Review;The Channel Islands under Tudor Government 1485-1642; a Study of Administrative History by AJ Eagleston(1949) Assessment 9 out of 10

It was a real pleasure to acquire this long out of print book. It is a hardback of 194 pages, with some fine black and white plates. The copy I acquired for £10 was in good condition. It was Ex Libris the University College of Wales Aberystwyth and presumably hadn’t been read there for some time.

The author was a Balliol scholar. Between 1913 and his retirement in 1932 he had been Assistant Secretary at the Home Office, with responsibility for the Channel Islands. This of course is one of the peculiarities of Jersey and Guernsey, never part of the United Kingdom but falling under the Home Office. This goes back to a medieval concept of government, where the same ruler or family could be ruler of more than one jurisdiction, in this case both England and residual parts of the Duchy of Normandy.

17th Century Map of Jersey by the Dutch Cartographer Joannes Blaeu. St Helier appears as S Hillary. Approximate parish boundaries are shown

The Book was written as a work of retirement. AJ Eagleston died in 1944 and the Book was published for Cambridge University Press by the Guernsey Press in 1949 through the efforts of his literary executor, John Le Patourel, a famous Guernseyman who later wrote The Norman Empire.

Understandably given Eagleston’s own background, the book concentrates on the relationship between the Island Governors, English Council and Jersey and Guernsey’s Royal Courts and Bailiffs. The Council asked repeatedly for a clear statement of customary law and for Islanders then to keep to it. The Royal Courts preferred keeping to the practice of local law being what they said it was.

The haven of Jersey 1543

The losers in the long drawn out Wars of the Roses, whether Lancastrian or Yorkist, offered to transfer the Channel Islands (and Calais) to France in return for French support. Interesting that Calais at one time had representation in England’s Parliament. The Islands never did, nor apparently wanted it. Channel Island neutrality was recognised in times of war by both England and France. It derived from a Papal Bull forbidding, on pain of excommunication or interdict, attacks on ships, persons or goods in the Islands or surrounding seas.

The Reformation in the Islands is described. Ironically some of Guernsey’s Jurats were pro-Catholic, disliking Huguenot Calvinist influence and worried about the effect on Papal Neutrality. Elizabethan Governors in both Islands were sympathetic to Calvinist Presbyterianism. Huguenot ministers came from France and introduced, interfering in Islanders’ lives, Church Consistories, Colloques of Parishes and Synods between the two Islands.

Jersey’s Governor under the early Stuarts, Peyton was closer to Anglicanism. Anyway there was some unhappiness with the Presbyterian style of ministers. The office of Dean was revived and Anglican liturgy introduced in French translation. In Guernsey the Governor Darby was not so sympathetic to Anglicanism, so in accordance with local feelings services remained unchanged and there was no Dean.

Some overall conclusions. The Tudor ideal was stability, not continuous legislation, something modern governments could learn from. Government by local gentry was considered the norm. Islanders remained medieval and pre-national in their attitudes, wishing to remain friends with the neighbours, French and English.

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