By Jeannine Kerwin
Biographies and Portraits
Sir George Carteret, as depicted here was a staunch supporter of both Charles I and Charles II. His unqualified loyalty to both father and son during the Civil War and his most generous hospitality towards the then young Prince Charles during his stay at Elizabeth Castle found him awarded the roles of the Vice-Chamberlain to the King, Treasurer of the Navy and member of the Privy Council upon the Restoration of Charles II. Several wonderful websites offer excellent short biographies or stories related to Carteret including: 1911 Britannica; Wikipedia; Jersey Evening Post; and his Descendent Chart. Carteret’s famous years at Jersey, where he defended the Island in the name of Charles I, declared Charles II King, and ran a lucrative Privateering campaign are captured in the 1896 book by the Reverend Alban Ragg A Popular History of Jersey, chapters XII-XV. For those interested in more information on Island of Jersey during the years of Sir Philip Carteret, George’s Uncle and father of his wife, Elizabeth, a selection from the book Jean Chevalier and His Times Prior to the Great Rebellion is available online. The site hosting this book extract is home to Le Cercle de Carteret who have extended an offer for ‘Family and Friends’ of the Carteret’s to take part in their upcoming activities, as updated on their site.
Prior to the Diary: The Jersey Years
The relationship between Carteret and the King is one of the rare “lifetime” relationships that Charles faithfully maintained. This relationship and extensive background on Carteret during his “Jersey years” is highlighted in this article. The following selection from that article, which is a quote from A.C. Saunders’ Jean Chevalier and His Times provides Saunders’ character sketch of Carteret, during his Jersey years:
There was not much sentiment about George Carteret. He knew what he wanted and was determined to get it. A great sailor and a faithful servant to the King and the Royal Cause, he realized that, when he became Lieutenant-Governor and had taken up duties in the Island, he would be in a very dangerous position, and that if he failed, the Parliamentarians would show him little mercy. He was a much stronger character than his uncle, the late Sir Philip [who had role prior to him], but had the same accumulative tendencies and was very fond of power and riches and, later on, was known in England as the rich Sir George. He was very brave and had very considerable organizing ability and he allowed few scruples to interfere with his plans for the good of the cause he had at heart, and he was determined to grant stern justice to those who, during the last year of his uncle’s life, had treated him so badly. The Parliamentarians had little encouragement to submit their grievances to his sense of justice. He would admit of no grievances and considered that for their past actions they deserved utmost penalties. Many fled from the Island, but during the next eight years those remaining could get little assistance or support from the English Parliament.
Sir George was all powerful in Jersey and, in all his actions, was supported by the members of the States who were always ready to follow his lead. Therefore he was always careful before taking any action in the Island to see that his conduct was in accordance with the legal procedure of the Island.
Therefore until 1651 he was the Dictator of the Island, and maintained the honour of the Royalist cause and, gathering together a number of ships and manning them with gallant mariners, he was able to spread terror among the English vessels trading to and from English ports, in the English Channel.
It is only a great man who could have done what he did in keeping the Royal Standard flying for nearly three years after the execution of Charles I, and historians in the past have done little justice to the gallant stand made by Sir George and his supporters in the little island of Jersey, a stand which required the greatest Admiral, Blake, with seventy ships and three thousand men to put down, and then only after Sir George had been granted full honours of war.
Notwithstanding his many faults and his lack of sympathy in his dealing with opponents, who were not faultless, he may be considered as one of the greatest leaders during the Civil Wars, and the Royalist stand in Jersey as one of the great epochs in history.
Carteret in the Diary
Sam’s early assessment of Carteret is that he is a “good-natured man’ and notes he is well positioned among other noteworthy individuals in the Kings’ Coronation Procession. Sam’s early Naval involvement with Carteret includes preparation of a letter for the Duke of York summarizing the poor financial state of the Navy; examining the Treasurer’s accounts; getting money from the Duke of York ;paying off ship debts; and happily recording his belief that Carteret is pleased with him.
An argument between Carteret and Mr. Coventry causes Sam angst and starts a string of Diary entries about Coventry’s bad feelings towards Carteret. Two months later, Sam records with happiness that Carteret has put in a good word with the Lord Chancellor on his behalf.
Conflicts arise in 1663 with a great dispute over the valuation of pieces of eight and Sam talks against Carteret. Further discord takes place over issues with the mast contract causing Sam to craft a letter to Carteret. A rather mistrusting Sam gets a vote of confidence from Carteret on the mast issues, and the two finally come to a positive understanding of each other. Sam is delighted to hear from Carteret that the Navy is finally out of debt.
Sam and Carteret find themselves collectively embroiled with an angry Lord Chancellor over issues related to the taking of trees from Clarendon Park for use by the Navy. Any angry Clarendon rages to Sam about Carteret and the issue continues in Carteret’s disfavor with Clarendon.
The relationship between Sam and Carteret will grow both professionally and to some extent, personally. As the Diary proceeds, Sam will find himself involved in more of Carteret’s personal life and family matters, which he will splendidly record. He will also find himself witnessing the fall out the record keeping issues of the Dutch War, where Carteret will become the target of accusations. As a result of these accounting issues, Carteret will be censured by parliament and in 1667 will leave his role as Treasurer of the Navy and will become the deputy Treasurer of Ireland, and no longer involved with Sam in the remaining years of the Diary.
Biographies and related non-fiction about Sir George Carteret are listed below. Carteret kept a Journal during his trip to the Barbary Coast in 1638, which was printed in limited edition in 1929. Jean Chevalier, a Jersey man, kept a wonderful diary during the years that Sir George was Governor of the Island. The original is in French but the Saunders books draws heavily on the Chevalier Diary. These books may be available through your local library (with the help of the research department) or are sometimes available through the used book search. Some may be available on the US Amazon or UK Amazon.
- All for the King by G.R. Balleine
- Jean Chevalier and His Times by A. C. Saunders
- Sir George Carteret, Lord Proprietor of New Jersey, With a Notice of the Isle of Jersey, And a Brief Sketch of Lord John Berkeley by William Nelson
- The Barbary Voyage of 1638 by Sir George Carteret