Writing Portfolio


Why the Channel Islands aren't French

I’ve just been to Jersey for the weekend – it’s a place I’ve always fancied visiting but I never really got round to going. So when Allison went there on business and I had the chance to fly out and join her for the weekend, I jumped at it. I found out many interesting things about the place, and none of them involve Bergerac.

Officially, Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom but is a self-governing Crown dependency (the same status as Guernsey – which has jurisdiction over most of the other Channel Islands – and the Isle of Man). It has its own parliament (called the States of Jersey) and makes its own laws – including financial regulation, which is why it’s so popular with tax exiles. Although sterling is the currency, Jersey prints its own banknotes (including a £1 note, which the Bank of England stopped doing in the 1980s) and mints its own coins.

Jersey’s actual status with regards to the Crown (and the reason why it’s not French) is an interesting one that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The Channel Islands were originally part of the Duchy of Normandy, and as such their link with England began with the Norman Conquest in 1066. When King John managed to lose his remaining French possessions in 1204, the Channel Islands were omitted from the list of lands he handed over to the King of France. No-one seems to know whether this was deliberate or accidental, although as they were not officially incorporated into the Kingdom of England I suspect it may be the latter. This non-incorporation, by the way, explains why they’re self-governing to this day. An historical consequence of this is that, whenever she visits Jersey, the Queen is informally referred to by the title Duke of Normandy. Going by the way she’s depicted on the pound notes, I’m guessing she’s happy with this arrangement.

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