First Formal Historical Publication: The 2018 Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise Finally Arrived!

My apologies for having posted so few articles since my April research trip to the UK last year.  It certainly hasn’t been for lack of material!  Following my talks at the Société Jersiaise during that trip, I was asked to contribute an article to the Société’s “Annual Bulletin” for 2018.  This was a genuine honor, as I’ve never known of an academic society so committed to maintaining and developing a cultural, scientific and historic heritage as effectively as the Société Jersiaise does for Jersey. It was also a significant time commitment, and wound up leading me down new avenues of research–and some really interesting discoveries!

The most challenging stipulation of the article submission was that it had to be concise. The latter is not my strong suit, as my siblings would surely attest–they tease that if I were ever knighted, my title would have to be Sir Gregory the Verbose!  Another stipulation was that the article could not have appeared in any prior publication. The final and most intriguing stipulation was that the article needed to be primarily relevant to Jersey.

New Research Needed

I spent a lot of time thinking about that final stipulation.  The enduring theme about my “Lost Lord Keeper” is that he wasn’t a mere spectator to one of the most interesting periods of English history–he was deeply and relevantly involved in the heart of things.  But who was he to Jersey?  I wanted to my article to contribute something more than simply telling  the story of the aging professor of Middle Temple and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal who came to Jersey with the young King Charles II in 1649.  I wanted to bring something more–a fresh perspective…and I found it!

I observed that a great deal has been written about the two visits to Jersey of the exiled Charles II during the Civil War of the middle 1600’s. Its not a surprise that historical writers would focus on the king and his plight during the Civil War.

But the king wasn’t alone.  Who were the people with him, and what had they been through? Generally, the entourages that arrived with Charles II have been described in terms of the strain those several hundreds of people placed on the people of Jersey.  The population of the entire island at this time was only somewhat more than 10,000 people, generally clustered around the 12 historical parishes of Jersey, leaving a local population of perhaps no more than 2,000 people to open their homes to as many as 500 visitors for several months. 

What struck me about these accounts of this staggering accommodation is that they generally seemed matter-of -fact and generous in their nature. Especially since not everyone shared George de Carteret’s enthusiasm for the royalist cause, why did the community respond with such a generous spirit?  Given that human nature seems to transcend the centuries unchanged, where was the voice of complaint?  It is unlikely that the citizens of Jersey were well compensated, as Charles II had little money.  What emerged from my research into the accounts of the exiles was a theme of respect and empathy.  The beleaguered and grateful arrivals encountered by the locals were not refugees, but rather the loyal gentry of England who had been displaced from their homes and holdings by the war.  Perhaps glad to be separated from the calamity unfolding on the mainland, the locals must have felt a sense of “There, but for the grace of God go I” when interacting with the exiles staying in their community.  I decided my article had the opportunity to put a face on the plight of the exiles who arrived with the King, and through that telling to bring its readers to better understand the extraordinary story of Sir Richard Lane.

A coastal watchtower on the Southern coast of Jersey. The treacherous offshore fields of rock formations and dramatic tides gave Jersey formidable natural defenses against invasion.

Although I knew the basic facts of Richard Lane’s role in the Civil War and his subsequent exile, I needed to learn a lot more. So, I spent several months doing new research for the article. I found a wonderful memoir of Lady Fanshawe and her family’s experiences in wartime Oxford, and their slide into exile with Charles II.  I dug into various other accounts of arrests and confiscations of the property of royalists. I read accounts of those who “compounded” to pay heavy fines for parliamentary forgiveness. I also read letters and accounts of the lives of a number who refused to do so. This added a whole new dimension to my understanding of Richard Lane’s life during these times.

I also spent some time piecing together the exact history of the Great Seal that was placed into Richard Lane’s care. It really hadn’t dawned on me how rare that first seal was!  Created 1649 after the execution of King Charles I, the first Great Seal of Charles II was only carried by one Lord Keeper: Sir Richard Lane.  Following Lane’s death in Jersey in 1650, Charles II did not appoint another Lord Keeper, and the Great Seal was lost following the defeat of Charles II’s army at the Battle of Worchester in 1651. Called the “exile seal”, it simply wasn’t in existence long enough, or in enough circumstances to have been used many times.  As part of my research, I compiled what  seems to be the most comprehensive list of these seals in existence.  I was surprised to learn you can count them using only a few more than the fingers of a single hand.

The Editorial Process

I received significant help from Alastair and Bronwyn (my editors at Société Jersiaise). There was a lot to do. Even with pruning, my new research had swelled the article from 5,000 words to well over 8,000.  Especially since it included a fair number of pictures and figures, it had become too long.  I needed to arrange for a higher resolution image of the photo of the “lost portrait” from the New York Public Library.  Other photos had issues that would prevent them from reproducing well, and we had to work out all the photo credits and supporting bibliographical references.  And, as I continued rounding out the research, I found important nuances that needed to be included.

In the end, I had produced more than a half dozen versions, trimming and adjusting content and reworking photographs.  Once I finally decided I was happy with the article, it was time to let the editors decide what best fit the needs of the Société’s annual publication. In the end, Alastair and Bronwyn did an excellent job of working the article down to 5,300 words. With photographs, it now fit within 14 pages.

When I finally received my copies of the Bulletin, I was thrilled at the quality of the publication. An unexpected surprise was the article immediately preceding mine, which provided an excellent analysis of royal patents issued by Charles II while he was in Jersey.  These royal patents were the very documents that bore the rare “exile seal” describe in my own work.  The article went on to explain that Charles II had used the sale of a number of crown lands in Jersey to raise money. The background on these patents included some very interesting facts on the relative value of the “sterling pound” versus the French “livre tournois”, and some estimates of modern values of those sums. I have been looking for alternate valuation models to improve the one I developed.

Standing at the entrance to the Jersey Museum and the offices of the Société Jersiaise in St Helier, April 2018.

Kudos to the Editors

I can’t imagine the work that must go into this publication each year. Gathering and editing all of the articles and reports, choosing which pictures best support them, and working up all of the many other supporting elements each Bulletin contains would be a major undertaking.  Each of these annually published books becomes a record of the business of the Société Jersiaise, and features the best contributions from the Société’s various chapters for that year. I am honored to have my work included in the company of the other authors’ excellent work.

Now that this book has been published, I am able to share my original article in this online journal, which I will be doing shortly!


Your comments and corrections are gladly welcomed.  I admire great writing, but have little choice but to approach this task as one of grinding a workable edge onto a rough blade – with my thanks for your generosity of spirit and firm critique in the meantime! 

-Greg Sherwood

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