29 November 2016

A Visit to the Channel Islands - via Isabella of Angoulême and a pirate or two...

My Tuesday Talk Guest: Erica Lainé... 

At the HNS Conference 2016 in Oxford we were all given goody bags. In mine was a reprint of a 1902 book Nelson and His Captains by W H Fitchett. Chapter 9 was about Sir James Saumarez, a famous Guernsey admiral. Someone I knew about, and in a way the book was the impetus for this guest post. My interest in the Channel Islands and especially Guernsey stems from a long and happy childhood there and a true Guernseyman for a husband. 

The discovery of the subject of my book, Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen Part 1 came about as I researched the history of Normandy. As the wife of King John, that marriage acted as a trigger for the loss of Normandy. I found her interwoven history with Aquitaine, the Poitou, Normandy and England fascinating. 

Whenever I find a relevant 13th century reference about the Channel Islands that I can use in my fiction I do. In Part 1 it was Eustace the Monk sailing out of Sark to the Battle of Sandwich, in Part 2 Henry III stops in Guernsey on his way to St Malo, small details but all important to me.

The Channel Islands, Corsairs and Privateers
William the Conqueror brought Normandy with him to England, and with Normandy came the Channel Islands. They had been ceded to or taken by William Longsword in 933 when he took the Cotenin and Avranchin. 

When King John lost Normandy between 1204-1214 the Channel Islands were not part of any agreement between the French and the Anglo-Angevins. They remained faithful to a King who had lost their parent Duchy and did not swear allegiance to the French King who had resumed it.

The law in the C.I. remained the law of the Duchy of Normandy. An ancient law, which became varied by local customs. There was nothing written as law but there were commentaries on what happened, court records which were consulted as if they were text books.

In 1217 two important castles were built, Castle Cornet in Guernsey and Mount Orgueil or Castel Gorey in Jersey, they both had garrisons of English troops. Fortification was now necessary, as it had never been before.

In 1218 Henry III, John's son, wrote to Philippe D'Aubigny, his Warden:
'It is not our intention to institute new Assizes in the Islands at present, but it is our will that the Assizes which were observed there in the time of King Henry our Grandfather, of King Richard our Uncle, and the Lord King John our father, should be observed there now.'

Three years later he wrote to Philippe d'Aubigny, the younger, this very stringent command:
'Rule the Islands by right and due custom, as they have been accustomed to be ruled at the time of our ancestors, Kings of England.'

And the customs and laws related to the time when the Kings of England and the Duke of Normandy were still one person. 

(The Queen despite being a woman is known as The Duke of Normandy, when referred to by Channel Islanders. During the loyal toast, they say The Queen, our Duke or, in French a Reine, notre Duc, rather than simply ‘The Queen’ as is the practice in the United Kingdom.)

In 1254 Henry III granted the Islands to his son the future Edward I of England. The King ordered that these Islands were never to be separated from the English Crown, that no one by reason of this grant might at any time claim any right therein but that they should remain wholly to the King of England for ever. But the position was both anomalous and advantageous at the same time. In 1483 a papal bull declared the Channel Islands neutral with free ports. This began a far reaching maritime trade.

Jumping forward some 300 years to the Navigation Acts in the 17th century, the position changed again. The Acts were designed to restrict trade with Europe. These restrictions were ignored by the C.I. and the rise of Guernsey as a significant entrepôt was intricately linked to the rise of St Malo, which had been made a free port in 1395. According to a medieval Bishop the French port had always attracted all manner of thieves and rogues. 

As imports of French goods were forbidden they came into to St Peter Port from La Cité corsair and were sent onwards to England or America. In 1689 the neutrality of the C.I was overturned and they were banned from importation or retailing any commodities of the growth or manufacture of France.
So Guernsey turned to privateering. There is a fine line between outright piracy and the more respectable privateering. A Letter of Marque or Mart is issued by the Lord High Admiral licensing the commander of a privately owned ship to cruise the waters in search of enemy vessels. Either as a reprisal for injuries suffered or as acts of war. And so the commander became a privateer. Licensing privateers by special commission was highly profitable and many owners equipped their ships with guns to prey upon merchant shipping. 

During The American War of Independence, the Americans were helping Britain’s enemies and making a profit for themselves by importing goods from Europe and then reshipping them.  In 1801, a letter of marque was issued to Captain James Lainé, commanding the Guernsey privateer The Hawk.
'You are instructed to cruise off Bordeaux, keeping close inshore and as near as possible to the Cordouan lighthouse. You are to send in all Prussian vessels which you find suspicious, all Hamburg vessels bound from enemy colonies in the East and West Indies to any European port except Hamburg itself, and all Russian, Danish, and Swedish vessels without reservation.
You are also to send in American vessels coming from enemy colonies to Europe, all vessels bound from one French or Spanish port to another, all vessels having two sets of papers on board and all vessels attempting to enter enemy ports with warlike stores. Vessels bound from America to an enemy port are to be sent in if they have enemy property on board, to ascertain which you must be particularly nice in examining every paper you can of every denomination whatever.
Neutral vessels with passengers or supercargoes on board are to receive particular attention, but no neutral vessel is to be given the benefit of the doubt, for we daily find out neutrals with false papers and masked cargoes.'

Letter of Marque
1801 John Laine’s personal copy
In France the commission was a lettre de course, and the commander became a corsair. From the 1500s for over 200 years St Malo was the dominant corsair port. Robert Surcouf, a famous corsair was born there in 1773. The son of a ship owner and a mother who was daughter of a captain his privateers led successful campaigns against the British in the Indian Ocean and disastrous ones in the English Channel. However he had great celebrity in France where he became a ship owner himself and he died in St Malo in 1827. A true Malouin, there is a bronze statue of him on the ramparts.

Robert Surcouf
Photo taken by Guillaume Piole/CC by 3.0 
James Lainé was 22 years old when apart from captaining The Hawk he also became captain of the Guernsey privateer Mayflower, a 151-ton cutter owned by the Priaulx brothers. On 27 April 1806 he captured the lugger privateer Sorcière of St Malo, sailed by Captain Thomas Lauriol, three leagues west of Jersey. By sailing down to leeward James Lainé prevented Lauriol from firing his main cannons due to the heel of the Sorcière.

copyright JRL
He was mentioned in dispatches by Rear Admiral James de Saumarez, Commander Guernsey who wrote:- 
'Great praise is due to Mr James Lainé, her commander, for his activities and exertions on this occasion. He was in pursuit from windward and the chase took nine hours The ‘Sorcière’ is a remarkable fast sailer with sixteen guns and forty six men and has done immense injury to our trade, particularly off the coast of Ireland and the Bristol Channel.'

It is believed that the Guernsey privateer had friends in Royan who provided them with food and intelligence. It would be quite usual for Guernsey captains to have friends in Royan and other ports along the coast of France. France was a neighbour with which the C.I shared language and lineage dating back to the 10th century. The alliances still worked.  

Buy the Book Amazon.UK
Facebook devoted to Isabella and her life and times.
Facebook for Aquitaine Historical Society, mainly images of all sorts of things  historical.

Twitter @LaineEleslaine 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
And for all indie writers: Chill With A Book Award
by Pauline Barclay

September saw the launch of a brand new award, Chill with a Book AWARD.

The Award is exclusively for indie authors and authors with small indie publishers. It is designed to promote the best books from indie authors.

Indie authors write some of the best reads in out the market place, but due to a number of constraints their work is not always as visible as authors published with large publishing houses, yet many of these authors deserve as much, if not more, recognition.

For those who know me, understand I am very passionate about supporting indie authors, I am one myself and know from personal experience how tough it is to gain recognition and a large following whilst sitting down and writing the next novel, and that is why I have created Chill with a Book AWARD .

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Once a title has been accepted for consideration it will be read by a number of Chill’s readers and checked against the following criteria…

Were the characters strong and engaging?
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Did the plot have you turning the page to find out what happened next?
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Have you told your friends about it?

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Authors must understand that a book accepted for consideration for a Chill with a Book AWARD does not guarantee it will receive the AWARD.

Authors of books accepted for consideration will be notified directly whatever the final decision.

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There are limited places each month for books to be considered and if you are interested in submitting your title, please email Pauline at paulinechill@hotmail.com in the first instance.

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Chill with a Book's decision to award a book or not is final.

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  1. Well done, James Lainé! A very interesting article - thank you, Erica and Helen.

    1. Thanks Alison. Needless to say, anything with pirates immediately grabbed my attention!

  2. A very interesting red, Mrs. Hollick. Much to Google. LOL


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