The Great Rebellion - Before the King's execution

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This is the fifth part of a 54-page article by F H Ellis first published in the 1937 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

After Charles' departure, Lord Berkshire went to Holland and for a time Hyde, Capel and Hopton remained at St Helier assembling in the Church for prayers at 11, after which they dined at Lord Hopton's lodging and spent the summer evenings walking on the sands or at the Castle with Sir George Carteret.

Henry Jermyn

Jermyn's plotting

There were numerous reports current that Jermyn was plotting to sell the Channel Islands to the French which caused them grave anxiety. 'A very discreet and knowing gentleman' in Paris gave information that Jermyn was to have 200,000 pistoles and to buy Aurigny (Alderney) for 50,000 pistoles and another reliable informant wrote that Jermyn was to have 200,000 pistoles and a French dukedom, in return for handing over both Islands, adding that Mr Cooley (the poet Cowley, Jermyn's secretary) had asked a gentleman how he thought the Islanders would like to be given up to the French.

Lady Elizabeth Thynne, Lord Berkshire, John Osborne and others all wrote to the same effect. It was also stated that 2,000 soldiers were to be levied for the King of England's service under pretence of reducing Guernsey, but really with the intention of seizing both Islands and that the design was so far forward that the Cardinal was hiring transports for the troops.

It appears that the idea of selling Guernsey was first mooted in the early spring, before Fanshawe went to Sir Peter. John Osborne wrote to his father from Falmouth on 26 February:

"Before my coming hither there was a proposition made to the King to engage the Island to the French for a sum of money . . . . but the King refused to consent. Since my coming, it hash been proposed to the King that the French do offer themselves to reduce the Island and ask nothing for it till the work was done and their officers to be nominated by the Queen. When I had shown the dangerous consequences and the unjustness of it, it was agreed to. These things I am glad I can let you know for they were carried as if you was nothing concerned in it".

The Royalist attack on Guernsey in contemplation when Sir Thomas Fanshawe was at Cornet Castle in the spring did not materialise for, though possession of that Island was a necessary preliminary to the sale, the Royalists were not strong enough to attempt its reduction without French aid, as Parliament would not fail to give powerful support to the Islanders.

Articles of association

Hyde, Capel and Hopton discussed the reports with Carteret, all taking a very serious view of the matter, for they knew it would be most prejudicial to the interests of England to hand over the Islands to a foreign power. They therefore signed articles of association, declaring that it would be preferable to come to terms with the Parliament than to risk such a calamity. The points of the agreement were shortly as follows:

  • Lord Capel to go to France and on to Holland to enquire as to the truth of the reports. If the design were ripe for execution he would at once return from Paris to Jersey to consult as to what should be done.
  • Sir George Carteret to send to the Earl of Northumberland stating that if the worst comes to the worst he will hand over Jersey to Parliament.
  • If Capel goes on to Holland and should learn from Paris that the design is still proceeding, he should solicit aid from the Dutch, pointing out the adverse effect on their trade if the Islands belonged to France.
  • To take steps to defend Cornet Castle.
  • The four associates even if separated, to act conjointly. Each to have a copy of the Articles of which only four would be made.
Jersey, the old stile this 19 October 1646
Signed Arthur Capel, Ralph Hopton, Edward Hyde, G Carteret
Arthur Capel and his family

On 26 October Capel left Jersey to learn what he could from his friends in Paris as to the proposed sale. Not long afterwards the Cardinal disclaimed all knowledge of any such project, but the evidence is too well-substantiated for the rumours to have been without foundation. Probably Mazarin contemplated the idea, perhaps even getting as far as transport requirements, but on finding that the news had leaked out prematurely, promptly relinquished the whole affair. Apparently the Articles were never divulged until the publication of the Clarendon State Papers in 1773, for there is no mention of them either in the Life or in the History.

Writing to Lord Cottington in December of this year Hyde tells him that "ten days since my Lord Jermyn took notice before much company of the report of these islands; and said he believed the French had never such a thought; but that if they had he hoped his friends had a better opinion of him than to believe upon any grounds whatsoever that he could be made an instrument in so infamous a piece of villany." Later, in November 1651 while Elizabeth Castle was besieged, Hyde wrote to Nicholas that he would be content that Jersey and Guernsey should be given to the Dutch but Jermyn had not given up the idea of selling the Islands to France, for while the siege was still proceeding a newsletter reported that he had gone to Paris concerning the sale of Jersey and that 4,000 French soldiers had been promised to drive out the Roundheads.

1647

On 26 January, in obedience to instructions from the Council of State, Russell wrote to summon Cornet Castle. He urged Wake to treat, as the King was a prisoner at Holmby, the Scottish army had gone home and Carteret was contemplating the surrender of Jersey. Wake wrote a refusal to surrender and sent copies of both letters to Carteret who indignantly refuted Russell's statement about himself and cautioned Wake to be on the alert against treachery.

In February Lord Hopton went to Rouen and Hyde was invited to Elizabeth Castle, where the Carterets received him with great cordiality. While with them he was able to supervise the building of a house for himself at the south-west angle of the Priory church in the Lower Ward. It was of three storeys and is seen in the drawing made by Hollar in 1651. Here in his convenient rooms 'he occupied himself with his History of the Great Rebellion and also took great pleasure in a plot of ground on the Castle Green which he walled in as a garden'. The following spring he wrote to Lord Cottington: "I am busy about nothinge butt settinge lettice, onions, carretts, wish that you would send me some seedes that you may be sure of sallets when you come".

Early in March of this year in a letter from Nicholas, Hyde heard of a report that Sir William Waller had 20 ships and 3,000 men preparing to reduce Jersey. Later in the month there was great jubilation in the Island over the capture of a large Parliament ship carrying supplies to the army in Ireland. This valuable prize revictualled the Castles for the summer and furnished the garrisons with red coats, arms, ammunition, saddles, spurs, etc.

The loss of the ship roused the ire of the Parliament now determined to reduce Jersey without delay. In April a scheme was adopted put forward by Colonel Rainsborough, an Independent of pronounced republican views. The growing power of the Independents in the House of Commons probably influenced the choice, which was not popular in the House of Lords. £6,000 was voted and orders were issued for ships to be got ready at Portsmouth to transport 1,200 men and for the victualler to provide biscuits, cheese and beer.

Preparations were hurried forward and Rainsborough was instructed to 'forthwith advance to the seaside.' Then came the mutinies in the Army over disbanding and lack of pay. Evidently the regiment was already giving trouble when on 12 May Council wrote to Portsmouth and Petersfield where the troops were quartered to assure the country that the soldiers would be 'very suddenly either shipped or removed.' On 28 May, when news came that the regiment had mutinied and was marching towards Oxford, the expedition was promptly abandoned and all orders countermanded.

Carteret refuses to surrender

Early in May a warship anchored near Elizabeth Castle and, after firing a salute, dispatched a shallop with a flag of truce and a summons to surrender, which was really an ultimatum before sending Rainsborough. The herald was allowed to land and after being blindfolded was taken to Sir George in the Upper Ward. Here he was entertained with every courtesy before being sent back to the ship with letters to Warwick and Russell from Carteret, who refused to surrender.

All through May spies in London reported great preparations going on and that the English forces were to be reinforced by troops from Guernsey. Carteret built a new fort at Le Grouin in St Brelade's Bay and posted extra guards round the Island, particularly on the West coast and at St Brelade, the places most likely to be chosen for landing. He also strengthened St Aubin's Tower and stored it with food and munitions, well knowing, as diarist Chevalier wrote, that many of the Islanders, instead of preparing to meet the enemy were looking forward with joy to the coming deliverance.

Although the expedition had been abandoned of necessity, Parliament was able to cause annoyance to Jersey by making representations to Mazarin, which resulted in an edict prohibiting all persons arming at sea from entering French ports, and soon afterwards came a letter from the Prince of Wales, perhaps written at the instance of the Cardinal, forbidding Carteret to issue letters of marque.

Jersey was thus rendered impotent at sea and Parliament could defer an expedition till a more convenient time. The decision was a terrible blow to the Islanders, but before long the obnoxious orders were rescinded and the ships were soon refitted to start once again on their piratical adventures.

Guernsey discord

While Cornet Castle remained steadfast for the King, there was discord among the Islanders in Guernsey. One party with Royalist leanings was supported by a majority of the Jurats and other members of the States, while the other was led by the Bailiff (Peter de Beauvoir) Peter Carey and the douzaine of St Peter Port. De Quetteville, appointed Bailiff by the King in 1631, claimed his former office and disputed the legality of Lord Warwick's appointment of de Beauvoir.

The Royal Court supported de Quetteville and ordered de Beauvoir to deliver up the seals. This he refused to do and both parties submitted their grievances to Parliament, which despite preoccupation with affairs in England, appears to have given patient hearing for one of the Jurats reports long debates and several interviews with Lenthall. Henry de la Marche also went to London to plead for a third party, and presented an indictment against Russell, and all three deputations prayed for a Commission to enquire into the grievances. In the autumn Russell went to London to defend his cause in person, and in November Parliament passed an ordinance for regulating the affairs of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark, and appointed four Commissioners to go over to Guernsey to enquire into the numerous points at issue.

In December came news that the King was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle, upon receipt of which Carteret at once dispatched letters to the Isle of Wight by a confidential agent. The vessel met with such stress of weather that she was forced to put back, but left again on 8 January. On arrival her French-speaking crew passed for Norman traders and while the cargo of bacon and linen was being disposed of, the messenger succeeded in finding a Royalist agent, who promised to deliver the letters into the King's own hand.

Hyde had written to Charles: "if my correspondence with the place where you are be endured from this Island, care will be taken for vessels frequently from hence thither".

Letters from the King to Hyde were carried back to Jersey when the boat returned with a cargo of paving stones from Swanage for the gun platforms at Fort Charles. Had the boat not been detained by contrary winds, the messenger might have delivered the letters to the King in person, but just before her arrival so strict a watch was set that it was impossible to gain access except by stratagem. The enemy evidently got wind that the Royalists were plotting the King's escape to Jersey, for Cromwell in a letter to Colonel Hammond, Governor of Carisbrooke, warns him "to be vigilant because Sir George Cartwright hath sent three boats from Jersey and a Barque from Sharbrowe (Cherbourg) under the name of Frenchmen but are absolutely sent to bringe the King (if their plott can take effect) from the Isle of Wight to Jersey".

1648

There was a good deal of discontent in Jersey and Carteret tried to stimulate loyalty by celebrating anniversaries such as the King's accession and the Prince's birthday. In April the Royal Court House, recently rebuilt, was inaugurated with much ceremony and the following month a Maypole cut from a tree on the property of the exiled Herault was set up on the Castle Green when the garrison, after a military display, danced round it with their wives and sweethearts.

Carteret provided ale and gave each soldier two pieces of eight as largesse from the King; similar revels took place in each of the parishes. Lest these festivities should outrage the Presbyterian prejudices of the people, from time to time days were set apart for fasting, which were observed with great strictness and solemnity in orthodox Puritan fashion. Nevertheless the discontent persisted, Rushworth and Whitelock both mention letters telling of 'the cruel oppressions and tyranny' of Carteret, who had so impoverished the people by taxation and fines that they declared that with the aid of a small force they would soon rise and shake off the yoke. No doubt these letters came from the disaffected party, but the evidence from Chevalier and other sources seems to prove that they contained a large measure of truth.

In June of this year, the Queen summoned Hyde to Paris to wait on the Prince of Wales, who had already left for Holland before he arrived. Hyde followed and eventually reached the Hague after the unpleasant experience of being captured by freebooters. Before he left Paris, news was current of disaffection in the enemy fleet. Parliament now dominated by Independents had superseded the Presbyterian Lord Warwick and made Rainsborough Admiral in his place, greatly to the annoyance of the sailors with whom Warwick was very popular. Seven men of war and then two more revolted and sailed off to Helvoet Sluys, where the Duke of York, recently escaped from England, went aboard to await the coming of his brother. When the Prince arrived, he promptly put James ashore, to his great disgust, and after restoring some sort of order in the fleet, now augmented to 18 ships, sailed for the Downs, where he remained throughout August.

Wake, who was in England trying to get supplies for the Castle went to the Prince in the Downs where they concerted an attack upon Guernsey. A boat with supplies was sent on to inform Wake's deputy, but just before she reached the Castle she was captured by the Parliament shallop Eagle and her crew admitted that they had orders to return to the Downs in 4 or 5 days to bring back Sir Baldwin Wake and the ships detailed for the attack.

Sir Peter Osborne at St Malo wrote to the Prince to urge the proposed reduction:

"Suffer not therefore I beseech your Highnes this coale longer to smoke but let it be quencht and quickly put out ; who are best ruled by being taught to know themselves, wch grown proud with forbearance they do not yet. The town are like only to make opposition. . and though Russell be returned he hath no command. They contemn his authority and refuse to obey his orders he hath brought."

This was dated 8 September and six days later Wake, now back at the Castle, wrote to Rupert sending information 'for the preservinge of the one and the reducing of the other'.

Probably before either of these letters arrived the project had been abandoned, for by the middle of the month the fleet was back in Holland. Wake had written to Sir Peter Osborne of his difficulties, his relations with Carteret were very strained and this may be one reason why no further steps were taken, but in all probability lack of sufficient troops and equipment was a more important factor. Had these been available, with co-operation from Jersey and Cornet Castle, the Island might have been subjugated, but once in Royalist hands, Guernsey would have favoured the revival of Jermyn's quondam plot to sell the Channel Islands to France.

Commissioners

The Commissioners appointed in the previous November never went to the Island. Peter de Beauvoir having been, at least tacitly, re-established as Bailiff, did not press the matter and in June the Committee at Derby House ordered Russell to return, to receive and employ the revenue as formerly, so for the moment he prevailed over his enemies. One of the principal objects of the November ordinance had been an enquiry into his conduct which the de la Marche party were by no means inclined to drop, especially as since his return de Beauvoir had consented to act with him, so once again a petition was sent, alleging that 'the Governor, Baily and Jurates do persecute the people, they puffes at them'.

In September four new Commissioners were appointed who, when they arrived not long afterwards, became divided on the matter, two siding with Russell and two with the de la Marche Party. The charges against Russell included those of misapplying public funds and of levying taxes contrary to law, he was also accused of refusing to pay for services rendered as agreed, whereby the watch on Cornet Castle was neglected and of having made but one attack which 'had a very bad success'.

A large number of witnesses were examined and when the Commissioners left Guernsey, in February 1650, they presented two very lengthy and detailed reports to the Council of State. Pending the long delayed findings of the Commission, a successor was considered but not appointed, as it was found that he was related to Sir Peter Osborne and at length in October 1649 Colonel Alban Coxe was given a commission as Lieut-Governor. When he arrived in Guernsey in January 1650 the Islanders were told that Colonel Coxe was to take care of the Island in the absence of the present Lieut-Governor, Colonel Russell, so that apparently Russell's commission was only made void after the reports had been received from the Commissioners.

In the autumn of 1648 the Duke of Lorraine offered 200 troops for the reduction of Guernsey to be landed in Jersey, after which they would be at the charges of that Island for pay and maintenance. The offer was not accepted, mainly through the action of Hyde and Carteret, who pointed out that a body of foreign troops would be very unpopular with the Islanders and might detach them from their loyalty, so that Jersey would become no longer safe for the Prince should he be disposed to return. They also objected on the grounds that there were no ships to take these forces to Guernsey and that the maintenance of a large body of men would be a great drain upon resources.

"Upon these reasons and considerations", wrote Hyde, I am exceedingly deceived if any man of us was not directly against sending those men to Jersey".

1649

In January the Prince of Wales wrote to his cousin Rupert requesting that if a recently taken prize proved valuable, £500 might be sent to Carteret for supplies for Cornet Castle and about the same time he also wrote to Carteret that Rupert would shortly be sailing for Jersey en route to reduce Guernsey 'if he shall have means to attempt the same with probability of success', but before the end of the month a Royalist agent brought news that Rupert was going to Ireland, and would not come to Jersey before the spring.

Onh 9 February Colonel Pawlett and M Moris, both wearing mourning scarves, brought news of the death of the King.

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