Sir George Carteret
Jersey has produced some remarkable men, but few of them led more eventful lives than Sir George Carteret. Every Jerseyman knows how in the Civil War, for eight years he held Elizabeth Castle for the Crown, provided a refuge for the Prince of Wales when he was driven out of Cornwall, and later, when Cromwell ruled England, provided Charles II with the only spot where he could function as a King. The rest of his life, however, is less familiar; so this article will try to sketch his career as a whole.
He was one of the St Ouen de Carterets, and his uncle, Sir Philippe, was Seigneur of the Manor; but George's father, Elie, a younger brother, had a house in the Town, in what is now Broad Street. Here in 1609 or 1610 the boy was born. But later Elie bought a farm at St Peter on Mont des Vignes, and there George was brought up in the house now called The Elms. French, or rather Jersey French, was his native tongue, and he never lost his Jersey accent. Fifty years later, when he was a great man in the Restoration Court, Andrew Marvell wrote:
- "Carteret the rich did the accountants guide, And in ill English all the world defied".
The ancient Grammar School of St Anastase stood in St Peter, and there the boy was sent; but he did not stay long enough to pick up much Latin. Pepys scoffs in his Diary at his ignorance of the Classics, "ignorance not to be borne in a Privy Councillor"; but his letters show that he learnt to write good grammatical English, remarkable in one whose mother tongue was French; and he could not have become Treasurer of the Navy and later Treasurer of Ireland, unless he had been a sound arithmetician.
When 13 he went to sea. Lady Fanshawe says in her Memoirs: "He was bred as a sea boy". This almost certainly means that he joined the Newfoundland fishing fleet. The long Atlantic crossing in a 60-ton boat, the three month cruise among the fogs and icebergs off Newfoundland, the long sail south to some Catholic port, where fast-days created a demand for salt cod, was a rough but thorough school of seamanship. Clarendon described George later as: "undoubtedly as good, if not the best seaman of England".
His uncle, Sir Philippe, who, as leading member of the States often crossed to England to confer with the Privy Council, knew many Government officials. So when George was old enough, he was able to get him into the Navy as an "officer's servant". There were no midshipmen in those days, and this was the usual way for a young seaman of good family to qualify for a commission. George now dropped the "de" from his name, lest he should be thought a Frenchman. In 1629 he became Lieutenant of the Garland, a little fifth-rater employed in chasing Channel pirates. But his Admiral discovered that his knowledge of French enabled him to pass as a Frenchman; so he dropped him by night on the French coast to spy out the strength and preparedness of the French Navy. He visited the chief naval ports, and his eeport to the Admiralty is still in the Record Office.
His reward was his first independent command. He was given the Eighth Lion's whelp. The whelps were a new experiment in ship-building, little boats built expressly for speed to be pirate-chasers. Promotion now came steadily. In 1635 he was Captain of the Mary Rose with six ships under him to guard the Straits of Dover, a dull job, consisting largely of convoying cargo-boats, carrying dispatches, and ferrying distinguished people across the Channel.
But then came an adventure. The most pestilent of the pirate lairs was Sallee on the African Atlantic coast. Every summer its little black boats crept out to sweep the English Channel. In 1636 they captured 87 English ships, and were said to be holding 1,100 English seamen as slaves. In 1637 a punitive expedition sailed with Carteret as Vice-Admiral. The pirates' port lay up a river, and the English ships proved too heavy to cross the river bar; so for three months they had to toss about outside, till pinnaces could arrive from England, watching to see that not a single dhow slipped out. On moonless nights Carteret would lead the ships' boats up the river to burn some of the pirates' craft.
In July, before the pinnaces arrived, Sallee surrendered, and Carteret returned to England with 300 rescued slaves. But he had not seen the last of Sallee. In 1638 he was ordered to take home the envoy who had come to arrange terms of peace. The story of this voyage is printed in A Journall keepte by me, George Carteret, in his Matie's Shippe, the Convertine, being bound for the Coast of Barbarie. At Sallee civil war was raging, so he sailed further south to meet the King of Morocco, and received a letter from him "wherein he gave me to understand that letters from the King, my Master, gave him power to employ me in his service against the rebels".
This raised an awkward question. Was the Moor lying? Carteret asked to see Charles' letter, and waited six weeks for an answer. Hearing nothing, he sailed back to Sallee, hoping to find the King there, but learnt that he had left for the opposite side of his Kingdom. So he came home to England. He gave two communion cups to St Ouen's Church as an offering for his return.
Something now happened which had influence on his future. Kings used to promise a post to a person, when next it fell vacant. This was called a reversion. Sir Philippe, who was now Bailiff, secured a Patent granting the next succession to this office, first to his brother, Elie, then to his nephew George.
Meanwhile George had fallen in love with his cousin Elizabeth, Sir Philippe's daughter. By some strange chance a bundle of their love-letters has survived among the State Papers. Some of our readers might like us to print these in full; but space forbids. One sample must be enough. George tells his "sweet Bettie":
- "This is the third letter I have written to you this week, and I am certain that, when Thomas Roe came to Jersey, you had more letters from me than you could read in a month. Today I landed the Earl of Leicester at Dieppe, and he gave me a chain of gold. What it is worth I know not; but, such as it is, I give it to my dear Bettie. If you think fit, I will sell it, and put the money into a collar of pearls, or you shall have it as it is."
They were married in May 1640 in the Chapel at Mont Orgueil.
Carteret now looked for a shore job, and in 1641 became Comptroller of the Navy, and he and his bride went to live in the Navy Office in Seething Lane, close to the Tower of London. London in 1641 was not a pleasant place to live in. The city was in an ugly mood. Riots were of daily occurrence. Charles I's attempt to rule without a Parliament had failed, and, now that a Parliament had been called, his attempt to arrest five of its members had made matters worse. He had withdrawn to Windsor, and seamen from the naval ships in the Thames had brought the five members back in triumph, the first indication of how feeling in the fleet was moving. Next day, when the Governor of the Tower was suspected of meaning to hold the Tower for the King, "the seamen offered their services to batter down the doors ", and Seething Lane, where the Carterets lived, was plugged tight by an enormous crowd to prevent food reaching the garrison.
Hitherto Carteret had shown no special interest in English politics. The grievances of the English Parliament meant little to Home Rule Jersey. None of his letters comment on English political questions, nor had his loyalty to the King seemed warmer than that expected of every officer. But now everyone had to choose sides. Civil War was inevitable. Parliament appointed the Earl of Warwick, an ardent Parliamentarian, Lord High Admiral, and, says Clarendon, "decided that Captain Carteret, a man of great eminency and reputation in naval command, should be Vice-Admiral." To become Vice-Admiral of England was indeed a dazzling offer; but the King forbade him to accept. So he quietly withdrew to Jersey. Henceforth his attitude never altered. Royalism became his religion, a simple, almost dog-like, devotion to the Crown.
It must have been a relief to get Elizabeth out of London, for she was expecting her first baby, who was born on 24 October 1642 in Mont Orgueil, where her father was living as Lieut-Governor. George now registered with the Royal Court Patents for three manors, Meleches, Grainville, and Noirmont, which the King had given him for his work at Sallee.
The first battle of the Civil War was fought on the day before the baby was born; and now, says Clarendon:
- "Impatient to be quiet, while his Master was in the field, Carteret went to Cornwall, purposing to raise a troop of horse; but the Commanders acquainted him with their desperate need of powder, and importuned him to assist them, that the ports in their power might be used to supply this. Whereupon he returned to France, and, first on his own credit, then in return for commodities from Cornwall, he supplied them with all kinds of ammunition".
For the next 11 months he lived at St Malo, where Elizabeth and her baby joined him. The Cornish Royalists sent cargoes of tin, which he sold, and sent back cargoes of powder and bullets.
Back to Jersey
The exciting story of the next nine years (1642-51) has been told so fully in Hoskins's Charles II in the Channel Islands and in Chevalier's Journal that we shall only summarize it. At first Sir Philippe tried to keep his island neutral, arguing that the troubles of the English Parliament did not concern Jersey; but, when in January 1643 he supplied George with ammunition from Elizabeth Castle for the beleaguered garrison at Pendennis, Parliament ordered his arrest. He then openly held the Castle for the King, while his wife held Mont Orgueil; but the rest of the island was controlled by the local Parliamentary Committee.
The island Militia besieged the Castles, but, having neither the guns nor the experience needed for storming fortresses, a stalemate was soon reached. The Militiamen began to drift home to their farms. Everyone grew sick of the war. Lydcott, the Parliamentary Governor, quarrelled with the States. Sir Philippe died in the Castle, and George was appointed Lieut-Governor. In November he landed at Mont Orgueil. Lydcott and his chief supporters fled; and George regained the island without striking a blow.
He ruled it for the next eight years; but it was no easy task. The religion of the island was Calvinism; so the sympathies of the people were with the Puritan Parliament. Chevalier, himself a Royalist, confesses that, though Cornish and Irish mercenaries held the Castles for the King, most of his fellow-islanders were on the other side. Periodically every man was summoned to his Parish Church to swear and sign an oath of loyalty to the King. "But", says Chevalier, "this was futile. The people's bodies were under control, but Carteret had not won their hearts ".
He financed his government largely by privateering. He had a swift galley built at St Malo, and sent it out to prey on the Channel shipping. Every ship captured was converted into another privateer till he had a little fleet under his command. The cargoes of the captured ships found a ready sale in France, and in this way he not only paid his soldiers, but acquired a large private fortune. Pepys says that he told him that at the Restoration he was worth £50,000.
About this time he acquired two titles. In June 1645 he is addressed as "Sir George Carteret"; so he must have been knighted. By March 1646 he had become "Messire George de Carteret, Chevalier et Baronet". A ripple of Royalism ran through the island, when in April 1646 the young Prince of Wales took refuge in it; but after ten weeks his mother insisted that he should join her in Paris.
When the King was a prisoner in the Isle of Wight Carteret twice made plans to rescue him, but they came to nothing. When news reached Jersey in 1649 that the King had been beheaded, though Parliament threatened death to any who should speak of "Charles Stuart, commonly called the Prince of Wales" as King, Carteret ordered the Vicomte to proclaim the Prince in the Market as "by right of lawful succession our sole and sovereign Lord".
In September 1649 Charles II came to Jersey, the only place in his dominions that would receive him as King (even Guernsey was Parliamentarian), and remained for five months. He then left for Holland, but before leaving he gave Carteret, in return for his hospitality, some islands off the coast of Virginia. These Sir George renamed New Jersey, and sent out a party of emigrants to colonize them; but on their first day at sea they were captured by a Parliamentary privateer, and we hear no more of this first New Jersey. The present State of New Jersey lies 250 miles further north.
One other token he received of the King's gratitude. At the foot of an order for the exchange of prisoners Charles scrawled a message:
- "Carteret, I will add this under my owne hand, that I can never forget the good service you have done to my father and to me; and, if God bless me, you shall find I doe remember them to the advantage of you and yours; and for this you have the word of your very loving freind, CHARLES R."
For the next 20 months life in Jersey was comparatively peaceful, though Carteret's privateers were busy at sea. Reports to Cromwell record continuously
- July 14. Five English vessels taken by boats from Jersey carrying 5 or 6 great guns.
- July 18. Two prizes taken by a Jersey frigate, which had 8 guns, 24 oars, and 80 men. There are 12 of these frigates belonging to Jersey.
This could not be allowed to continue. When the Battle of Worcester had smashed Charles's attempt to gain his throne, Cromwell had time to deal with Jersey. In October 1651 80 ships under Admiral Blake sailed into St Ouen's Bay. The veterans of the New Model easily forced a landing. Carteret had to withdraw his men into the two Castles. Those in Mont Orgueil forced their commander to surrender, and after 50 days Carteret in Elizabeth Castle had to do the same, after a great bomb from the Town Hill had blown up his powder and two-thirds of his provisions.
I have hurried over these eight years, for their story has been told so often, not only in the authorities already mentioned, but in Saunders's Jean Chevalier and his Times, and my Biographical Dictionary of Jersey.
But we now reach a period of Carteret's life about which little has been written, his eight-and-a-half years in exile. He joined Elizabeth and her children at St Malo, where they remained till the Restoration; but then he went on to find the King in Paris. Here he found himself in disgrace. The King had left in Jersey a trunk of State papers, which Carteret had not brought with him, and these had fallen into Cromwell's hands. Partly because of this, partly because the atmosphere of the roistering, hard-drinking Refugee Court jarred on his Jersey Puritanism, he resumed his privateering, and we find him off the coast of Flanders with 13 of his privateers which had followed him to France, capturing any ships that were on their way to London.
In July 1652 came an unexpected invitation. In those days the chief posts in the French Army and Navy were reserved for Princes of the Blood Royal. The Lord High Admiral was the Duke of Vendome, an illegitimate son of Henry IV. He wore a handsome naval uniform, but he had not any idea how to handle a fleet in battle. So, when the Spaniards blockaded La Rochelle, and he was ordered to attack them, he appealed to Carteret for help. Carteret stood at his side on the poop of the flagship, and directed the movements of the fleet, and won a decisive victory. The Natividad, the Goliath of the Spanish Navy, was burnt to the water's edge; another of their largest ships was dismasted and captured; only the coming of night enabled the others to escape. "Sir George Carteret", wrote Hyde, "hath gotten infinite reputation by the late sea-fight with the Spaniard".
He then returned to privateering. In October a Commonwealth paper reported: "Carteret doth much infest the North Coast. With 15 sail he hath surprised 11 English vessels." According to one account he actually joined the Dutch Navy. He was certainly busy at this time with some mysterious plot for handing over Guernsey to the Dutch.
But now the exiles in Paris asked why did so little money flow into the King's Exchequer from the privateers that were flying the King's colours? Carteret came to Brest to investigate. He found that two of his Jersey boats, the Francis and the Patrick had taken prizes worth £100,000 and only accounted for £14,000. So he sacked both the captains, and took the boats under his own command.
Vendome had again appealed to him for help. Bordeaux was defying the French King, and Vendome was ordered to blockade it from the river, and he took Carteret with him. A Spanish fleet of 33 warships tried to bottle him up in the river; but, when he brought his fire-ships out, they cut their cables and fled. As they had a good start, most of them escaped; but Carteret's little boats, the Francis and the Patrick, had been built for speed. They overhauled the great lumbering galleon of the Spanish Vice-Admiral and dismasted her; so that, when the rest of the fleet came up, she had to surrender. Next day the Regia arrived from Spain, carrying a thousand men. Mistaking the French fleet for the Spanish, she sailed up to join it. The Francis and the Patrick dashed out, and, before she knew what was happening, she was boarded and captured.
"The Spanish Vice-Admiral's ship", wrote Hyde, "and another laden with soldiers have been captured near Bordeaux. This was performed principally by Sir George Carteret."
But he was more than a fighting sailor scrambling over the enemy's bulwarks with his cutlass between his teeth. He had learnt a good deal about ship-building. The French now decided to make use of his knowledge. They appointed him Superintendent of the King's Shipyards at a salary of over £1,000 a year. He left his mark on French naval construction. De la Ronciere in his great Histoire de la Marine Francaise calls him "the Apostle of the light frigates". Elsewhere he says: "It is to George Carteret that we owe the use of dry docks, and perhaps of tarpaulins, awnings, and collision mats ".
In spite of these duties he continued privateering, though he no longer went to sea himself. In September 1655 he had eight boats working from Brest, harrying Commonwealth ships in the Channel. But now life grew more difficult. In November, France made a Commercial Treaty with Cromwell, one condition of which was that Charles and his partisans should be expelled; and they had to move into the Spanish Netherlands; but Carteret escaped deportation by a clause exempting any who had entered the French army or navy. But, when in 1657 this Commercial Treaty became a Military Alliance, Carteret was in a dilemma. France and Spain were at war. As an officer in the French navy he was bound to fight for France; but Charles had made a Treaty with Spain, and with Spanish gold was recruiting an army for the invasion of England.
Carteret urged that the regiments, which Charles had enlisted in Belgium, should first be used to reconquer Jersey, which would then become a Royalist fortress, where the King's army could muster without interference from foreigners, and the King's fleet could find anchorage. This scheme found considerable support among the King's advisers, but, before anything was done, Cromwell heard of it, and Carteret was in the Bastille. He remained there for four months. Henrietta Maria, Charles's French mother, tried hard to secure his release, and Mazarin was not wholly unwilling, for he did not know where to find as good a ship-builder. So on 10 December he was set free; but, to please Cromwell, he was banished from the Kingdom. He was allowed, however, to settle at Nice in Savoy, "where", says Nicholas, " he will be near to give advice at Toulon in marine affairs."
When Cromwell died on 3 September 1658, Carteret returned at once to the shipyards at Brest. The Royalists now hoped for a speedy Restoration, but they were disappointed. Richard Cromwell succeeded his father without a word of opposition. So they fell back on plotting. Plans were made for risings in every county in June 1659, and Carteret moved to Rennes to be ready to cross the Channel. But Cromwell's veterans soon made mincemeat of these amateur plotters. A Restoration seemed farther off than ever.
But Richard Cromwell proved a dud. He had no idea how to handle Parliament or to tackle rebellious colonels. With Cromwell's strong hand no longer on the helm, the country began to drift into anarchy. In Scotland, however, was General Monck, a strong man who had always managed to keep clear of politics. He marched south to restore order. At first he had no intention of recalling Charles, but he soon saw that nothing but the old form of Government by King, Lords, and Commons gave any hope of stability. On 8 May 1660 he persuaded Parliament to proclaim Charles as King.
As soon as Carteret heard this he came post-haste to London. The King had appointed him Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household; so it was his job to get Whitehall ready for its new tenants, no light task, for the huge building stretched from Charing Cross to Westminster. The royal apartments had to be prepared for the King, his mistresses, and his spaniels. Every high State Official expected quarters in the Palace, and Carteret secured for his family a pleasant suite overlooking the river. It must have been the busiest fortnight of his life. But on 29 May, when the royal cavalcade arrived, all was ready.
Two deaths in the Royal Family postponed the Coronation until April 1661. Then, by ancient custom, the King had to ride from the Tower to Westminster "to be seen of the people". In the procession, says Pepys, Carteret was followed by "a company of men all like Turks", probably to recall his Sallee adventure, for Moors were often called Turks. At the Coronation itself Carteret acted as Almoner, collecting in a silver bowl the alms of the guests at the banquet, and distributing its contents.
He had now given up all idea of returning to Jersey. He sold his old home at St Peter to a nephew, and resigned the Bailiffship in favour of his cousin, the Seigneur of St Ouen. England offered more exciting possibilities.
Honours and their attendant duties now came crowding on him. First, a seat on the Privy Council, and the Council was at this time the real ruler of England. Parliament met only for fixed sessions, and was often prorogued. The Council met twice every week, often with the King in the chair. And, inside this larger body, a small group, already known as the Cabinet, was steadily gaining power, and we find Carteret described as "of the Cabinet Council".
He also represented Portsmouth in the Cavalier Parliament, which lasted for 17 years, and sat on most of its important committees. The most exacting of his tasks was the Treasurership of the Navy, to which we will return in a moment; but the most distinguished was the Vice-Chamberlainship of the King's Households. By this name he was always known: "The Vice-Chamberlain addressed the House"; " A letter was read from the Vice-Chamberlain". His duties were extensive. Every servant in these enormous households from paymaster to scullions was sworn to obey his orders, and "to him belongeth the oversight of the Chaplains, though he be a layman.
Nothing could be bought, till his signature was scrawled at the foot of the order. In a bundle of these in the Record Office the orders range from "three diamonds worth £800 each to be given to the Dutch ambassadors" to "12 chamber-pottes for the use of the Scottish commissioners"; from preparing a Catholic Chapel for the Queen to a suit of clothes for a choirboy whose voice had cracked. Everywhere he carried the long, white rod, which was his staff of office, and wore on his breast a golden key, the sign that he could enter any door in any palace. In addition to his quarters in Whitehall he had a house in Windsor Forest "a noble seat", says Pepys, "with a noble prospect"; but cockney-like he adds, "otherwise melancholy with little variety, only trees".
As Treasurer of the Navy Carteret had another house in Deptford dockyard. This he made his chief home. Deptford was then a pleasant little Kentish town, surrounded by cherry orchards. He soon found the Treasurership no bed of roses. Cromwell had taken pride in his navy, but in the long interregnum everything had gone to pieces. Carteret inherited a debt of £678,000; yet the Commons granted him in his first year only £169,000, and in his second £172,000. Not until 1663, when money came in from the sale of Dunkirk to the French, could he balance his accounts. But this relief was only temporary. In 1665 England drifted into war with Holland, the strongest sea power in Europe; and he was called on to equip 160 ships with all that such a struggle required. The Navy was bankrupt. The sailors were actually being paid in IOU tickets, which they had to cash ashore for what they could get for them.
"The men of the Breda", wrote Pepys, who was now Carteret's Clerk of the Acts, "are breaking the windows of our office, swearing they will not budge without money". In three dockyards the men struck, refusing to do another stroke of work until they received their pay. And now, when money was most needed, the Plague and the Fire upset the whole machinery of taxation. In this crisis Carteret threw his own fortune into the scale. He borrowed £280,000 by pledging his own property, and so kept the fleet at sea. But the war went badly. The Dutch sailed up the Thames, burnt or scuttled the ships at Chatham, and towed down the River the Royal Charles, the pride of the British Navy.
A scapegoat had to be found. Before this happened Parliament had called for an audit of the Naval Accounts, and Pepys had confessed in his Diary "Our method of accountancy, though it cannot, I believe, be far wide of the mark, would not abide a strict examination". Carteret's enemies began to whisper the ugly word, embezzlement. Three and a half million pounds for the Navy had passed through his hands. He was rich, but the Navy bankrupt. What was the explanation? Let it be said at once that this suspicion was groundless. Seventeenth century book-keeping was so unscientific, that parliamentary committees might well find the figures unintelligible; but the recent publication of the Calendar of Treasury Books settles the problem. The editor had before him documents which the committees never saw, and his verdict is "The lasting impression which they leave is that of a capable, honest body of officials, struggling vainly against absolutely insuperable difficulties."
In 1666, when the trouble began, Carteret exchanged posts with the Earl of Anglesey, who was Vice-Treasurer of Ireland; but he could not, of course, escape accounting for the money he had received. Parliament eventually appointed a Commission of nine, none of them politicians, but businessmen accustomed to deal with complicated accounts, who after many meetings presented a long and detailed report. They discovered a number of mistakes. In 90 cases for example, payments had been entered twice; which Carteret could only plead were errors in book-keeping. When Parliament debated this report, the Lords voted with only one dissentient that "Sir George Carteret hath done nothing contrary to his duty as Treasurer"; but the Commons by a majority of three resolved that "Sir George Carteret be suspended from this House".
They meant at their next meeting to impeach him, but the King prorogued Parliament. In 1670 he was allowed to return to his seat, but he never regained his old influence. Not until 1676 was he repaid the last of the money that he had advanced for the Navy; and in 1677 "full and absolute discharge" was granted to him and his heirs for "£700 which appears due to the King on his Accounts as Treasurer of the Navy".
We have acquitted him of dishonesty, but he undoubtedly suffered from "an inordinate love of riches". He acquired an amazing fortune. Privateering was always profitable, for it meant helping oneself to other people's property. At the Restoration he was already worth £50,000. His salary as Vice-Chamberlain ran into four figures, together with many perquisites. As Treasurer of the Navy he was entitled to three pence out of every pound that passed through his hands. In peacetime this brought him £5,000 a year, and during the Dutch War it reached £38,000. And there were many extras. His poundage on a subsidy sent to the Bishop of Munster, because it passed through the Navy Office, came to £3,000. His salary as Vice-Treasurer of Ireland was £5,000. And these figures must be multiplied by six to approximate to-day's values.
A rich man must find investments, and some of Carteret's were of the wild-cat type. Knowing that coal comes from decayed vegetation, he imagined that there must be coal beneath Windsor Forest, and he formed a company to make a mine there. He leased thousands of acres in Connacht, "which are overflowed every tide", hoping to drain them and secure good agricultural land. More profitable was his purchase of estates. The war had ruined many landowners, and large numbers were for sale. He bought manors in Devon and Cornwall, in Lincolnshire and Essex, and never lived in one of them, but their rentals, timber, and manorial dues provided a steady income. He bought Alderney, and appointed Jean Germain as Rector. "On Sundays", we are told, "he proclaimed the sublime Truths of Religion. On weekdays he acted as Sir George's gamekeeper".
But his main ventures were abroad. He first turned his eye to Africa. With a group of friends he secured a Patent from the King, granting him 7,000 miles of the West African coast "with the sole right to trade into and from the ports there". But the Dutch had long been trading there. Their patrol boats prevented the Company's ships from approaching the coast, and, "having sustained great losses", it surrendered its charter to the King. But, when the Dutch War was over, the Company was re-formed, and became extremely prosperous. It secured a virtual monopoly in the slave-trade, and Carteret drew handsome dividends from it until he died.
His next ventures were across the Atlantic. South of Virginia was a vast district, which Spain was planning to annex. So Charles granted it "from the Atlantic to the Pacific" to Carteret and seven friends, and they named it Carolina. In best sharepushers' style they issued a prospectus to try to attract settlers; but these arrived very slowly. After nine years only 470 had arrived; and it was long before it became a paying proposition.
More important was a venture further north. The chain of English colonies on the American seaboard was cut in two by the Dutch colony of New Netherlands. In 1663 four Englishmen bought land there from the Indians and were ejected by the Dutch. The Privy Council ordered Carteret and Sir John Berkeley to investigate. They reported that the "incredible insolence" of the Dutch made it desirable that they should be dispossessed. So Charles gave the whole colony to his brother, the Duke of York, and sent frigates to annex it. The Dutch, taken completely by surprise, offered no resistance, and New Amsterdam, their capital, was renamed New York in honour of the Duke.
He rewarded Carteret and Berkeley with a share in the loot, and in this way Carteret obtained his second (the present) New Jersey. He put in a Jersey cousin, Philip de Carteret, as Governor, and here the population increased steadily. New towns sprang up, one of which is still called Carteret, and every new settler was offered 15O acres at a quit-rent of a halfpenny an acre.
Carolina and New Jersey were Carteret's main American interests. But in 1670 the King granted to him and five others "all the islands known as the Bahamas with the same privileges as were granted in Carolina". But the work of colonization had hardly begun when the Spaniards laid waste the islands, and the Proprietors made no attempt to re-establish their authority.
About Carteret's family we know little. Even baptism registers fail; for those born in Jersey were baptized in one or other of the Castle chapels, and both these registers are lost; those born in France were baptised in Huguenot Temples. Pepys, however, names nine. Philip, the eldest, entered the Navy, and amusing pages in Pepys describe his shy courtship of Jemimah, daughter of the Earl of Sandwich, "he being the most awkward man I ever met at that business". Sir George bought for the young couple the Manor of Hawnes in Bedfordshire, and there the baby was born, who became the father of Lord John Carteret, the famous Whig statesman. Philip and his father-in-law died together at the Battle of Solebay, when their ship was grappled by a Dutch fireship. James, the next son, was the black sheep of the family. After trouble in the Navy for not paying his debts, his father made him a landgrave in Carolina. On his way there he passed through New Jersey, led an agitation against his father for the abolition of the halfpenny quit-rents, and got himself elected President of the country.
When the Governor of New York, the next province, got orders to suppress this disturbance, James fled, and rapidly went downhill. Three years later he was described as "a very profligate person, who runs about among the farmers, stays where he can find most drink, and sleeps in barns on the straw". His father disinherited him, and left him only £100 for life on condition that he made no claim for any land in Jersey. Of a third son, George, we know nothing.
Pepys mentions six daughters. He went to three of their weddings. Anne married Sir Nicholas Stanning, and became mistress of an estate in Devon. Carolina, the King's godchild, who had been born when he was in Elizabeth Castle, married Sir Thomas Scott, an illegitimate son of Prince Rupert. Louise Margaretta married Sir Robert Atkyns of Sapperton Manor near Cirencester. The others, Rachel, and Elizabeth, and "little Porpot" are only names to us.
Little remains to be told. Ireland was in a peaceful mood, while Carteret was in Dublin, and nothing startling occurred. In 1670 he sold the Vice-Treasurership to Lord Aungier, and returned to London. He resumed his work as Privy Councillor and Vice-Chamberlain, and took on fresh duties. He was put on the Commission for Trade and Plantations, which handled colonial problems. When the Test Act forced the Duke of York as a Catholic to resign his position as High Admiral, 12 Commissioners were appointed "to execute this office", and Carteret was one of them. Though they met thrice a week at eight in the morning, he seldom missed a meeting, and the minutes say often: "This was proved to be the ancient practice of the Navy by the memory of Mr Vice-Chamberlain".
He was also one of the Commissioners for the Rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral. But he was not the man he had been. The long ordeal of his cross-examination about the Naval Accounts had left its mark. For three years he had had to stand, first before the Commission, then before the Commons, while quick-witted enemies fired questions at him, eager to prove him a rogue. He was not yet 70, but his powers began to fail. In 1679 the King dropped him out of the Privy Council and the High Admiral Commission. When Parliament was dissolved that year, he did not stand for re-election. But the King, with all his faults, was always a gentleman. He planned to soothe his faithful servant's ruffled feelings.
In January 1680 he ordered a warrant to be prepared creating him Baron Carteret of Hawnes (He and Elizabeth had moved to Hawnes to take care of their orphaned grandchildren). But he died on 14 January before the Patent was made out. So in February the King issued a new Warrant: "Whereas Sir George Carteret died before the Patent for his Barony was sued out, His Majesty authorizes Elizabeth, his widow, and her children to enjoy their precedency, as if Sir George Carteret had actually been created a Baron." In 1681, when the small grandson, George, was 14, the King created him Baron Carteret of Hawnes, and the prelude to his Patent explained that this was done "in consideration of the singular merits of his grandfather and father".
- Sir George Carteret 2, another version of this biography from A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey.