a boat leaving for Jersey, and arrived home on the day before that fixed for the combat, said to have been 11 August 1494. She presented her order to the Royal Court, and secured her husband's release. It was found later that covered traps had been dug on the spot chosen for the fight to trip de Carteret up and make his defeat certain. A few days later he crossed to England loaded with testimonials to his loyalty, and was acquitted by the Privy Council. However, King Henry remained suspicious of de Carteret, who had been the de facto leader of the recalcitrant Jersey seigneurs. [4]

Such is the dramatic story told by the Chronicler. No other documents directly confirm its details, but among the State Papers is a Writ of Privy Seal, dated 5 November 1494, stating that divers doleances and complaints had been received from Jersey against Baker, and that the Writ was issued "to obliterate the said controversies and to nourish perfect amity".

Order in Council

Seven months later, on 17 June 1495, came an Order in Council, mentioning no Governor by name, and ordering that when any variance arises between the Captain and a Jurat, neither is to use force against the other, but the matter is to be referred to the King. By this time Baker had been recalled from Jersey, but not in disgrace, as the Chronicler would have us believe. His appointment ended on 3 September 1494, and on 9 and 11 November 1494 the Tournament Rolls of Westminster record Baker jousting as one of the Royal Venans (Answerers) against four Noble Tenans (Challengers) - hardly a sign of a man disgraced.

King Henry ordered Baker to surrender his Manor of St Germayne in Jersey, presumably having no intention of sending Baker back to Jersey, needing him elsewhere, and awarded him instead the far-more-valuable Fief and Manor of Flytte in the Isle of Wight, [5]

De Carteret ceased to be Jurat in 1499 and, according to the genealogy in the British Compendium (1731), which is not always reliable, died in the 16th year of Henry VII, 1502. [6]

Family trees


Notes and references

  1. It is suggested that such a journey immediately following a birth would have been most improbable and that it would more likely have taken place after her post-natal month of seclusion, rather than four days after the actual delivery of the baby.
  2. The accuracy of the Chronicler's account is challenged by modern students of history and further comments can be found in Jerripedia's extended biography of Matthew Baker
  3. The supposed presence of Bishop Foxe should also be regarded with caution, since contemporary records place him in his new See of Durham during July and August, 1494. His Translation from Winchester to Durham had occurred several months earlier, following Bosworth Field.
  4. In CER 9 Hen VII, researchers can see that the King placed de Carteret under a Bond of £1,000 in respect of his future good conduct.
  5. Notes of Lancaster Herald, Lord Howard De Walden Collection, British Library.
  6. Ed: 1499 seems more likely
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