The Guernsey Lily again: De Beauvoir, Bonamy, and De Jersey

From Jacob's Annals, Volume II, pp. 170-1.

About the year 1730, was published a Poem entitled The Golden Red Lily, called La Belle Guernesiaise, described, drawn, and engraved, by Francis Hoffman, without the printer's name or date. In this poem the names of De Beauvoir, Bonamy, and De Jersey are particularly mentioned, and, as it were, knitted together, as may be seen from the following extract:

This lily in true fortitude,
Is like a Christian sound and good,
In bloom and glory bright arrayed,
When most flowers else decay and fade.
The people and the Clergy there,
Are like it singularly rare;
And like its blossoms joined in one,
Tenfold ten crowned Communion.


For in the Dean you shining see,
Le bon Chrétien, et bon Ami.¹
Y j'en meme Temps, en belle Langue,
Ne puis que célébrer La Vrangue:²
Ou l'Etranger est sur d'avoir
Un bon ami, le grand Beauvoir,
A sa santé chacun doit boire.
Bevons, bevons en verres remplis
A tous Beauvoirs et Bon Amis
J'en leur Nom tous Noms confis.

Un Bon Ami {étant la cher Beau âvoir {en merite Beau avoir {de vertu un miroir.
La Belle Guernesiaise veut avoir,
One that ne'er starts at men's distress
Nor shuns a stranger for his dress;
But on the man looks through old clothes
And kindness due to merit shows.


Next Jersey shines a preacher bright
In Gospel's burning shining light,
Whose merit I to spread compare,
Thus to the Guernsey Lily fair.
What's this flower like? what's like this flower?
'Tis Jersey's sermon for the poor;³
The day 'twas preach'd let all remember,
Sunday the Fourteenth of September,
In seventeen-hundred-twenty-nine,
In print for ever may it shine.

¹ The Dean at that time was John Bonamy. For the relationships and biographies of these clergymen see E. B. Moullin's 'Notes on the Registers of St Saviour's Parish 1582-1693,' in the Report and Trans. of the Société Guernesiaise, 1953, pp. 310 ff.

² This refers to Daniel de Beauvoir of La Vrangue, who served as Jurat from 1719-1742. 'He died unmarried and was the son of Guillaume de Beauvoir and Rachel Le Marchant, and nephew of Marie who married Pierre Carey and inherited La Vrangue on Daniel's death. With his death this branch of de Beauvoir became extinct.' From 'The Guernsey Lily,' The Transactions of the Société Guernesiaise 1931, pp. 37 ff., by Sir Havilland de Saumarez, which transcribes some more of this famous broadsheet belonging to the Saumarez family, The Golden-Red Lilly, called La Belle Guerneziese (in which 'Guerneziese' rhymes with 'these'). The text plays a great deal on numbers in the political and religious thought of the day; the Guernsey Lily having ten florets, each with six petals, seven stamens etc. In fact, Daniel de Beauvoir was celebrated for his Guernsey lilies. He was visited by the famous gardener Thomas Knowlton in 1726, who describes his garden at La Vrangue in a report made for James Douglas, the author of the treatise The Guernsay-Lilly. De Beauvoir comes across as a very knowledgeable gardener, and a grower of unusual and exotic plants; his mother, he said, was still alive, and 'in her time was one of the greatest lovers of this flower anyone possible could.'

³ On the 19th April 1729 the States urgently debated the shortage of wheat. The poor of the island had no bread. Tupper, in his History of Guernsey, p. 362, quotes an extract from the Greffe of 1727: 'Guernsey has around 10,500 inhabitants, of which 4,500 live in St Peter Port parish; allowing a denerel of wheat per person per week, we need 21,000 quarters of wheat a year.' The price of wheat also had a significant effect on the cost of living in the island, as many rents were paid in wheat; its price inflation may have meant the poor not having been able to pay any rent at all. The priority here, however, was wheat as food. All available wheat had already been distributed, and those who had provided it had to be compensated, should, as the States feared, the price of wheat rise above that which it had set as the official rate the previous week. They ordered that the Parish Constables and Douzeniers should ascertain the number of poor parishioners who were in need of Parish rations, so that they could collect enough money in advance from better-off parishioners, in the form of an emergency 'tax' (or however they thought best), to pay for the wheat already distributed, and to be able to import wheat into the island. They had of course to ensure that they had exhausted all local stocks before spending their parishioners' money. It was around this time that the States began seriously to address the problem of providing for the poor, culiminating in legislation to collect parochial rates on moveable and immoveable property hypothecated to their relief, in 1736.

One of the ministers present at this States meeting was Pierre de Jersey, Rector of St Saviour's Church since 1724. John Bonamy had been Rector here for a very short period in 1695. See T.F. Priaulx's 'Registers of St Saviour's Parish', Report and Trans. of the Société Guernesiaise, 1954, pp. 293 ff. for John Bonamy and his relationship with the De Beauvoirs. For a list of Rectors, see T.F. Priaulx's booklet, The Story of the Church and Parish of St Saviour. We cannot trace as yet whether Pierre de Jersey's magnificent sermon on behalf of the poor of Guernsey was ever published, so we cannot tell whether it dealt with these food shortages, but as Francis Hoffmann seems to have made a living from receiving commissions for making poetry from unlikely material and publishing it as broadsheets (as well as being a very successful engraver), he was perhaps just making a plea for more work!