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Medieval (1066 - 1485)

In 933 The Channel Islands came within the direction of Dukes of Normandy and by 1028 Guernsey had been divided into two large fiefs held by two Norman Seigneurs. The invasion of England by Duke William of Normandy in 1066 brought Guernsey closer England though its laws and language continued to follow that of the Normans or Northmen. Guernsey became part of a realm that eventually stretched from the North of England to South Western France. By this time Benedictine monks had set up a priory in the Vale, and later on Lihou Island and the consecration of a number of churches during the 12th century established the 10 parishes of the Island.

In 1204 Philippe Auguste of France won the Duchy of Normandy from his cousin King John of England who, for all sorts of reasons was failing to hold together the dominions over which he had control. Guernsey was under the control of Pierre de Preaux the Lord of the Isles, who surrendered his Norman holdings to Philippe Auguste at Rouen while managing to omit the Channel Islands from the terms of the submission. This was possibly a deliberate attempt to please King John as de Preaux had land holdings in England as well as in France. Guernsey remained with the English Crown.

King John recognised the strategic importance of Guernsey and plans were made to build Castle Cornet on the rock at the entrance to the harbour.  At the same time sites such as the Chateau des Marais that had been mainly used as a refuge from pirates and local conflicts, were strengthened. The political separation of the islands from Normandy led to a series of continuous raids from the French and in 1294 the French attacked and killed 25% of the population of St Peter Port. The Bailiwick fell into French hands again in 1338 and Castle Cornet was taken on at least two occasions. Although in 1360 the French abandoned claims to the islands in return for British recognition of the Bishopric of Coutances the French threat continued. A local defence force, later known as the 'Militia' was set up but the island suffered until the mid 15th century as the raiders laid waste the countryside and attacked and killed scores of the population.

In the early 1300s the central market was moved to St Peter Port from the Castel and legal taxes were introduced to finance repairs to the harbour. The local economy relied on the wine trade and fishing and despite the loss of the markets in Normandy Guernsey continued to trade with Gascony. When Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II, her lands had become part of the English holdings and with the loss of Normandy goods from the Angevin Empire had to be brought along the west coast of France. This was ideal for Guernsey who was en route to the South of England. Trade was further helped by the privileges given to Bordeaux merchants.

Ships such as the 'Mary' were built in Guernsey. She was launched in 1415 and used to ferry troops to France for Henry V. Guernsey traders also obtained special grants from Henry VI of Castille for safe conduct within his domains. This helped to offset some of the problems Guernsey faced as French attacks on the island continued.

Owen of Wales, acting with French support, landed at Vazon in 1372.  His army defeated hastily assembled Guernsey forces near where the Castel School now stands.  Froissart's Chronicles gives an outline of the story, but the local ballad known as Ivon de Galles, ou la descente des Aragousais, embellishes this story considerably, and may even amalgamate the events connected with two invasions by the French.  Please find a copy of the ballad to download below.