Sir Philippe de Carteret

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Bailiff of Jersey 1627-1643
Sir Philippe de Carteret


Philippe de Carteret's signature

Arguably the most famous of the many members of the de Carteret family to bear the name

Sir Philippe de Carteret (1583-1643) Bailiff and Lieut-Governor of Jersey

Ten Philippes and Philips merit an article in George Balleine's Biographical Dictionary of Jersey - Sir Philippe was Seigneur of Sark and St Ouen, the eldest son of another Sir Philippe, and Rachel Paulet, daughter of Bailiff George Paulet. The grandson of the coloniser of Sark, Helier de Carteret, Philippe was born in the island on 18 February 1854.

He was to become Bailiff and Lieut-Governor of Jersey at the time of the English Civil War, and died of illness in Elizabeth Castle after taking refuge there from island militiamen who marched on St Helier when the States were sitting. Although it is usually stated that Jersey supported the Royalist cause during the civil war, while Guernsey's sympathies lay with Parliament, this is not strictly true. Certainly Sir Philippe and his nephew Sir George Carteret, who was also Bailiff and Lieut-Governor during the war, supported the Crown, but Sir Philippe's autocratic rule made him so unpopular in Jersey that the sympathies of the island as a whole and many of its prominent citizens were with Cromwell, if for no other reason than to oppose Sir Philippe's rule.

Early life

His father died when he was only ten years old and this meant that he became a Ward of the Crown. Initially the Governor Sir Anthony Paulet held the wardship, but it passed to his uncle George Paulet the boy's grandfather. As he grew older he became less capable of looking after his daughter Rachel, her nine children and the family estate, and Philippe abandoned his studies at Oxford and returned home, although still under age, to take charge of his property.

He was soon prominent in island life, leading the militia in St Ouen and St Mary when a Spanish invasion was feared. He married Anne Dowse, daughter of Sir Francis, of Nether Wallop, Hampshire, before coming of age, claiming possession of his inheritance in March 1605. After a dispute over who was entitled to the income of his estate in the previous 4½ years was settled, Philippe was sworn in as a Jurat in September of that year and soon became an influential member of the States, often being sent as a representative to the Court in London, where he had many friends at high level. He kept out of the constant disputes between Bailiff Jean Herault and Governor Sir John Peyton and was promised by James I, who knighted him in 1617, that he would be the island's next Bailiff, and was duly appointed in January 1627.

An 1858 drawing of Elizabeth Castle which Philippe de Carteret doubled in size when he set about improving the island's defences after his appointment as Bailiff, and where he was to die 16 years later

Elizabeth Castle

It soon became apparent that he saw himself as the island's overall supremo, and he became involved in matters which would previously have been the sole responsibility of the Governor, ordering the strengthening and doubling the size of Elizabeth Castle. He wrote:

"The slothfulness of the labourers doth impose on me intolerable pains. I husband the King's money by overviewing the works daily."

There were constant fears of invasion by the French or Spanish and in 1628 de Carteret was captured by privateers from Dunkirk while returning to Jersey in the Diana with soldiers and stores for the Castles and £400 to pay the troops, and was held hostage until he paid a ransom. Money was a constant problem for him, as he struggled to improve the island's defences. At one point he claims to have paid over £2,500 out of his own pocket to pay the garrison and he had great difficulty getting the money promised for the improvements at Elizabeth Castle.

Although de Carteret got on well with Peyton and was his Lieut-Governor on occasions, his replacement Sir Thomas Jermyn never set foot in Jersey and de Carteret was forced to deal with his lieutenant, Captain Francis Rainsford, who made himself exceedingly unpopular in the island. He had the Constable of St Lawrence imprisoned for refusing to provide a garrison for St Aubin's Fort.

Clash with Lieut-Governor

Rainsford and de Carteret clashed over the latter's release of a sailor accused of having piloted a Spanish privateer,sending Rainsford into a rage and off to the Privy Council to seek their support. He failed to get it and was recalled from the island. Jermyn decided that his best policy would be to appoint de Carteret once more as Lieut-Governor.

Not only did this put all the power in Sir Philippe's hands, he reinforced his position by appointing family and friends to all the important positions. His cousin Helier de Carteret was Attorney-General, his brother Elie, Solicitor-General. Sir Philippe himself was either Receiver of the King's Revenues or had installed a tame supporter. Three of his cousins and a nephew were Jurats, at least seven of the 12 Militia captains were de Carterets, two more were nephews and one his brother-in-law. And he sought to ensure a dynastic grip on control of the island by getting the King to promise that he would be succeeded as Bailiff by his brother Elie and then his nephew George. The Civil War ensured that things did not work out quite as Sir Philippe had intended, but George did become Bailiff in due course and was followed by nine of his descendants. For all but ten of the 200 years following Jean Herault's death there was a de Carterer or Carteret in charge of the island, the exception being during the period of Parliamentary rule.

His and his family's domination of the island's government caused much resentment and jealousy, not least in the Dumaresq and Lempriere families, which as owners of the senior fiefs not in de Carteret hands, had been used to a significant involvement in island affairs.

Philippe de Carteret's youngest daughter Elizabeth, who married his nephew Sir George Carteret

Holding court at Mont Orgueil Castle

De Carteret did not get on with the Dean, David Bandinel, either. In fact, he detested him, particularly after he bought a property in St Martin and became a close neighbour of Sir Philippe, who had installed himself and his wife and 11 children in Mont Orgueil Castle. There he held court, in a style befitting the King's sole representative in the island, entertaining visiting princes, princesses and dukes and other distinguished visitors from England and France. His nephew George was also a frequent visitor and married Philipp's youngest daughter Elizabeth. Another "guest" was political agitator William Prynne, who had been sent into exile and imprisonment at Mont Orgueil by Charles I, but far from suffering the solitary confinment demanded, was well received and entertained by Sir Philippe.

De Carteret wanted Bandinel out of the island, and in this cause he was not without support among the clergy and other islanders, but his influence at Westminster did not extend sufficiently far to get the Royal Commission he demanded to inquire into the Dean's running of the church. So he decided to make Bandinel's life difficult in Jersey, reclaiming the tithes of St Saviour, which had been given to the Deanery by the King, and summoning Bandinel before the Royal Court for repayment of his income over the last 20 years. The whole affair became entangled in the wider and growing split between King Charles I and his Parliament, and although little time could be spared in London for Jersey's problems, de Carteret did succeed in having Bandinel arrested at one point.

There is no little irony in the fact that the two should die within a year of each other, de Carteret of illness while a refugee in Elizabeth Castle and Bandinel while attempting to escape from imprisonment at Mont Orgueil.

Jurats revolt

Three Jurats who opposed his increasingly autocratic rule, Michel Lempriere, Seigneur of Diélament, Henri Dumaresq, Seigneur of Samarès, and Abraham Herault, went to Westminster with A Humble Information of the State of His Majesty's Isle of Jersey with part of the Grievances of the Inhabitants. They complained that

"Sir Philippe doth entrust with all the chiefest offices those of his own name to get the whole disposing of the Island into his own hands" and claimed that "he bears sundry offices incompatible in one person, Governor, Bailiff and Farmer of the King's Revenues; he procureth the nominations to prison without order of the Court; he hath procured from the Lords in Council the alteration of some of our laws without consent of the States".

William Prynne had been released by Parliament and returned in triumph to London and the Jurats thought that he would be the ideal person to represent them. But Prynne owed a debt of gratitude to Sir Philippe and refused to present their petition, offering his support to de Carteret. Eventually before a committee of the House of Lords the Jurats were forced to admit that they had not been sent as official island representatives and were acting on their own initiative, whereas de Carteret produced an Act of the States appointing him their Deputy.

Return to Jersey

Proceedings were cut short by a report from Jersey that French troops were gathering in St Malo preparing for an attack on the island. In fact, they were waiting to be shipped to Spain, but Parliament and the Lords were convinced that the island was in danger and sent the Bailff and Lieut-Governor back to deal with these urgent matters. He obtained the support of the States, although not unanimously, for a motion repudiating the charges brought against him, but the disputes with Bandinel and the Jurats would not go away, and were merely set aside to be dealt with by the Privy Council in due course.

Then civil war broke out and Sir Philippe attempted to keep the island out of the dispute between King and Parliament, believeing that Jersey's best interests lay in remaining master of its own affairs. But as the various disputes in which he was involved had inevitably forced him further into the Royalist camp, so his political opponents in Jersey veered towards Parliament, more because of their opposition to de Carteret than for any other reason.

In any case, his nephew George, who commanded a small fleet of Royalist ships, made neutrality impossible by using St Malo as a base for attacking ships heading for London and supplying the Royalist forces with munitions from France. In 1643 he called at Jersey and commandeered ammunition, with the support of Sir Philippe, who argued that he could not disobey an order from an officer holding the King's commission.

Arrest order

On 16 February Parliament ordered his arrest and the five Jurats who made up the Parliamentary Commission were ordered to apprehend him and bring him before Parliament. De Carteret tried to persuade islanders to take an oath in support of the King, but gained little support. He summoned the States to sit on 23 March and Lempriere presented the order for his arrest. Dumaresq, meanwhile, had called out the Militia, and men from several parishes began to march towards St Helier. Forewarned, de Carteret and his supporters withdrew quickly to Elizabeth Castle, never to return.

De Carteret attempted to secure sufficient support by letter to enable him to resume control, but the position worsened and by 27 April the townsfolk were barricading the approaches to the Castle, which opened fire on them with its cannon, also bombarding the square on market day and firing on Parliamentary vessels in St Aubin's Bay. Although de Carteret was able to slip out on one occasion to visit his wife at Mont Orgueil and return early the following morning, he was now a prisoner in the castle, Parliamentary troops having landed in the north of the island and rounded up many of his supporters. Castle troops attempted sorties but met unexpectedly strong opposition. As the situation deteriorated illness struck at the castle. On 29 July de Carteret's fourth son Gédéon died, and Sir Philippe followed him on 24 August, the day after his wife had been allowed to leave Mont Orgueil to be beside him on his death bed.

The States met five days later and swore in Michel Lempriere as the new Bailiff.

Bailiffs of Jersey
Predecessor Successor
Jean Herault
1615-1621, 1624-1626
Sir Philippe de Carteret
Michel Lempriere
1643, 1651-1660
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