The Great Rebellion - Captain Carteret in charge

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

Captain George Carteret has retaken Jersey for the Crown after a period of Parliamentary rule, and sets about restoring order in a divided community.

Oath of allegiance

The male population had to swear allegiance to the King, those who absented themselves being declared traitors, and Bandinel and his son and others were imprisoned in Elizabeth Castle. Captain Carteret then turned his attention to defence, he reorganised the militia, revictualled the castles and overhauled their armaments and established new forts at various places round the coast.

For all this considerable funds were necessary, and as the exchequer had been depleted by Lydcot, he tried to raise a loan, promising gradual repayment out of the Crown revenues. This was not very popular so he retaliated on those who refused to contribute by quartering soldiers upon them.

Sir Peter Osborne had been Lieut-Governor of Guernsey for 20 years when the Civil War broke out. He seems to have been frequently absent in England and when in residence to have kept rather aloof from the inhabitants, partly because he disliked their opinions, both religious and political, and no doubt also partly because Cornet Castle was on an island, only accessible by land at the ebb of very low tides, which hampered social intercourse.

Early in March 1643 about 90 Guernseymen lodged a complaint against Sir Peter which was followed by an ordinance of Parliament vesting the government of the Island in a local committee which had authority to arrest Sir Peter and send him to London. As in the case of Sir Philip de Carteret, this proved impossible. The Lieut-Governor refused to recognise the commission and threatened to bombard the town, firing several shots at St Peter Port, which so terrified the people that many fled inland.

Letter to Parliament

The crestfallen Committee wrote to Parliament:

”Sir Peter obstructs all shipping from entering into or sailing out of the harbour, even the fishing boats. Nor will he allow strangers to go to sea, and if this blockade continues it will be the utter undoing of the inhabitants of this Island.”

With no Parliament ships to protect them and always menaced by the castle guns, the people became downhearted and Lord Warwick had to write a stern letter praying God to increase and strengthen their resolution. This appears to have had good results for soon afterwards he wrote as their assured loving friend sending supplies of corn and wool and promising that the guns for which they had asked should arrive shortly.

In October, Peter de Beauvoir, Peter Carey and James de Haviland, three prominent men on the Parliament side, were captured by treachery after going on board Captain Bowden's ship to discuss important affairs, not knowing that since last in port he had gone over to the Royalists. They bribed Bowden with 50 gold jacobuses to land them at Dartmouth but much to his disgust 'that perfidious viper' Sir Peter Osborne insisted that they should be imprisoned in the Castle; there they remained for 43 days and then succeeded in escaping to Guernsey, where they were received with great rejoicings.

Colonel Russell, now Lieut-Governor of the Island under Lord Warwick, guessing that Bowden might repeat the trick in Jersey, promptly sent over a boat to warn Lydcot and his friends so that when Bowden arrived they were prepared, and after exchanging a few shots he was obliged to sail away.

Early in February 1644 the Earl of Marlborough, in command of four warships anchored off Cornet Castle and after conferring with Sir Peter Osborne, determined to summon Guernsey, but the shallop which carried their letter was not allowed to approach the pier and the Islanders threatened to fire, so she was obliged to return whence she came.

Seeing the obduracy of the people, Marlborough fired a broadside at the town and sailed off to Jersey. Here he and Carteret planned a combined attack on Guernsey, which received the approval of the States, but despite generous offers of pay, neither men nor boats were forthcoming.

Weather conditions were very bad and moreover it was the season for gathering vraic, the seaweed harvest so valuable to local agriculture, and the Jerseymen preferred doing what they knew would provide a return in their crops rather than run the many risks of an expedition to Guernsey. So the design had to be abandoned and Marlborough sailed away in disgust.

Attack on Sark

In the spring Carteret organised a night attack on Sark in the hope of recovering some of the revenues amounting to 100 per annum due to his cousin Philip de Carteret, Seigneur of St Ouen, which had been confiscated by the committee in Guernsey.

On 25 May four shallops, including a large new one with 12 pairs of oars, left Jersey under command of Captains Lane and Chamberlain. The weather was stormy and the boats became separated in the darkness. When Lane with the two larger boats and 72 men reached the rendezvous at L'Eperquerie on the north-east coast he was challenged by a sentry, but after firing a few shots the small guard of three fled inland.

Although his men were ready to go on, Lane decided to return to Jersey, thinking that the other boats had been driven back by stress of weather. Meanwhile Chamberlain and his party had landed further South in Dixcart Bay, overpowered the guard, surprised the commander of the garrison in his bed and disarmed a number of the inhabitants.

Had Lane landed and joined forces with Chamberlain the attempt would probably have succeeded, but when daylight came and the people of Sark saw the small number of the invaders — only 32 — and that there were no ships at sea in support, they took courage and signalled to Guernsey for help. Soon after mid-day a Parliament ship arrived, Chamberlain and his men were overpowered and they and their boats carried off to Guernsey, where guns and bells sounded rejoicings all through the night.

Soon after the departure of Marlborough, five men-of-war anchored on the Great Bank and Russell, in concert with their Captains, communicated an ordinance of Parliament to Sir Peter promising liberty and the return of all sequestered property if he and his garrison would surrender, which invitation Sir Peter declined.

In June he received an exhortation rather than a summons from his former friend Lord Warwick, to which he replied with a long letter again refusing to surrender. Expecting that he would be attacked by Warwick's ships and being in great straits for lack of food, he wrote to Carteret enclosing a letter from the King requiring the Governor of Jersey to provide for the wants of Cornet Castle.

Carteret fearing to disobey the royal commands, sent over some boats with provisions, at the same time writing to Osborne that he was much 'out of purse' and desiring repayment for previous advances. The boats under convoy of the Governor's galley were engaged by some enemy shallops before they reached the Castle, but they managed to land the supplies and returned to Jersey little the worse.

The galley was an armed pinnace with sails and 12 pairs of oars ostensibly existing to protect Jersey fishermen from Guernsey pirates, but when not acting as convoy she cruised about the Channel and brought back many a prize to Carteret, who either sold the cargo or diverted it to his own purposes. The captured ships, furnished with letters of marque and manned by adventurous islanders, then went to swell the number of Jersey privateers which were such a scourge to shipping in the Channel.

Appointment as Vice-Admiral

In December of this year the King created Carteret Vice-Admiral of Jersey and the Maritime parts adjacent, conferring on him power and jurisdiction over all things on or in the sea, including ships, men, whales, dolphins, riggs, grampus, etc, as well as power to issue letters of marque, a copy of the commission in the original Latin with a translation into English is in the Priaulx Library in Guernsey.

Parliament tried to nullify this in the following September by an ordinance making void all commissions and warrants issued in his Majesty's name to Carteret, pretended Governor of Jersey, and threatened to exact reparations, but the 'Jersey Pyratts' pursued their activities for several years not only capturing vessels at sea but boldly going into English ports, cutting the cables of ships at anchor and carrying them off under the guns of the forts. Though by that time they had considerably diminished, they were not finally extirpated until the Island was surrendered in 1651.

In January 1645 the Royal Court of Jersey made an order for all absentees to return to the Island before 25 March, under pain of being declared rebels and traitors and of forfeiting all their possessions, it being necessary for every Islander to lend his aid against invasion as well as against those who would stir up internal strife.

This, in effect, outlawed the exiles, but Carteret wanted to attaint them for rebellion against the King and, knowing that the local judicature had no power to act, the cognisance of high treason being reserved to the Crown, he petitioned for a Royal Commission which the King granted.

About this time Sir Thomas Jermyn died and his son Henry, Lord Jermyn, to whom the office of Governor had been secured in reversion, sent a letter confirming Carteret in his office as Lieut-Governor, which was duly announced to the States on 10 February. Next morning came news that Bandinel and his son had escaped from Mont Orgueil Castle, where they had been closely guarded but not ill-treated as they were allowed to walk on the ramparts and to receive visits from their friends.

Hearing of the execution of Archbishop Laud and that Commissioners were coming to enquire into the misdeeds of the Jersey malcontents, they became concerned for their own fate. One dark and stormy night they let themselves down from the castle walls but the rope proving too short they fell on the rocks and were badly injured. The Dean died next day but James Bandinel was caught and again imprisoned.

Royal Commission

In April the three Royal Commissioners and a secretary arrived, not from Oxford, as expected, but from Paris. As not one of them was among those nominated by the King, three were Papists and only one commissioner and the secretary could speak French, it was concluded that the Queen had intervened. While acknowledging the Commission as strictly legal, the Islanders were justly offended that the majority of the tribunal consisted of persons not only ignorant of their language but professing religious doctrines which they held in detestation.

The Commission sat until the end of the year and though only one delinquent was executed, a considerable number were still kept in prison in addition to being mulcted in enormous fines, while some few others were liberated upon easier terms. Those who did not surrender were hanged in effigy and all their goods confiscated.

James Bandinel escaped execution by dying, though Carteret had caused a gibbet complete with rope and ladder to be prepared when he heard that he was ordered for trial. The prisoner's mother was denied access to him and after his death his wife and child and idiot brother were ejected from their home, les commissaires honirent leur race stigmatising all Bandinels as infamous and unworthy to serve in any public capacity.

Thus the seed sown by the Dean and his son in Sir Philip's time bore fruit, but the vindictive judgment was rescinded when the Parliament ruled in Jersey after Carteret's fall from power in 1651.

The year 1645 was a very anxious one at Cornet Castle owing to shortage of food. In February two boats manned by soldiers from the garrison captured an armed patache from Guernsey which anchored every night near the Castle to prevent any stores from being landed. Sir Peter sent his prize to Jersey, whence she returned laden with provisions, but although from time to time supplies came from Carteret in Jersey and from Lady Osborne at St Malo, the garrison was often in great straits for lack of necessaries.

Osborne's letter

In June Osborne wrote to Sir Edward Nicholas:

”For this twelve month and above we have never been able to allow our souldiers more than one biscuit a day and a little porrage for theyre supper; and have been forced for necessity to use the stuff sent us to make candles and to dress our boates to frye the poore John, limpitt and herbes we eate in the best mess, though we concealed it from them and made no complaint and lived thus about three weekes.”

Poor John, a corruption of pauvre gens, cod or hake dried and salted, was a staple food for sailors and garrisons, 60,000 poor John was one of the items in the list of provisions at Elizabeth Castle at the time of the rendition in 1651. For lack of food, Osborne's garrison had to burn the woodwork about the Castle being at last reduced to use 'our carriages for our ordnance that were good and serviceable and our tables and dores'.

Lady Osborne sold her furniture and her plate at St Malo and incurred a debt of £2000 to Lady Elizabeth Hutton (who generously cancelled it in her will shortly afterwards) and after Lady Osborne went to England, Mrs Danvers sold Osborne's clothes, all to provide food for Cornet Castle.

No doubt sending provisions from Jersey was difficult and dangerous but Sir Peter complained bitterly of Carteret's high charges for supplying what were often of very inferior quality and also because he insisted on getting bonds signed that he might be sure of being reimbursed.

The long strain of the siege may possibly have rendered Sir Peter somewhat exacting and querulous but the wealthy Carteret was to say the least ungenerous and it is even said that he diverted £300 collected in Jersey for the relief of Cornet Castle to his own uses. His difficulties, though numerous, cannot have been nearly as great as Osborne's, for he and his soldiers had plenty to eat, neither had they been shut up in a restricted space for over two years, and had Cornet Castle surrendered the danger to Jersey would have been greatly increased.

A bitter feud grew up between the two Lieut-Governors but there was no ground whatsoever for Carteret's accusation that the Osbornes were plotting to cede Cornet Castle though, under the circumstances, even had Sir Peter capitulated he could hardly have been held blameworthy.

In September a Dutch ship brought news to Guernsey of a Royalist expedition preparing at Falmouth to reduce the Island in the hope of making the harbour at St Peter Port a base for shipping for which there was no facility in Jersey. Chevalier says that for lack of shelter there, the fishing boats engaged in the Newfoundland trade had to winter at St Malo.

The report caused grave anxiety and Peter Carey went to London to lay the matter before the authorities. Parliament provided him with 200 muskets, promising to find troops, and sent over seven warships to protect the Island. These made no attempt to attack Cornet Castle, but six of them remained on the Great Bank for some time until it became known that the Royalist plan had been abandoned.

Castle Cornet urged to surrender

Early in January 1646 Warwick sent a squadron to Guernsey with a letter to Osborne again urging the surrender of Cornet Castle. Sir Peter called together all his officers and men explaining that Lord Warwick promised them liberty, the return of sequestered goods, as well as all arrears of pay, on condition that the keys were delivered up to Russell within 14 days, and asked if they were still ready to stand by him and hold the Castle for the King.

The majority professed their willingness to be faithful to the last drop of their blood, though a few, tired out by the long siege and tempted by the promise of pay at last, were ready to yield, but these were overborne by the others. Sir Peter wrote to Lord Warwick refusing to capitulate and then sent his chaplain to Jersey with copies of both letters and a request for supplies and a few fresh men.

Had the squadron made a vigorous assault, the Castle must almost certainly have surrendered, for provisions were well-nigh exhausted and many of the garrison were sick, but contrary to expectation the ships sailed away leaving only one small frigate anchored on the Bank.

Throughout the siege Parliament seems to have treated the gallant old man with marked generosity, perhaps due to the good offices of his former friend Lord Warwick and of his brother-in-law Sir John Danvers, the Regicide.

At intervals during the next few weeks Carteret sent over boats with supplies, which were allowed to land at the Castle without hindrance, the frigate on the Bank only carried six guns and the people of St Peter Port, having repaired the damage to their houses caused by the castle artillery, were in no hurry to be driven forth again.

Then suddenly towards the end of March, the town guns fired on two Jersey boats which were landing stores near the Castle Gate and forced them to get out of range in a little creek behind the Castle, where the crews were able to repair them before returning to Jersey. The whole of the next day the town guns bombarded the Castle, wrecking some of the buildings, though there were no casualties among the garrison.

Sir Peter suffered this to go on for a time and then fired 78 heavy shots, which caused considerable damage to St Peter Port, so that the assault on the castle planned to follow the bombardment was abandoned and Russell did nothing further. Chevalier says that the attack had been arranged beforehand, for orders had been given for all houses within range of the Castle guns to be evacuated.

He suggests that Russell may have been roused to action by a reprimand from Parliament for having allowed stores to be landed at the Castle all through the winter.

Jersey's defences prepared

Meanwhile in Jersey, Carteret had been busy with preparations for defence, all the more necessary as the possibility of the Prince of Wales coming to the Island was under consideration. It was deemed expedient to raise a troop of dragoons, which could be held in readiness to ride to any part of the coast where a descent was threatened, to keep the enemy in check until the foot and artillery should come up.

He set an example by providing ten men, mounted and equipped; the Seigneur of St Ouen contributed six and others found men, money or horses so that the troop soon numbered about 150. The militia, trained by English officers, had much improved and Carteret considered that the time had come when he could dispense with some of the supplementary forces, so he dismissed all the French soldiers, retaining only a sufficient number of English and Irish to garrison the Castles.

This made a welcome reduction in expenditure, and he further economised by halving the pay of some of his officers, who were so disgusted that they resigned.

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