George Carteret

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George Carteret

Sir George Carteret
St Peter, Jersey [1]
Died(1680-01-14)14 January 1680
AllegianceFlag of England.svg  Kingdom of England
Service/branchEnglish Red Ensign 1620.svg  Royal Navy
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held Treasurer of the Navy
Comptroller of the Navy
HMS Mary Rose
Signature Signature of George Carteret (c. 1610 - 1680).png
Arms of Carteret: Gules, four fusils in fess argent CarteretArms.png
Arms of Carteret: Gules, four fusils in fess argent

Vice Admiral Sir George Carteret, 1st Baronet (c.1610 – 14 January 1680 N.S.) was a royalist statesman in Jersey and England, who served in the Clarendon Ministry as Treasurer of the Navy. He was also one of the original lords proprietor of the former British colony of Carolina and New Jersey. Carteret, New Jersey, as well as Carteret County, North Carolina, both in the United States, are named after him. He acquired the manor of Haynes, Bedfordshire, (alias Hawnes) in about 1667. [2]


Early life

Carteret was the son of Elias de Carteret and Elizabeth Dumaresq of Jersey, who both died in 1640.[ citation needed ] Elias was the son of Philippe de Carteret I, 2nd Seigneur of Sark. With the help of his Uncle Philippe de Carteret II, 3rd Seigneur of Sark George was able to gain a position in the Royal Navy (George dropped the "de" from his surname when he entered the English navy, concerned that it sounded too French). George was "bred for the sea" and served as an officer in various naval ships, being commissioned as a Lieutenant of the Garland in 1629, and later in 1631, serving under Vice-Admiral Sir John Penington on the Bonaventure .

During this time the young Carteret and Admiral Penington would become friends. This friendship would serve Carteret well, as when Penington became the Admiral of the Narrow Seas in 1632, Carteret was given prominent positions throughout the 1630s where he would eventually be promoted to Captain in 1635 and command the Mary Rose and the Happy Entrance. [3] Carteret would join a small group of Naval Captains in presenting a memorial of the Navy to King Charles I, which according to Samuel Pepys , Carteret was responsible for presenting and recommending the first use of frigates in the Royal Navy, from blueprints of a Frenchman in Saint-Malo. [4]

In 1637, Carteret became involved in raids in the Pirate Republic of Salé in order to rescue Christian captives that were held there. [3] In 1641, Carteret was then a Vice-Admiral in command of the Rainbow. He was given the position of the Comptroller of the Navy in November 1641, for his service to King Charles II. [5]

As a result of his early life at sea, he received little or no formal education, and his embarrassing ignorance was a source of much ridicule in later life. Andrew Marvell mocked his poor command of English, and Samuel Pepys remarked that his ignorance of even the most basic Latin phrases would cause a schoolboy to be whipped. "Such ignorance is not to be borne in a Privy Councillor', wrote Pepys severely.[ citation needed ]

English Civil War

Sir George Carteret's Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649 Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649.jpg
Sir George Carteret's Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649

Carteret quietly tried to carry on his duties at Comptroller of the Navy during the political fallout that had erupted between the supporters of Charles II and the supporters of Parliament. Many within the rank and file of the Royal Navy supported the Parliamentarian cause and the Robert Rich, 2nd Earl of Warwick, a keen parliamentarian, was made the High Lord Admiral of the Royal Navy in 1642 over Carteret's former commanding officer, John Penington, who was a royalist.

On the commencement of the Civil War, he retired from the Navy, and withdrew with his family to Jersey, where his uncle, Sir Philippe de Carteret, was the Bailiff and Lieutenant-Governor. The Island descended into conflict in 1643, with George and his uncle fighting on the side of the Royalists. The Royalists managed to hold onto the twin fortresses of Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castle and soon were able to rout the Island's Parliamentarian supporters. Carteret governed Jersey with great severity, imprisoning Parliamentarian supporters and confiscating their property.

Commissioned vice-admiral and knighted in 1645, Carteret conducted a successful privateering operation against Parliamentarian merchant ships. After the defeat of the Royalists on the mainland in 1645, Carteret afforded an asylum to the Prince of Wales (Charles Stuart) and other refugees of distinction within his government of Jersey, where he served as Bailiff (1643–1651). [5]

Carteret organised the Jersey Militia along parish lines, creating twelve distinct units each with 150 infantrymen under a captain, a lieutenant, as well as a few light guns. Each parish had a small troop of dragoons or mounted infantry. Carteret also had a small private army made up of Royalist veterans, who had fled from England after the defeat of Charles I, and a collection of foreign mercenaries. George Carteret also had Charles II proclaimed King in St. Helier on 17 February 1649 having 23 other prominent people of Jersey including his cousins Sir Philip Carteret and Elias Dumaresq sign the proclamation, after the execution of his father, Charles I. [6]

In 1651, a Parliamentarian expeditionary force was sent to capture the Islands. Colonel James Heane was appointed the military commander of the invasion force which numbered 3,000 men, comprising his own regiment, six companies of Sir Hardress Waller's foot, two troops of horse and 200 men from Guernsey. The naval commander was General-at-Sea Robert Blake, whose fleet included twelve warships and a further seventy supply ships and transports. The fleet was sighted at dawn on the 20 October to the north-east of Jersey and remained anchored in St. Ouen's Bay all day, waiting for favourable winds in order to start disembarking their troops on the shore.

Upon hearing this news, Sir George Carteret mobilized the Jersey Militia as well as his own professional soldiers. He dispatched the militia of Grouville to defend the town of St. Helier, the militia of St. Lawrence to defend the harbour at St. Aubin, and the militia of St. Brelade to defend the Bay of St. Brelade. Carteret took the bulk of the militia to St. Ouen's Bay, which they reached by noon on 20 October. In all, Carteret had about 2,000 men; 300 of which were cavalry, and the rest were infantry, and a score of cannon. With the bulk of the force being conscripts, however, it seems these men had little inclination for a pitched battle against the veterans of the New Model Army.

After several days of the Parliamentarian fleet trying to outmanoeuvre the Royalists (leading many militiamen to desert the Royalist cause), Admiral Blake decided to land his troops in the evening of the 22/23 October. Carteret noticed that some of the ships were heading for the shoreline and he gave the order for his army to prepare for battle. At first, the Royalist cavalry charge was able to thrown the Parliamentarians back into the sea, with the militiamen firing into the ranks of the fleeing invaders.

However, at the crucial moment, the cavalry commander, Colonel Bovill, was struck by a musket bullet and mortally wounded. With this loss, the cavalry fled from the battlefield and, with their retreat, the militiamen soon began to desert despite the efforts of Carteret to rally them. Colonel Heane's troops then got themselves organized and disembarked without incident. [7]

Colonel Heane soon began to overrun the Island, with no resistance being offered by the royalists. Carteret's sole plan was to hold onto the two castles of Mont Orgueil and Elizabeth Castle, as well as the fort on a small islet off St. Aubin's Bay, similar to the royalist strategy in 1643. This did not go according to plan, however, as the garrison of St. Aubin's Fort abandoned their posts to the oncoming parliamentarians on 23 October and Mont Orgueil, which was not suited to artillery warfare, surrendered on 25 October.

George Carteret, however, was determined to hold out at Elizabeth Castle, in the hopes that a royalist relief force from France would arrive, or in the hopes of frustrating the parliamentarians so much that they abandoned the siege.

Elizabeth Castle was a far more imposing fortification than the likes of Mont Orgueil or St. Aubin's Fort. The castle was built on a rocky islet, which was about a mile off the coast, which meant that it was surrounded by the sea on all sides and made it difficult to be bombarded from the land. It also had an arsenal of fifty-three cannon defending the site, which had ample munitions, and enough provisions for the garrison for about eight months. Nevertheless, Colonel Heane erected a number of batteries as close to Elizabeth Castle as possible and began to bombard the castle. Also within Heane's arsenal were three large mortars which fired massive bombs, which were emplaced on a battery near the old harbour of St. Helier.

On the night of 9/10 November, a mortar shell fell onto the roof of the old Abbey Church, which just so happened to be the building where the defenders had been keeping their munitions and gunpowder. The shell exploded on the lowest storey of the priory and detonated the twelve barrels of gunpowder inside, which caused a massive explosion. The blast destroyed several adjacent buildings, which buried forty members of the garrison nearby the blast under rubble. Of these, sixteen men were killed and another ten were wounded.

The blast also destroyed two thirds of food stores and beer and cider rations. A panic ensued amongst the garrison in the aftermath of the explosion, with a number of the defenders deserting their posts and fleeing to St. Helier. These men were quickly captured and interrogated by the parliamentarians, who provided Colonel Heane with valuable information on the state of the castle's fortifications. The morale in the remaining garrison quickly declined, especially after an incident in which a Jerseyman of the garrison was hanged for desertion.

Despite these setbacks, George Carteret was determined to hold out for as long as possible, and he proceeded to keep the King's Standard flying over Elizabeth Castle for nearly another month. In that time, he received word from Charles II who had stated plainly that the French Government were unwilling to help, for fear of sparking a diplomatic incident with the English Commonwealth. Carteret was, therefore, very much on his own. Negotiations commenced between the two sides on 5 December and, by the 15 December, it was agreed the defending garrison was to march out of the castle with full honours, with officers permitted to retain their swords, breastplates, and pistols. Sir George Carteret was allowed to take a single vessel, sail with all his possessions to France, and formally join the household of the exiled Charles II. On the eve of the surrender, Sir George invited Colonel Heane to dinner and they met each other on the rocks at the foot of Fort Charles (Bastion a part of Elizabeth castle). On 15 December, Sir George sailed to St. Malo on his four gun sloop, 'Scout', accompanied by the parliamentarian warship, 'Eagle'. [7]

He stayed in exile in France for a six years until he was imprisoned in 1657, thence he ventured to Venice. The warmth and kindness with which he received the refugees earned him a permanent place in the King's affections, and also the friendship of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, the King's chief adviser during his exile and for the first few years after the Restoration.

Spot of the Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649 Spot of the Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649.jpg
Spot of the Proclamation of King Charles II in Jersey 1649


Carteret was sworn into the Privy Council, appointed Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, and constituted Treasurer of the Navy. [5]

His career for the next decade is documented in the diary of Samuel Pepys, who joined him as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board in 1660. In 1667, he exchanged his office as Vice-Chamberlain with Lord Anglesey for that of Vice-Treasurer of Ireland, an office which he sold in 1669 for £11,000. [5]

His influence seems to have been at its height in 1665, when he boasted to Pepys that the King did nothing without his knowledge; however, as the naval war dragged on, the Treasurer of the Navy was an obvious target of the opposition, and Pepys noted that by the spring of 1666 Carteret was being attacked on all sides. By the autumn of 1667, he confessed to Pepys that he was longing for the quiet of retirement. As Treasurer he was hard working and free from any suspicion of corruption, although his colleagues at the Navy Board complained that they found his accounts difficult to follow.

From 1661 to 1679, he represented Portsmouth, sponsored by the Admiralty, in the Cavalier Parliament. Although he sat on a number of committees he was a fairly inactive member of the house. [8]

American colonies

The fidelity with which Carteret, like John Berkeley, 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton, had clung to the royal cause, gave him also great influence at court: he was close to Clarendon, and to the Earl of Sandwich, whose daughter married Carteret's eldest son. He had, at an early date, taken a warm interest in the colonization of America. In recognition of all the help given to him during his exile in Jersey in the 1640s, Charles II gave Carteret a large grant of land previously named New Netherland, which was promptly renamed New Jersey under his charge. [9] With Berkeley, he became one of the proprietors of the Province of Carolina prior to their becoming jointly interested in East Jersey. Carteret County, North Carolina and town of Carteret, New Jersey are named after him, [5] and the city of Elizabeth, New Jersey, is named after his wife, [10] as is Elizabethtown, North Carolina. [11]

In 1665, Carteret was one of the drafters of the Concession and Agreement , a document that provided freedom of religion in the colony of New Jersey. It was issued as a proclamation for the structure of the government for the colony written by the two proprietors, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret.

Carteret was a signatory to The Several Declarations of The Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading into Africa, a document published in 1667 which led to the expansion of the Royal Africa Company. [12] [13] [14]

Later life

In 1669, he faced expulsion from the House of Commons for misconduct as Vice Chamberlain, being accused of embezzlement. [15] After a statement from the king expressing his satisfaction with Carteret and an acquittal by the House of Lords, the inquiry against him lapsed. He was, in fact, generally regarded as an honest man. [16] [17]

In 1673, he was appointed one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and continued in the public service until his death on 14 January 1680.

Shortly before Carteret's death, the king proposed to give him the title Baron Carteret, but Carteret died too soon, so the honour was granted to his grandson George.


In the Chapel of Mont Orgueil Castle,[ citation needed ] May 1640, George Carteret married his cousin Elizabeth de Carteret, daughter of Philippe de Carteret II, 3rd Seigneur de Sark, and his wife Anne Dowse. [5] They had three sons:

- and five daughters:

Samuel Pepys liked and admired Lady Carteret "the most kind lady in the world." [19]


George Carteret is seen as a divisive figure in Jersey, with some seeing him very much as swashbuckling local hero and others as a prolific slave trader who made his fortune through piracy and slavetrading. [20]

Jersey writer, Ollie Taylor, in his blog 'The whitewashing of George Carteret' says that on the one hand, 'Carteret has also been described as a hero, ‘Jersey’s greatest son’, one of “Jersey’s great figures” and a role model for youngsters.' But Taylor is also critical of a revisionist history saying, "By ignoring a fundamental part of Carteret’s story it ends up being exactly that, a rewriting of history'

He explains that, "He [Carteret] was one of the founding six committee members of the ‘Company of Royal Adventurers into Africa’, set up in 1660 to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. Which apparently was also a family affair with his son James ‘collecting’ over 300 slaves from Africa for transportation to the West Indies during one of the company’s early voyages in 1663. The company was succeeded nine years later and was the template for the ‘Royal African Company’, of whom Carteret was a consultant and early minor investor.

The Royal African Company went on to ship more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Between 1680 and 1688, it transported approximately 5,000 slaves a year totalling around 212,000 between 1662 and 1731. It’s estimated that 44,000 men, women and children died en route, with thousands of those who did survive arriving in the New World with the company’s initials branded on their chests."

In 2014, a Constable of Saint Peter sought and received over £36,000 in public funds to erect a statue of Carteret in Jersey, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of New Jersey. [21] In June 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the widespread removal and destruction of monuments of those involved in slave trading around the world, the statue in Saint Peter was defaced with white paint due to Carteret's involvement with the Royal Africa Company. [22] One historian called the company "the single most prolific trader of slaves". [23] After calls from some residents of Jersey to move the statue to a museum were ignored, [24] it was defaced again in August 2020 with red paint and chains. [25] [26]

See also


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  1. "Sir George Carteret, Baronet | British politician". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 June 2021.
  2. Victoria County History, Bedford, Volume 2, William Page (editor), 1908, pp. 338–344, "Parishes: Hawnes or Haynes"
  3. 1 2 Balleine, G.R (1976). All for the King: The Life Story of Sir George Carteret. St Helier: Societe Jersey. ISBN   0-901897-10-8.
  4. Endsor, Richard (2020). The Master Shipwright's Secrets: How Charles II Built the Restoration Navy. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 42. ISBN   9781472838360.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Firth & Knighton 2008.
  6. Jansso, Maija (10 September 2015). Art and Diplomacy: Seventeenth-Century English Decorated Royal Letters to Russia and the Far East. BRILL, 2015. p. 204. ISBN   9789004300453.
  7. 1 2 Rybot, N.V.L. (1933). Elizabeth Castle.
  8. "CARTERET, Sir George, 1st Bt. (c.1610-80), of Whitehall and Hawnes, Beds". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
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  10. DePalma, Anthony. "If You're Thinking of Living in: Elizabeth", The New York Times , 28 August 1983. Retrieved 21 December 2011. "Elizabethtown, as it was originally called, missed the Elizabethan era by just 60 years and, in any event, the Elizabeth for whom it was named was not the queen but the wife of Sir George Carteret ..."
  11. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp.  116.
  12. Davies, K. G. (Kenneth Gordon) (1999). The Royal African Company. London: Routledge/Thoemmes Press. ISBN   0-415-19072-X. OCLC   42746420.
  13. Pettigrew, William Andrew. Freedom's debt : the Royal African Company and the politics of the Atlantic slave trade, 1672-1752. Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture. Chapel Hill [North Carolina]. ISBN   978-1-4696-1183-9. OCLC   879306121.
  14. Firth, C.H. (3 January 2008). "Carteret, Sir George, first baronet" . In Knighton, C. S. (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4803.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  15. (see Andrew Marvell's Letters, pp. 125, 126)
  16. Henning 1983, p. 30.
  17. Firth, C.H. (3 January 2008). "Carteret, Sir George, first baronet" . In Knighton, C. S. (ed.). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/4803.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  18. Edward Scott for many years denied that he was the father of any of Catherine's children, on the ground that he and his wife had lived apart almost throughout their married life, but ultimately acknowledged Thomas as his son.
  19. "Wednesday 12 July 1665". The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  20. Taylor, Ollie (19 June 2020). "The whitewashing of George Carteret". Nine by Five Media. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  21. Express, Bailiwick (6 July 2020). "Over £36k public money spent on slave trader statue". Bailiwick Express. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  22. "Slave trader's statue is targeted by protesters". 9 June 2020. Archived from the original on 11 June 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  23. "Jersey statue of slave trader defaced with paint". BBC News. 11 June 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  24. "Carteret statue 'should be put in museum'". 11 June 2020. Archived from the original on 5 June 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  25. Express, Bailiwick (14 August 2020). "'Blood and chains' thrown over Carteret statue". Bailiwick Express. Archived from the original on 1 October 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  26. "George Carteret statue vandalised for second time in Jersey". ITV News. 14 August 2020. Retrieved 15 October 2020.

Further reading

Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Portsmouth
With: Richard Norton
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Treasurer of the Navy
Succeeded by
Title last held by
The Earl of Norwich
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
Succeeded by
Legal offices
Preceded by Bailiff of Jersey
Succeeded by
Preceded by Bailiff of Jersey
Succeeded by
Baronetage of England
New creation Baronet
(of Melesches)
Succeeded by