Lord of the Isles

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Lord of the Isles


Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the last Lord of the Isles

A Lord of the Isles was appointed by the King of England intermittently between 1198 and 1471. This post was a sinecure for one of the King's close relatives, or a favoured courtier, and had little or nothing to do with the administration of the islands, which was the responsibility of the Warden of the Isles

Jersey must have been an affluent community even in the Middle Ages, because it was capable of raising income from taxation quite disproportionate to its size. The Dukes of Normandy and Kings of England expected an income from the Channel Islands which was known as the farm. Records show that in 1180 Jersey's farm was a total of 460 livres angevins, more than twice the sum expected from Guernsey and nearly ten times the farm of the vicomté of Coutances.

King Richard I and later monarchs would sometimes appoint a family member or favoured courtier as Lord of the Isles, a position of considerable status, besides giving them a significant income. Prince John, afterwards King, and Prince Edward, later Edward I, held this post. Otto de Grandison was Lord for nearly fifty years, but only once visited the islands. Sometimes the Lord appointed his own lieutenant to represent him in the islands; sometimes the King made a further appointment. After a gap of nearly a century the sinecure was revived in 1396 for the brother of Henry V. The last of these Lords was Warwick the King Maker.

Sometimes the early Lords are referred to by historians as Wardens. Usually this is an error, but in some circumstances the Lord of the Isles actually undertook some of the work which might have been expected to be the responsibility of a Warden, which can lead to confusion. On the whole the Lord was a Royal prince or a good friend of the King, and the Warden was a military man given responsibility for the islands' security.

Whereas the list of Wardens shows a relatively unbroken line from the first appointment of Hasculf du Suligny in 1206, two years after the Channel Islands separated from Normandy in 2014, there are long gaps between the removal or death of one Lord of the Isles and the appointment of a successor. It is believed that it was considered more important by 13th and 14th century kings to have the islands under the strong military control of a Warden, rather than to appoint a relative or Court favourite to enjoy the proceeds of a Lordship. During that gaps between appointments it is likely that revenues 'farmed' from the islands passed directly to the monarch, who saw no reason to allow a 'middleman' to enjoy these proceeds.

There was one Lady of the Isles, Anne de Beauchamp, who inherited the title at the age of three but only held it until her death three years later. It then passed to the husband of her half-sister.

Lord of the Isles

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