Elizabeth Le Cocq of Alderney, paillarde, 1736

Elizabeth refused to appear before the Ecclesiastical Court to admit 'paillardise'—licentiousness—having given birth to an illegitimate child. From Peter Mollet's Notebook in the Library.

The venerable John Bonamy,¹ Dean, presiding.

'Elizabeth Le Cocq of Alderney, daughter of the late Pierre Le Cocq, having several times been cited and called before the Court to answer the charge of having borne a bastard child, is judged to be in contempt of Court for not having appeared at the times and places she was ordered to. She has been judicially, peremptorily, and publicly called to account so many times, that she eventually reached the point of minor excommunication. Since she has been given enough time to repent, but has remained obstinately defiant, we John Bonamy, now legally and justly hereby sentence her to major excommunication for contempt; she is excluded from the Church, may not take part in the Sacrament or have any kind of relations with the faithful. This Act of Excommunication is to be announced and displayed in the Church at Alderney, so that no-one may claim ignorance of it.'

John Bonamy, Dean and suffragant for His Lordship Benjamin, Bishop of Winchester, and The Hon. Lieut. Bailiff, to the Jurats of the Royal Court of Guernsey:

'Health and prosperity to you.

We are officially informing you hereby that a certain Elizabeth Le Cocq, daughter of the late Pierre of Alderney, because of her contempt for and disobedience to our admonitions and judgments, has been rightfully and legitimately subjected by us to major excommunication, and that this has been published in the Church at Alderney. Despite this she persists in her obstinacy, and in so doing shows contempt for ecclesiastical authority, to her soul's great peril, and her behaviour is a scandal to proper folk; for this reason we ask that the said excommunicant be punished for her contempt and obstinacy. Come down on her hard and give the order for her to be arrested and put in prison, as the law requires, so that your authority succeeds in bringing to her duty she in whose heart the fear of God has no place.

Yours &c.'

In March 1676/7, John Williamson had sent a letter to Guernsey's Governor, Christopher Hatton, on behalf of Charles II, in which the Governor was required to ensure that

after the ecclesiastical Court hath proceeded as far as excommunication against contumacious persons, the civil Magistrates upon certificate thereof from the said Court, be aiding with their authority to reduce them to obedience in such manner as is required in the like case, by the canons of our island of Jersey.

Elizabeth fell foul of the Canons of Ecclesiastical Law, unofficially imposed on the island in 1662, which were based on the English Canons, but specifically adapted for and accepted by Jersey in 1623.² In 1568 the Channel Islands were transferred from the diocese of Coutances to that of Winchester, and the ministers had acknowledged the authority of the Bishop of Winchester over them; in 1662 they had been asked to accept the Act of Uniformity, and with it Jerseyman John Durell's French prayer book, written at the behest of Charles II himself. They had resigned rather than do so, but the island's acceptance was inevitable.

The Jersey Canons were strongly resisted by ministers and populace, both because they were expensive to implement and because they removed yet more power and influence from the island's own ministers, who wished to keep the Canons based on the island's own Ecclesiastical Discipline, which had themselves been confirmed by James I in 1603. The request for the 1623 Jersey Canons to be applied to Guernsey came in 1698 from the Royal Court, the civil not church authorities; the island's ministers refused to attend the States meeting of 17th October, 1700, where the Jersey Canons were accepted in principle, and were fined.

Guernsey's Ecclesiastical Discipline, first drawn up by such local ministers in 1576, had allowed for excommunication, but with the strong implication that excommunicated sinners were to be continually exhorted to repent and return to the fold. Excommunication had meant being excluded from Church ceremonies and not interacting with the faithful, unless the excommunicated person had family or business dealings with them. There was always hope of absolution; and for the really recalcitrant, the prayer following a ceremony of excommunication left it to God to punish them; after all, once excommunicated they could not be buried in consecrated ground.

Records show that during the Reformation, the Guernsey Colloque, or Synod, finding its own systems of punishment ineffectual, had often exhorted the Royal Court to punish religious malefactors. The Court was generally unhelpful. There was one category of offender to be consistently made an example of by the Court, however, and that was the woman who had a bastard child, the paillarde; not only did she not comply with social norms, in itself anathema to the authorities, but a single mother and her child would almost certainly prove a burden on the parish. The woman was often whipped, sometimes banished if they were not local.3 In this case, however, one hundred and fifty years on, Elizabeth was to be punished for contempt, not having yet stood to account for her misdeeds, and indeed is not referred to as a paillarde by the Dean.

The type of excommunication Guernseymen and women had been used to, employed also in England during the Reformation, does not appear to have acted as any kind of real deterrent.4 Jean Bonamy, the Dean, having lost patience, had hit Elizabeth with 'major excommunication,' and had used the Ecclesiastical Court to administer it. He was the head of this court, which had replaced the Calvinist Colloque of island ministers and elders, and which represented the power over the island's church of the Bishop of Winchester. Major excommunication, in itself recalling Catholic terminology, also excluded the sinner 'a Sacris et Societate fidelium' ('from the Church ceremonies and society of the faithful'

................................................0), as had always happened, but if after forty days the sinner refused to repent, he or she was to be, according to the Canons,

seized by the Civil officers, and constituted prisoner, under Bodily Detention, till such time as he has submitted and obliged himself to obtemperate the Ordinance of the Church; and before he be absolved, he shall be bound to pay the Costs and Charges of the Prosecution of the Suit.

1 Dean 1717-1738. Various early copies of documents relating to John Bonamy and his career, taken mostly from the records of the Ecclesiastical Court, can be found in Havilland de Sausmarez' collection, Church History: various documents. The Library's MS Notebook of Peter Mollet, his relative, contains a transcription of his will (Guernsey wills are also available on film at the Library). Please contact a Librarian should you wish to consult them. John Bonamy had relationship problems of his own back in the day.

2 The trouble had begun in 1662, with the Act of Uniformity. In a note to MacCulloch's Guernsey Folk Lore, Edith Carey gives this information, with our translation:

Pierre Le Roy's Diary, 24th Sept., 1662. 'A battalion of 100 soldiers arrived in Guernsey, including a Major, a Captain, and other officers, because there was some opposition to the Act of Uniformity. The ministers objected and gave up their livings.' ['II est arrivé dans cette île une compagnie de cent soldats avec un major, un capitaine, et des officiers, à cause de quelque opposition à l'Acte d'Uniformité. Les ministres n'ont pas voulu s'y soumettre et ont abandonné leurs curés, savoir M. Le Marchant, du Valle et de Saint-Samson; M. Perchard, de Saint Pierre-du-Bois; M. Morehead, de Saint-Sauveur; M. de la Marche, du Castel, et M. Herivel, de la Forêt et de Torteval.']

John de Sausmarez, formerly Rector of St. Martin's parish, was made Dean in 1662, and he and one of his colleagues, Pierre de Jersey, were the first to establish the new ritual. Thomas Le Marchant, who was virtually the head of the Presbyterian party, and as such was especially hated by Dean de Sausmarez, was shut up first in Castle Cornet in 1663, and in 1665 in the Tower of London, till September, 1667, when he was liberated 'on £1000 bail on condition he never dare set foot in Guernsey again without special permission from the King, and that he behaves in future like a respectful and loyal subject', ['ayant donne caution de mille livres sterling qu'il ne presumera pas en aucun temps d'aller dans l'île de Guernesey à moins qu'il n'ait pour le faire une license spéciale de Sa Majesté, et qu'il se comportera a l'avenir comme un respectueux et loyal sujet'], etc. He had married Olympe Roland, and his son Eléazar was later Lieutenant Bailiff of Guernsey. See also L'Histoire du Méthodisme dans les Isles de la Manche, by Matthieu Le Lièvre, p. 112.

The English/Jersey canons seem to have been used on and off after that, but never to have received offical approval; in 1664 Dean de Saumarez received his commission to deal with matters coming before his Court by ancient law and custom, 'but without offending the laws of the realm of England and the ecclesiastical canons as far as the aforesaid laws and canons allow, and not otherwise.' Havilland de Sausmarez, Considerations on the Ecclesiastical Position in the Channel Islands, and particularly in Guernsey, 1927, p. 11. For the full history of the relationship of Jersey and Guernsey to the Church in France and England, see Convocation of Canterbury: Report of the Joint Committee on the representation of the Channel Islands, 1926. See also the Reverend George Lee's articles on the relationship of Coutances and Winchester dioceses in the Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise II (1885-9), pp. 404 ff., and V (1902-5), pp. 251 ff., and The Deanery of Guernsey and the Diocese of Winchester, in the History of Guernsey Churches scrapbook in the Library. The text of the Canons of 1603, translated into French, can be seen at the Library. The text of the Canons proposed by the Bishop of Winchester that were disputed in 1700 is from the Actes des Etats, 1651-1780, taken from a contemporary copy in the possession of the Editor, Reverend Lee. They are virtually the same as the Jersey Canons of 1623, the text of which can be found in Falle's History of Jersey, p. 245. In 1700 Thomas Picot, the Rector of Torteval and the Forest, sent a letter with criticisms and suggested amendments to the Canons to the Bishop of Winchester (p. 88 ff. of the Actes). Lee published alongside these other contemporary correspondence, including a letter in which Viscount Hatton advises the Bishop to drop the matter until feelings in the island calmed down. The Bishop appears to have dropped it permanently.

3 Darryl Ogier has made a thorough analysis and explanation of the punishments meted out for paillardise to both men and women during the Reformation in Guernsey. See his Reformation and Society in Guernsey, pp. 146 ff., Appendix 4, and bibliography.

4 Parker, K. L., The English Sabbath: a study of doctrine and discipline from the Reformation to the Civil War. In the Carey Notebook, Acts of the Ecclesiastical Court, p. 17, (Library 41B), we find that Marie and Sara Tostevin, who refused to appear before the Court several times in June 1701, were condemned to major excommunication by John Bonamy, Vice-Dean; they were to be excluded 'from entering the Church, taking part in the Sacrement and frequenting the members of the congregation.' In October 1702, however, the girls could bear it no longer and asked to have their sentence of excommunication lifted, and since they had publicly repented this was done, and they were accepted back into the Church.


Par devant le venerable Jean Bonamy Doyen.

Elizabeth Le Cocq, fille du feu Pierre le Cocq de l’Isle d’Auregny ayant été citée par plusieurs fois et signifiée de se présenter en cour ecclésiastique pour avoir accouchée d’un enfant bâtard; et s’étant montre contumace en ne comparaissant point aux tems et lieux marqués, après avoir été citée judiciallement & péremptoirement et évoquée publiquement par plusieurs fois jusqu'à se laisser excommunier de l’excommunication mineure, Nous Jean Bonamy procédans juridiquement justement et légitiment, après lui avoir donné le tems suffisant pour se repentir, mais qui s’est trouve inutile par opinionâtreté, l’excommunions par ces présentes pour ses dites contumaces de l’excommunication majeure qui exclu[t] de l’entrée de l’ Eglise de participation des Sacremens et de la fréquentation des fidèles ; et sera cette présente acte d’excommunication publiée dans l’Eglise d’Auregny, afin que personne n’en prétende cause d’ignorance.

Jean Bonamy, Doyen de l’Isle de Guernesey & dependances et suffragant de revd Père en dieu Benjamin Seigneur Evêque de Winchester &c. et Monsieur Le Lt-Bailiif & à Messieurs les Jurez de la Cour Royale de cette Isle :

Salut et prospérité.

Nous vous donnons à connoître & certifions par ces présentes, qu’une certaine Elizabeth Le Cocq fille du feu Pierre le Cocq, de l’Isle d’Auregny, à cause de sa grande contumace et désobéissance à nos admonitions et sentences, a été excommuniée de l’excommunication majeure par nous procédans justement et légitiment, laquelle excommunication a été publiée dans l’Eglise de la dite Isle d’Auregny, nonobstant quoy elle persiste dans son endurcissement, méprisant l’autorité ecclésiastique, au grand péril de son âme, et scandale des gens de bien ; c’est pourquoi nous vous prions afin que la dite excommuniée puisse être réprimée de ses contumaces et obstination que vous prêtiez le bras fort et donniez les ordres nécessaires pour que les Officiers du Roy se saisissent de sa personne et la mettent en prison comme il est requis en tel cas, afin que votre autorité aide à ranger à son devoir celle en qui la crainte de dieu n’a aucun lieu.

En témoignage de quoi nous &c &c.

From the Notebook of Peter Mollet, MS in the Library.