Friday, 16 August 2013

Sir Philip besieged in Elizabeth Castle

Something historical today. Here is an extract from "Jersey in the 17th century" (1931),  by A.C. Saunders. There is a lot of social history in Saunders, which throws up some quirky details that are often overlooked in the history of Jersey.

Saunders is very careful to look at bias in the sources, and his conclusions are that Sir Philip was not the monster that his critics made him out to be, but neither was he the paragon of virtue that some past historians thought. He was, like all of us, a complex personality with both virtues and failings. The reason they were writ so large was that Sir Philip exercised a massive influence over Island life, so that his vices certainly caused significantly more problems that they would have done had he been content to take a lesser role.
The lust for power in a politician can be dangerous, and consume them, and this is why Sir Philip's legacy included so much injustice; yet the clergy who sought to stir up trouble against him did so as much for their own gain than for an impartial desire for injustice. But Sir Philip's overbearing arrogance and certainty he was right did him no favours among the common people.
The Civil War brought out the worst in many people, as we can see in the petty way in which Sir Philip was treated when dying, and requests, which had no military or political significance, were refused. It is a lesson in how polarised politics gradually corrodes respect for one's fellow human beings.
Sir Philip besieged in Elizabeth Castle
By A.C. Saunders
Sir Philip had now taken refuge in Elizabeth Castle and here he remained until his death a few months later.
The Parliamentary party appear to have been in power throughout the rest of the Island except the two castles of Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth and yet when we consider the matter they did not do much except protect themselves in the town of St. Helier. They had no competent military leader although D'Assigny did what he could, and tried to anticipate the possibilities of the Town Hill as a place of strength where guns could he placed to fire at the Castle. We do not hear of the Parliamentarians making for Sir Philip's home at St. Ouen, where his mother and children lived, and it would appear that if Sir Philip had been a better soldier, he could easily have overcome the opposition aroused by the eloquence of those ministers of religion who hated him, and cared not how they brought about his downfall.
He was accused of all kinds of bad actions including "malignity, tyranny and unjust proceedings," and the poor people listened to their ministers as they raved against the Lieut.-Governor, and, in the confusion of their minds, were willing to follow leaders who knew what they wanted, and were able to express themselves accordingly.
In the Pseudo-Matrix written by Michael Lempriere, Henry Dumaresq and Abraham Herault we have the worst picture possible of Sir Philip, but this work is very one-sided. If we adopted the conclusions given, we would be compelled to realise that Sir Philip was a monster of selfishness, who was willing to sacrifice the welfare of the people in order to have the means to usurp absolute power.
That a man like William Prynne, an enthusiastic seeker after truth, often guided in his efforts to benefit mankind by very little common sense, and yet withal an honest man, should have formed so high an opinion of Sir Philip is something to be considered in his favour, and as we read the Pseudo-Matrix, we realise the bitterness against Sir Philip which allows no possibility of virtue to the Bailiff and Lieut-Governor.
The great curse of the whole matter arises from the avariciousness of an otherwise good man. Avaricious for money, and eager for power, to the exclusion of all who did not agree with him. And the authors of the ' Pseudo-Matrix ' were men, well qualified, but excluded from the possibilities of office owing to the places being filled by Sir Philip's relatives and friends. It seems impossible to agree with Prynne that, under other circumstances, Sir Philip might have been a staunch supporter of Parliament.
There are many followers of a party who do not agree with all the actions of this party, but realise that the party followed is the party which in their opinion is the best. And it is possible during the long winter evenings when the Lieut.-Governor and his prisoner at Mont Orgueil Castle discussed the great problems of the day, the jailer and prisoner might have agreed in condemning some of the many irregularities which were carried out by order of the King and his friends. According to the ` Pseudo-Matrix ' a good deal of time was spent at the Castle in " Carding, fiddling, dancing, drinking of healths, and lascivious and filthy discourse " in which Sir Philip, his Lady and daughter and Mr. Prynne joined.
Therefore we may assume that Sir Philip was a genuine Royalist, and was ready at the risk of his life to defend the Island he governed in the interest of his King. In all the communications which he had with the opposite party, he was always ready to submit his conduct before a commission appointed by the King and his Parliament, but he would not go before a Parliament armed against their King. He was not prepared to recognise the appointment of the Earl of Stamford as Governor of Jersey, and in all his actions during these troublous times he could always show that he was carrying out His Majesty's orders. He had sworn fidelity to his sovereign when he was appointed Bailiff, and Lieut.-Governor, and it was that oath which he tried to honour when he took up arms against the Parliamentary party.
Both castles were at that time fully manned, and provided with great supplies of provisions, and ammunition, although in a letter to his Lady at Mont Orgueil he complained that " Wee have provisions, and men enough ; but that my boats of beere should not come from the Castle, I wonder of. Wee drink a hogshead a day, and if I cannot have beere, I must turne most of my men to your Castell."
It is a remarkable fact that two foreigners such as Bandinel the Italian and D'Assigny the Frenchman should have acquired such power in the Island, especially as these men could have had no political grievances. They had come to Jersey poor and friendless and both had been assisted in their early days by Sir Philip, and yet as time went on friendship changed into bitterness and by their inflammatory harangues they magnified the avarice of Sir Philip, and did their best to make the ignorant people believe that he was capable of using his power, to further his own interest only, without any thought of the misery entailed upon the people.
It is all the more surprising seeing that he had a large following in the Island, and, if he had been a stronger man, there would have been no necessity for him to seek protection behind the walls of Elizabeth Castle. His previous career showed that he was not devoid of courage. In earlier years he was always ready to support his predecessors, in trying to curb the activities of previous Governors who were out for what they could make for themselves, and cared little how they acquired their wealth. For the next seven years Jersey was under the rule of his nephew. All references during that period were full of praise of the great and noble knight, who had died for his country besieged by the Parliamentarians in Elizabeth Castle.
And so in most of our Histories we find nothing but his praises, and Falle in his ' History of Jersey ' says very little about the history of that period although he must have been fully aware of what had taken place. We hear of the disloyal activities of those Jerseymen who opposed the Royalist party, but there is much to be said in their favour, for generally speaking, they were men who were anxiously endeavouring to oppose injustice, and bring about the better government of the land.
Sir Philip returned to Elizabeth Castle with his men and did little there until he died. We find that his men did make one or two sorties without success, and there is an account that, accompanied by a few men, he made a visit to his wife at Mont Orgueil Castle. He fired many guns at the town but did little damage except to make himself more unpopular. There was very little bloodshed. And at Elizabeth Castle he remained until he died on the 23rd August 1643,
He had many times during the siege endeavoured to get in touch with the Parliamentary leaders, but they would have nothing to do with him, except to order him to give himself up for trial before the King and Parliament, which meant from their point of view Parliament alone. He was quite willing to submit his actions before the King and his Council, and submit to their decision, but he knew that if he submitted himself to Parliament, his days would be numbered, and his enemies would soon have brought his head to the block.
And so time went on, he trying to explain his conduct as legally praiseworthy, and they refusing to listen to anything but his absolute surrender. The conditions of the Castle at that time must have been anything but healthy, and soon after the commencement of the siege, one of his sons died there. The Castle was infested with rats, and later on we hear that Sir George had to leave it on that account and take up his residence in the Town. But Sir Philip could not do this, and the anxiety of the situation was beginning to tell upon his health. He was undoubtedly a man of good ability and was very popular among his followers for the kindly interest he took in their affairs.
During the sortie from the castle one of his followers named Gwineth was wounded, and he writes to Lady de Carteret at Mont Orgueil, to conceal the matter from Mrs. Gwineth, who was in attendance on his wife. But he was very unpopular with those who opposed him, and he had made many enemies through his grasping and overbearing character. He did many unjust deeds in trying to carry out his own wishes, and was capable of vindictive actions towards his opponents.
For many years he was all powerful in the Island, but probably he had inherited his lust of power and wealth from his mother who was a Pawlet, a family who had ruled the Island for many years with a rod of selfishness. His correspondence during the siege did not show him to be a strong man. He was full of explanations of his conduct, and although willing to submit his actions before the King and council, he knew that if he submitted himself to Parliament, his life would be in danger. He called a meeting of the States to be held at the Castle, after the siege began, well knowing that only his followers could attend, and then he increased his unpopularity by firing his cannon upon the Town, doing little damage but causing increased discontent.
And so the siege went on, the garrison, mostly French and Irish, being well provided with provisions and stores by Captain George Carteret from St. Malo. Sir Philip became seriously ill and his mother was permitted to see him, but his sister was prevented from accompanying her. Every indignity which could be thought of was heaped on the sick knight by Bandinel, D'Assigny and others so as to make his last days as unhappy as possible. He asked that his favourite minister might be sent to him but this was refused and only on the last day of his life was his wife allowed to visit him, arriving just in time to see him die. In the eyes of the Royalists he died as a hero, but according to Lempriere and his friends, " The islanders never rejoiced so much at any man's as they did at his death."
But whatever his faults or virtues no one can deny that he fought for his King and died in his service, and ended his life by forgiving his enemies. On the 30th January 1644, Anne, Lady de Carteret died at Mont Orgueil Castle, which, after the death of Sir Philip, she had gallantly defended against the attacks of the Parliamentarian troops until the arrival on November 19th of Captain George Carteret as Lieut.-Governor and Bailiff of the Island.
We read about the brave defence of Lathom House by the Countess of Derby, to whom all honour is due, but in the Lady Anne, Jersey is proud of an equally brave heroine.
When Sir Philip took refuge in Elizabeth Castle, his wife was in residence at Mont Orgueil which she immediately put in as good a state of defence as possible, and there from March until November, she, assisted by her son and other loyal officers resisted all attacks by the enemy and kept the Royal Standard flying from the Castle.
Once only was she visited by her husband, and she never saw him again until the 23rd August when she was reluctantly allowed to be present at his death. In the meantime one of her sons had died at Elizabeth Castle. Captain Carteret from St. Malo managed from time to time to keep her supplied with provisions and thus this brave lady, ignoring her personal sorrows, fought the good fight for the cause she had at heart.
Enemy vessels were to be seen on the neighbouring waters trying to stop the supplies sent from France and frequent military operations kept the small garrison always on the alert and such was the energy of the defence that frequent sorties were made from the Castle and on the 17th October 1643 Thomas de Souillement and Philip Gauvais of St. Clement were killed by the royalists, and on the 9th November they, in another sortie, killed Daniel Horman and wounded Michael Malzard and Simon Falle and returned to the Castle with much spoil and the following prisoners :-Jean de la Haye, Jean Poingdestre, and Domyan Poingdestre. Malzard died of his wounds.
Fortunately there were then no guns in the Island such as were used in 1651 when the magazine at Elizabeth Castle was blown up otherwise the brave defence of the small garrison at Mont Orgueil would have been impossible and with the introduction of more powerful artillery the Castle ceased to be a Tower of Strength and Sir Thomas Morgan when Governor, was ordered to demolish it and store all timber and lead. Fortunately this order was not carried out otherwise we would not have with us to-day this great historical monument to beautify our Island.
When her son-in-law, Captain George Carteret, arrived in the Island there was no necessity for further action and, relieved of the anxiety of thinking for others, her health gave way and she died some two months later respected and admired as a great and noble lady, who, notwithstanding her great sorrow, had gallantly defended the cause she loved so well.

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