11 September 1248, rights of islanders in the time of King John

Extracts from the bound collection of transcribed MSS known as the Nicolas Dobrėe MSS. All in beautiful copperplate, they include versions of charters and other Royal Orders and Acts, and various letters patent and so on that were obviously regarded as highly significant by the volume's owner. Followed by a transcription made in 1730 of the Constitutions of King John, from 'an old translation into French from the original in Latin ... copied from the Book of Mr H Mauger, Comptrolleur,' part of a collection of legal documents probably belonging to former Bailiff Peter de Havilland.

1248.¹ Du Rolle de l'Echiquier de l'an Trente-deuxieme de Henry Troisième l'an mil deux Cents Vingt. [p. 1 ff.]

The King requested that the Warden of the Isles, Drogo de Barentin, should make an enquête into the rights and liberties of the inhabitants of Guernsey as enjoyed under his predecessors as Kings of England. A previous request from the King for this information having provided unsatisfactory results, he requires De Barentin to seek help from those men of the island who are best qualified to both 'know and speak the truth.' Henry is also keen to establish exactly what laws his father John had given to the Channel Islands. De Barentin (a notoriously slippery customer) is to provide this information, together with proper descriptions of his sources and exact methods of acquiring it, to the King himself.

'An inquiry made in to the Duties, customary laws and rights [Services, coustumes et liberté] of the island of Guernsey and the laws established therein by our Lord King John. Sworn witnesses under oath: Robert Blondel, Guillebert Malconvenant, Richard des Capelles, Raoul De Havilland, Raoul Burnel, Pierre Gros, Raouil Corneille, Guillaume des Roheis [Rohais], Guillaume De Grentey, Guillaume Vivier de la Court, Olivier De Vaugrand [Vaugrat], Guillaume Gosselin, Richard L'Herichie, Guillaume De Noirmont, Guillaume de la Loue, Richard le Moyne du Castel, Jourdan du Hamel, un autre Guillaume Vivier, Raoul Paisant, Richard Peley, Richard Goubey, Raoul Tarestain, et Raoul Pesant. These men state that half of Guernsey belongs to the King and his dependent Lords, and that the other half is shared between the Abbey of Mont St Michel in peril of the Sea, and Robert de Vere, and that the quarter belonging to de Vere is known as the terre du Comte.'

They describe in detail the collection of wheat to pay the king's campart, how those liable to the tax had to take what they owed in their own carts to the King's manor, and themselves stack it and guard it, and other rights and duties relating to this tax; the Bailiff's duties, and how the official collectors got a free dinner and nine livres tournois from the King for their trouble. If the King wanted the wheat sent in to Normandy (between Mont St Michel and Cherbourg and nowhere else!), they had to hire boat crews for a fortnight at their own expense. Each household owed two chickens. Those with pigs owed pasnage, which was originally the right to graze the pigs in the king's forests; the tax per pig, which was a denier tournois, became payable on the day the tax was cried at the market, and if it was not paid by sunset on that same day, the pig was forfeit and you were fined five sous tournois. The duties of the millers of the King's seven mills are listed, as are the specific obligations of the Prior of St Lenfrey, Guill[aum?]e of the Rohais,² and the fief d'Anneville concerning the treatment of prisoners; and the terms of other types of tax, such as bancage and frottage. The special prescriptions for the fish farms, or esperqueries, are particularly interesting.

This and other similar inquests can be found in full in English translation in Thomas Fiott de Havilland's Some remarks on the constuitution of Guernsey &c., Barbet, 1847, pp. 17ff. Philip Falle, Rector of St Saviour in Jersey, examined these rolls at the Tower of London, and gives what he feels is the relevant part of the text in Latin, in his Account of the Isle of Jersey, 1694, in the Library.

Other items included amongst the transcriptions are: p. 7: Sark camparts etc., 27 January 1220, Exchequer Rolls of Henry III, Folio 89; pp. 8 ff.: The rents and emoluments of the four churches and the Vale Priory, 25 January 1358 (S3 No. 92, Tower of London); pp. 55 ff.: Ancienne traduction de la Foundation du Collège Eliz. en Guernesey; p. 59: 3 May 1770, Samuel Bonamy Bailiff presiding, Extract from Registers, Act of Royal Court, Order of Privy Council during reign of Elizabeth I, copy originally made 2 May 1707 as was not in public record in island at that time, Westminster 22 June 1565, Right of islanders to have cases heard in Royal Court according to charter; p. 61; 27 October 1329, Currency values in the islands; pp. 62 ff.; 1331, Précepte d'assise; p. 72. 1439, letters patent, John Philippe appointed Receiver; remuneration of officials; jurats' rights to dinners etc.; p. 73; 4 July 1674; Act of Privy Council, 21 November 1693, suggestions for regulating activity of Royal Court and Jurats, amended by the Privy Councillors, extracted by Joshua Gosselin; p. 74 letter patent 4 August 1444, includes duties of islanders to attend coronation and six weeks' worth of transport when required by the King at own expense etc.; p. 76, Loys Bastard de Bourbon, etc., letter patent; MSS The Constables of the Forest re a new Market. March 1726/7 (Chief Pleas 16 January 1726): p. 351

Les Constitutions & Provisions établies par le Roy Jean notre Sire, après que la Normandie a été aliénée.

En premier lieu il a institué douze couronneurs Jurés, pour garder les Plaids et Droits appartenant à la Couronne. Il a aussi Octroyé & Ordonné pour la seurété des Isles que le Baillif pourra doresnavant per l’avis des dits Couronneurs plaider ou connaistre sans bref, de nouvelle Dessaisine faite au dessous d’un an, de la mort d’un Ancesseur [ancêtre] au dessous d’un an, de Douaire semblablement de fief envahi pour toujours et d’encombrement de mariage. Et pour la Deffence & Seurété des Isles & châteaux, et dautant principalement que les terres sont prests et jouxte les terres de la Puissance du Roy de France & d’autres les ennemis, il a été ordonné et commandé que touts le Ports des Isles seroient bien gardés et a commandé qu’on eut à constituer des gardes des Ports de peur qu’il n’advint domage à luy et aux biens ; Et en outre fut ordonné que tout navire Etranger qui ne seroit de sa puissance & qui passeroit aux Isles donneroit un marcq d’argent de Coutume ; mais après le décès du Roy Jean notre Sire à la Requeste de Mr Philippe d’Aubigny notre Sire le Roy Henry fils du dit Jean notre Sire en a relâché demy-marc; Il a été en outre ordonné que tout bateau de la dite Isle portant poisson flottant en Normandie donneroit pour chacun jour, quatre sous, mais à la requeste du dit Philippe la moitié en a été relâché par le même Roy Henry notre Sire. En ce même temps la Sallarie des Congres fut établie entre la feste St Michel & Pâques, laquelle les Baillifs du Roy notre Sire ont mis à ferme comme/  l’esperquerie ; Et la Salarie fut premièrement faitte & établie à cause des Pécheurs lesquels portant le Poisson aux Ennemis du Roy notre Sire. En ce même temps fut ordonné que tout marchand doivent coutume de Bœuf, Porcs, suif & d’autres Achats de toutes leur Denrées, mais les Gens de l’Isle doivent être quittes quant à leur propre nourriture, enfin il a été ordonné & pourveu pour le soutenement & profitt des chateaux & de la forteresse du Roy notre Sire & de toute l’Isle que tous Pécheurs conviendront au Païs pour vendre leur Poisson par 3 jours en chacune semaine, à savoir les jours de mardy, jeudy & samedy.

¹ A reprise of this is given in Documents relatifs aux Iles de la Manche tirés des rôles des lettres closes conservés au PRO a Londres, 1205-1237, ed. Nicolle, W., Soc. Jersiaise, 1893, II part, p. 42, dated 11 September 1247. It begins: 'The King to the Bailiff of the islands of Guernsey, greetings. Having received the results of an inquiry we tasked you with conducting ...' and goes on to list the rights and duties he obviously thought particularly important. Thes included the King's grange and rules for dealing with grain; taxes on animals; transport to and from Normandy for the King's grain and the islanders' own goods; the maintenance of the King's seven mills; treatment of prisoners; rents payable to the Crown; and congers. 

² This is here written 'Guille,' but the e is deliberately raised and dotted underneath.

³ See 'Jersey 1204: The Origins of Unity: A Note on the Constitutions of King John', by J C Holt, in A Celebration of Autonomy, 1204-2004: 800 Years of Channel Islands' Law, Philip Bailhache, ed., Jersey Law Review Ltd, Royal Court House, St Helier, 2005. ' ... it was suggested that an earlier version of the constitutions was linked to the return of the customs of Guernsey printed by Sir Havilland de Sausmarez, Extentes of Guernsey of 1248 and 1331 and other documents relating ancient usages and customs in that Island (1934). This derives in turn from the submission of Colonel Thomas de Havilland, Jurat of the Royal Court of Guernsey, to Commissioners enquiring into the state of the Criminal Law of the Channel Islands in 1848. But he too relied on our present document. There was no other.'