Bailiwick of Guernsey

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Bailiwick of Guernsey
Bailliage de Guernesey (French)
Bailliage dé Guernési (Norman)
Flag of Guernsey.svg
Coat of arms of Guernsey.svg
Coat of arms
Anthem: Sarnia Cherie   (official) a
Location of the Bailiwick of Guernsey (green)

in Europe  (green & dark grey)

Guernsey sm02.png
Sovereign state responsible for Guernsey United Kingdom
Separation from the Duchy of Normandy 1204
Largest city St. Peter Port (St. Pierre Port)
Official languages English
Church of England
Charles III
Richard Cripwell
Richard McMahon
Peter Ferbrache
Legislature States of Guernsey
78 km2 (30 sq mi)(223rd)
 Water (%)
Highest elevation
374 ft (114 m)
 2016 estimate
67,334 [3] (206th)
844/km2 (2,185.9/sq mi)(14th)
GDP  (PPP)2003 estimate
$2.1 billion(176th)
 Per capita
GDP  (nominal)estimate
US$4,513,630,000 [4]
HDI  (2008)0.975 [5]
very high ·  9th
Currency Pound sterling
Guernsey pound (£) (GBP)
Time zone UTC±00:00 (GMT)
  Summer (DST)
UTC+01:00 (BST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Mains electricity 230 V–50 Hz
Driving side left
Calling code +44
ISO 3166 code GG
Internet TLD .gg

The Bailiwick of Guernsey (French : Bailliage de Guernesey; Guernésiais: Bailliage dé Guernési) is an island country off the coast of France as one of the three Crown Dependencies.


Separated from the Duchy of Normandy by and under the terms of the Treaty (or Peace) of Le Goulet in 1204, the Bailiwick comprises a number of islands in the English Channel which fall into three separate sub-jurisdictions: Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. Herm is administered as a part of Guernsey.

A bailiwick is a territory administered by a bailiff. The bailiff of Guernsey is the civil head and presiding officer of the States of Guernsey, but not of Alderney or Sark. He is the head of the judiciary of the Bailiwick.


The history of the Bailiwick of Guernsey goes back to 933, when the islands came under the control of William Longsword, having been annexed from the Duchy of Brittany by the Duchy of Normandy. The island of Guernsey and the other Channel Islands formed part of the lands of William the Conqueror. In 1204 France conquered mainland Normandy – but not the offshore islands of the bailiwick. The islands represent the last remnants of the medieval Duchy of Normandy. [6]

Initially there was one governor, or co-governors working together, of the islands making up the Channel Islands. The title "governor" has changed over the centuries. "Warden", "keeper" and "captain" have previously been used. [7] The bailiff stands in for the Governor, or more recently the Lieutenant Governor, if the latter is absent, for a short term or for longer, for instance during the five years of the German occupation of the Channel Islands. The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey is the Lieutenant Governor of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and, being the personal representative of the British monarch, [8] has usually had a distinguished military service. [9]

Originally the local courts in Guernsey were " fiefs " with the lord of the manor presiding. Before 1066, a superior court was introduced above the fiefs and below the Eschequier Court in Rouen and comprised the bailiff and four knights; the court heard appeals and tried criminal cases. [10]

Otton de Grandson, then the governor of the Islands, delegated the civil powers to two separate bailiffs for Guernsey and Jersey before he went on crusade to the Holy Land in 1290. [11] :21 This can be assessed as the date of first creation of the two bailiwicks.


Islands and islets belonging to the Bailiwick of Guernsey, shown within the Channel Islands Guernsey location map.svg
Islands and islets belonging to the Bailiwick of Guernsey, shown within the Channel Islands

Situated around 49°34′N2°23′W / 49.57°N 2.38°W / 49.57; -2.38 Coordinates: 49°34′N2°23′W / 49.57°N 2.38°W / 49.57; -2.38 , Alderney, Guernsey, Herm, Sark, and some other smaller islands together have a total area of 78 km2 (30 sq mi) and coastlines of about 50 km (31 mi). Elevation varies from sea level to 114 m (374 ft) at Le Moulin on Sark.

There are many smaller islands, islets, rocks and reefs in the Bailiwick. Combined with a tidal range of 10 m and fast currents of up to 12 knots, this makes sailing in local waters dangerous.

Constitutional status

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a separate jurisdiction in itself, and is in turn also three separate sub-jurisdictions. It does not form part of, and is separate from (but is not independent of, or from) the United Kingdom. [12] The two Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey together make up the Channel Islands.

The Islanders have never had formal representation in the House of Commons of the British Parliament, [8] nor in the European Parliament. [12] Those Islanders who were not somehow qualified and eligible in their own right to register to vote and to vote in the United Kingdom under the Representation of the People Acts as overseas voters, were excluded from the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum.

Guernsey has an unwritten constitution arising from the Treaty of Paris (1259). When Henry III and the King of France came to terms over the Duchy of Normandy, the Norman mainland fell under the suzerainty of the King of France. The Channel Islands however remained loyal to the British crown due to the loyalties of its Seigneurs. However, they were never absorbed into the Kingdom of England by any Act of Union and exist as "peculiars of the Crown".

A unique constitutional position has arisen as successive British monarchs have confirmed the liberties and privileges of the Bailiwick, often referring to the so-called Constitutions of King John, a legendary document supposed to have been granted by King John in the aftermath of 1204. Governments of the Bailiwick have generally tried to avoid testing the limits of the unwritten constitution by avoiding conflict with British governments.

This peculiar political position has often been to the benefit of islanders. Until the 19th century, the Bailiwick was generally able to be exempt from the harsher parts of Westminster legislation, while being included in favourable policies, such as protectionist economic policies. England, and later the United Kingdom, passively exploited the strategic benefits of the Channel Islands. For example, they were able to serve as a convenient stop-off point for trade to Gascony. [13]


The bailiwick comprises twelve parishes: Alderney, Sark and ten on mainland Guernsey (one of which includes Herm). Each parish has a parish church from the 11th century, with strong religious control exercised initially from the French Catholic church and for the last 500 years from the English church. Over the years the religious aspect of the administration of each parish has been reduced in favour of democratically elected douzeniers.


Each jurisdiction has inhabited and uninhabited islands and its own elected government. All three legal jurisdictions need royal assent from the Monarch on its primary legislation. Each jurisdiction raises its own taxation, [8] although in 1949 Alderney transferred its rights to Guernsey.


With a population of around 1,900 in 7.8 km2 (3 sq mi), Alderney has its own parliament, the States of Alderney, which has ten elected members and an elected president. [14]

From 1612 Alderney had a judge appointed, with similar judicial powers to a bailiff; but on 1 January 1949 the island adopted a new constitution, giving up some independence, moving closer to Guernsey and confirming that it is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey.[ citation needed ]


The island of Guernsey has a population of around 63,000 in 62 km2 (24 sq mi) and forms the legal and administrative centre of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The parliament of Guernsey and of the nearby inhabited islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou [8] is the States of Guernsey. [14]


Sark has a population of around 600 who live in 2 square miles (5.2 km2). Its parliament (together with the inhabited island of Brecqhou) [8] is the Chief Pleas of Sark, with 18 elected members. [14]

In 1565, Helier de Carteret, Seigneur of St. Ouen in Jersey, was granted the fief of Sark by Queen Elizabeth I. He received letters patent granting him Sark in perpetuity, on condition that he kept the island free of pirates and that the island was occupied by at least forty men to defend it. Despite most families coming from Jersey, Sark remained within the Bailiwick of Guernsey. [15]


Duchy of Normandy three leopards symbol Three Leopards Shield.jpg
Duchy of Normandy three leopards symbol

There is no flag or coat of arms for the Bailiwick of Guernsey. In historic times, the governor would have used his personal symbols before a generic flag for use by the governor was created.

In 1279 Edward I granted a Seal for use in the Channel Islands. In 1304 separate seals were provided to Jersey and Guernsey. The provision of separate seals is one of the earliest indications of the separate identity and personality of the two Bailiwicks. The seal comprised three leopards (or lions), a symbol taken from the original arms of the Duchy of Normandy. [16]

The United Kingdom and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom are responsible for the defence and also for formal international, intergovernmental and consular representation of, and the foreign affairs generally, of the Bailiwick. [8]

While never a member of the European Union or its predecessors, before Brexit the Bailiwick had a special relationship with the EU, under Protocol 3 of the UK's Treaty of Accession 1972 to the European Community. [8] Pooling resources with Jersey, the Bailiwick established in 2010 an office in Brussels to develop the Channel Islands' influence with the EU, [17] to advise the Channel Islands' governments on European matters, and to promote economic links with the EU. [18]

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is in the Commonwealth (Commonwealth of Nations), although not as a member, in its own right. The Bailiwick is also a member of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and competes in the Commonwealth Games. [19]

In 1969 Royal Mail relinquished control of postal services in the Bailiwick, [20] with Guernsey then being recognised by the Universal Postal Union.[ citation needed ]

Since 1999 the Bailiwick of Guernsey has been a member of the British–Irish Council, currently represented by the Chief Minister of Guernsey.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Channel Islands</span> Archipelago in the English Channel

The Channel Islands are an archipelago in the English Channel, off the French coast of Normandy. They include two Crown Dependencies: the Bailiwick of Jersey, which is the largest of the islands; and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, consisting of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm and some smaller islands. They are considered the remnants of the Duchy of Normandy and, although they are not part of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands. The Crown dependencies are not members of the Commonwealth of Nations, nor have they ever been in the European Union. They have a total population of about 171,916, and the bailiwicks' capitals, Saint Helier and Saint Peter Port, have populations of 33,500 and 18,207, respectively.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guernsey</span> Island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy

Guernsey is an island in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy that is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a British Crown Dependency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Guernsey</span> Historical development of Guernsey

The history of Guernsey stretches back to evidence of prehistoric habitation and settlement and encompasses the development of its modern society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Politics of Guernsey</span>

Politics of Guernsey take place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic British Crown dependency.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Herm</span> Island in the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the Channel Islands

Herm is one of the Channel Islands and part of the Parish of St Peter Port in the Bailiwick of Guernsey. It is located in the English Channel, north-west of France and south of England. It is 2.183 km (1.356 mi) long and under 873 metres (2,864 ft) wide; oriented north–south, with several stretches of sand along its northern coast. The much larger island of Guernsey lies to the west, Jersey lies to the south-east, and the smaller island of Jethou is just off the south-west coast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crown Dependencies</span> Self-governing possessions of the British Crown

The Crown Dependencies are three island territories in the British Islands that are self-governing possessions of the British Crown: the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey, and the Isle of Man. They are not part of the United Kingdom (UK) nor are they British Overseas Territories. They have the status of "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible", rather than sovereign states. As a result, they are not member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. However, they do have relationships with the Commonwealth and other international organisations, and are members of the British–Irish Council. They have their own teams in the Commonwealth Games.

The bailiff is the chief justice in each of the Channel Island bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey, also serving as president of the legislature and having ceremonial and executive functions. Each bailiwick has possessed its own bailiff since the islands were divided into two jurisdictions in the 13th century. The bailiffs and deputy bailiffs are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Secretary of State for Justice and may hold office until retirement age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiff of Guernsey</span> Head of the government of Guernsey

The title Bailiff of Guernsey has been used since at least the 13th century and indicated the leading citizen of Guernsey.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bailiff of Jersey</span>

The Bailiff of Jersey is the civic head of the Bailiwick of Jersey. In this role, he is not the head of government nor the head of state, but the chief justice of Jersey and presiding officer of Jersey's parliament, the States Assembly. The Bailiff is also the President of the Royal Court. It is similar in role to the Bailiff of Guernsey.

A bailiwick is usually the area of jurisdiction of a bailiff, and once also applied to territories in which a privately appointed bailiff exercised the sheriff's functions under a royal or imperial writ. The bailiwick is probably modelled on the administrative organization which was attempted for a very small time in Sicily and has its roots in the official state of the Hohenstaufen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey</span>

The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey is the representative of the British monarch in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, a Crown dependency of the British Crown. The role of the Lieutenant Governor is to act as the de facto head of state in Guernsey and as liaison between the governments of Guernsey and the United Kingdom. The holder of this office is also ex officio a member of the States of Guernsey but may not vote and, by convention, speaks in the Chamber only on appointment and on departure from post. The duties are primarily diplomatic and ceremonial. He has the authority to appointment two members of the board of governors of Elizabeth College and the Priaulx Library.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Outline of Guernsey</span> Overview of and topical guide to Guernsey

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Guernsey:

This page list topics related to the Bailiwick of Guernsey, including Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and smaller islands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leader of Alderney</span>

The Leader of Alderney is the civil leader of Alderney. Alderney is a dependency of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Its leader has traditionally been appointed by the British Crown and has been known by various titles including Lord of Alderney, Governor of Alderney, and the current President of the States of Alderney. The President of the States of Alderney is directly elected every four years and there is no constitutional limit to the number of terms served. The current president, William Tate has held the post since 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">External relations of Guernsey</span>

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy. As a bailiwick, Guernsey embraces not only all ten parishes on the island of Guernsey, but also the islands of Alderney and Sark – each with their own parliament – and the smaller islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou. Although its defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, the Bailiwick is not part of the United Kingdom, but, as its description suggests, a possession of the Crown. Consequently, though it lies within the Common Travel Area, it was never part of the European Union.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Jews in Guernsey</span>

The history of the Jews in Guernsey dates back to well before the events of 1940–5. A London Jew named Abraham was described in 1277 as being from "La Gelnseye" (Guernsey). A converted Portuguese Jew, Edward Brampton, was appointed Governor of Guernsey in 1482.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Courts of Guernsey</span> Court system of Guernsey

The Courts of Guernsey are responsible for the administration of justice in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands. They apply the law of the Island, which is a mixture of customary law dating back as far as the 10th century and legislation passed by the legislature, the States of Deliberation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Law of Guernsey</span> Corpus of law governing the island of Guernsey

The Law of Guernsey originates in Norman Customary Law, overlaid with principles taken from English common law and [French law], as well as from statute law enacted by the competent legislature(s) -- usually, but not always, the States of Guernsey

The Competition (Jersey) Law 2005 is Jersey's statutory law governing competition in the markets. On 23 June 2005, the States of Jersey approved the Act.


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