> CONTEXT > Historical links > Historical links between Normandy and the Channel Islands
The Channel Islands and Normandy have in common their historical, cultural and linguistic roots. In order to explain a little more the close bonds which link “continental Normandy” to “insular Normandy”, we consulted a specialist:
Mr Francois NEVEUX, medieval history teacher at the University of Caen, Lower Normandy, and Deputy Director of the University´s Office of Norman Studies (O.U.E.N.).
He has written many books on Normandy and is the author of the following text:
The Anglo-Norman islands were an integral part of Normandy´s territory between 911, date of foundation of the principality, and 1204, date of their allegiance to the Crown of England. These islands were populated by the same people as the coastal areas, currently located in the department of Manche. The same language was spoken in the Islands and on the continent, a dialect of the French language, the normanno-picard (Normandy-Picardie) dialect, spoken in the area from Manche to the Pas-de-Calais.
On the ecclesiastical context, the Islands belonged to the diocese of Coutances. The Bishop of Coutances continued to exert his spiritual authority there until the Reformation. Several abbeys of the diocese were present in the Islands. The abbey of the Mont Saint-Michel had two priories and other dependences in Jersey and Guernsey as well as two domains in Sark and Alderney. Many of other Norman abbeys also had dependences in the islands. In Jersey, patronages of the parishes belonged to the following abbeys: Mont Saint-Michel, Cerisy (the forest), Notre-Dame-du-Voeu of Cherbourg, Lessay, Blanchelande. The abbey of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte had a priory (in St Peter) and had the patronage of four other parishes (Saint-Helier, Saint-Brelade, Saint-John and Saint-Clement). The abbeys of the continent thus had a considerable amount of influence.
The Islands were first taken over by the French in 1204, at the time of the conquest of Normandy by King Philippe-Auguste. He was unsuccessful in keeping control, mainly because of the action of a curious character, Eustace the Monk. In 1206, allegiance to the English was restored. In 1215, a second attempt was made after the death of Jean sans Terre (John «lackland»), but the islands had to be returned in 1217. When the peace treaty was signed between Henri III and the King of France Louis IX (Louis Saint), in 1258, the question of the Islands was not discussed. However, it was implicit that the King of France accepted the fait accompli.
During the one hundred years war, there was another attempt by the French. In 1338, Robert Bertran, Lord of Bricquebec and Marshal of the Kingdom, seized Guernsey and succeeded in maintaining a garrison at Cornet castle for eight years, until 1346, date on which Edouard III invaded the continental Normandy. During the second phase of the war, the Islands found themselves reunited with the continent, but under the yoke of the Kings of England, Henry V and Henry VI (1418-1450).
In the sixteenth century, the Islands joined the protestant Reformation and the Anglican Church. This created a fundamental rupture in the religious domain, as Normandy remained largely catholic. From then on, any French who found themselves in trouble with the government took refuge in the Channel Islands. During the Revolution, many emigrants settled there. Amongst these, paradoxically, was the catholic Bishop of Bayeux, Mgr Joseph Dominique de Cheylus, who was buried in the cemetery of Saint Saviour in Jersey. In the nineteenth century, Victor Hugo also found refuge in Jersey and subsequently in Guernsey. During the Second World War, the Islands were to undergo the same fate as the continent, when they were occupied by German troops from 1940 to 9 May 1945. Since this date, they have been firmly attached to the Crown of England. The Norman patois is seldom spoken there, English having become the main language. On the other hand, close ties have been forged, especially with Lower Normandy and Manche.