Sir John Peyton

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Governor 1603-1630
Sir John Peyton


Sir John Peyton was an English soldier, appointed Governor to succeed Sir Walter Raleigh. He followed in the best traditions of Crown representatives by repeatedly falling out with
the Bailiff and other island officials

Early life and family

Sir John Peyton (1544–1630) was an English soldier and administrator. He was born in Knowlton, Kent to John Peyton (died 1558) and Dorothy Peyton, who was the daughter of John Tyndale.

He was knighted in 1586 and served under Robert Dudley. He was Lieut-Governor of Bergen op Zoom from 1586 to 1587 and was a colonel "in the forces for the defence of the queen's person against the threatened attack of the Spanish Armada" in 1588. He served as a deputy lieutenant of Cambridgeshire under Roger North in 1596 and lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1597 to 1603, during which time he gave kind attention to Sir Walter Raleigh, when he was imprisoned. He later served as Governor of Jersey from 1603 to 1630; a post that was formerly held by Raleigh.

On June 8, 1578, Peyton married Dorothy Bell (died 1603), the widow of Sir Robert Bell (died 1577), co-heiress of Edward Beaupré of Beaupré Hall, Outwell, Norfolk, and his second wife, Catherine Beddingfield.

Dispute with Procureur

On 10 September 1603 Peyton was sworn in as Governor in succession to Raleigh and four years afterwards he was quarrelling with the Procureur, Philip de Carteret, the result being that de Carteret was for a time suspended from his office by the Royal Court, but was speedily reinstated by an Order in Council, dated 30 April 1607, because the removal of the Procureur from his office without the consent and knowledge of the King was "an undue attempt upon His Majesty's power and prerogative Royall".

A Royal Commission was ordered to inquire into and report on the various grievances, including the Governor's right or duty to call an Assembly of the States, and charges against him of obtaining provisions under market price, with a view to personal benefit.

The Commissioners remedied many abuses, checked the encroachments of the Governor, adding as a rider their opinion that Sir John "ought to be contented with the receipt of 200 good and sufficient muttons yearly", for which payment should be rated by the common price of the Island " according to the voices of two honest men, since Amias Pawlet had before that time been satisfied to be supplied annually (for the use of self and Castle) " with 200 muttons at 6½ groats apiece and beef at 20 groats"

Bailiff's appointment

Peyton's letters patent, contrary to the ruling made by Henry VII in 1495 that the Monarch had the sole power to appoint Jersey's Bailiff, gave him the right to appoint the Island's Bailiff. This immediately caused a dispute when Jean Herault was appointed without reference to Peyton, who had already been Governor for 12 years.

The dispute was referred to the Privy Council and Herault represented himself in front of the King, who ruled: "To constitute a Magistrate is one of the essential marks of our supreme power, an act regal, inseparable from our Royal Person. Forasmuch as we always intended that a competent pernsion should be allowed to the Bailiff, we command that 100 marks be paid yearly out of the revenues of the island to Herault for life, over and above all other emoluments".

This was a double blow for Peyton, who now had a Bailiff he did not want, and had to pay him 100 marks a year out of his own pocket.

Flushed with the success of his appearance before the Privy Council Herault claimed the title of Governor, claiming that Peyton was merely 'Captain of the troops'. He sent a long memorandum to the Privy Council to support his view that the Bailiff had greater authority than the 'Captain', stating: "The Bailiff keeps the King's seal. The Bailiff is the King's Representative. The Bailiff is required by his oath to see that the Captain keeps the Castles in repair. The Bailiff administers the oath to the Captain, and it is always the greater who administers an oath to the lesser. The Bailiff alone has the right to use the plural 'we'. Therefore it seems evident that the name of Governor may be more properly attributed to the Bailiff than to the Captain".

Although he claimed the support of the Vieux Coutumiers (old customs) of Normandy, and his stand would undoubtedly influence the future standing of the Bailiff in the Island, there was little precedent for his claims in the history of Jersey since its split from Normandy in 1204. Certainly the status of Bailiff had grown from the early days when the officer holder was little more than a servant of the Warden, to be hired and fired at will, but there had hitherto been no suggestion that the Bailiff was ultimately the Governor's senior. It would have been unthinkable that Herault's predecessor George Paulet would have been viewed as Peyton's predecessor, Sir Walter Raleigh's superior.

Complaints by Bailiff of neglect of duty

But Herault continued to act as if roles had been reversed and made constant complaints about Payton's alleged neglect of duty:"

"The Captain is sending his butler to be Master Porter of Castle Elizabeth, an office hitherto filled by gentlemen brought up to war. To put there his butler, who only uinderstands serving pots of wine at table, is as bad as to send him pilot to Muscovy. Castle Elizabeth has been abandoned of all its guard save one, who sent on market-day to all the taverns to seek his companions."

Herault suggested that rather than managing the Crown Revenues, Peyton should be given a salary and be expected to account for the revenues to an independent official. This, suggested the Bailiff, would greatly increase the King's revenue from the island.

Peyton now went on the attack. He instructed his Receiver to make life difficult for Herault by delaying payments of fees due to him. He appointed Jurat Aaron Messervy as his Lieut-Governor when he was out of the island, which annoyed Herault intensely and the two clashed continually and Messervy ignored Herault's commands for him to attend Court, claiming that he was answerable only to the King. The situation was bound to come to a head sooner or later and Peyton provoked a Privy Council investigation by accusing Herault of "usurping the office of Governor".

Bailiff triumphs

Herault was summoned before the Council in November 1616 and Peyton's witnesses failed to appear. The following February it was clear that Herault had triumphed, although the Council's ruling made clear that they were not very happy with the way he had presented his case:

"We acquit the Bailiff of any undutifulness to the King's Majesty or any injustice in the civil government, but not from heat of words, which have unfittingly fallen from him, for which we thought fit to give a sharp reprehension. We hold it convenient that the charge of the Military Forces be wholly in the Governor and the care of Justice and Civil Affairs in the Bailiff."

This was a fundamental ruling as far as the island was concerned, and laid the groundwork for the subsequent development of the island's constitution. Peyton was understandably far from satisfied and the friction between Bailiff, Governor and local officials continued. But despite his enormous self-importance, Herault was honest and incorruptible and was to emerge unscathed from two further investigations into his conduct.

In 1617 he asked for a Royal Commission to be sent to investigate what was going on in the island, predicting correctly that he would again be vindicated. Two very senior Crown officials, Sir Edward Conway and Sir William Bird reported:

"We find good cause to clear the Bailiff of all personal imputations. His violence is rather in words to keep up his authority, than in act. We believe him, even by the testimony of his enemies, to be very sincere. His place is painful, and he diligent in the execution of it. Whereas Maret (the Attorney-General) laid foul imputations upon the Bailiff of bribery and unlawful proceedings, which upon examination were found by the Commissioners to be false and slanderous, it is ordered that Maret do acknowledge his offence, and make public satisfaction."

Following this investigation the Privy Council took the opportunity further to define the roles of Governor and Bailiff, making it clear that the Governor was "trusted by His Majesty with the charge and government of the island". It was ordered that the States could only meet with the permission of the Governor and that he had a power of veto over any matter he deemed "prejudicial to the King". This ruling was to cause significant problems in time to come.

Falle's History

From Philippe Falle's History of Jersey:

"Sir John Peyton, betwixt whom and John Herault, commonly called Monsieur de St Sauveur, a Man of Spirit, happened a very warm Contest about the Place of Bailly, of which the last stood possessed by a Grant from the Crown; the Governor insisting on a Power by his Patent to dispose of the Place, and to put in and out whom he thought fit. And true it is that anciently the Governors had such a Power, but Henry VII finding it abused, and grown exorbitant, suppressed it, and reserved it to himself, by an express Article in his Ordinances, which says, That the King shall have the Nomination of the Bailly, the Dean, the Viscount, and of his Procurator (ie his Attorney-General) in the said Island ; and that neither the Captain (ie the Governor) nor the Jurats, shall in anywise concern themselves, or intermeddle, in the disposition of those Offices, whereby even the Liberty of recommending seems to be interdicted them.
"In consequence of this Law (for those Ordinances were given to us for Laws, as has been said in another Place) the Clause in former Patents, that allowed the Governors constituere, facere, et deputare omnes et singulos Officiarios in praedicta Insula necessarios et consuelos, was dropt for a Time, and upon Vacancies application was made directly to the Crown. I say, for a Time; For by Some Collusion at the Seals (how else it could be done, I conceive not) the subsequent Governors found means to get the impowering Clause inserted again, and in Sir John Peytons's Patent it ran thus, constituere, facere, et deputare Officium Ballivi dictae Insnlace, et omnes et singulos Officiarios in praedicta Insula necessarios et consunetos ; where the Office of Bailly is drawn in, which was not in the general Clause before. Here then lay the Point in dispute, whether the Ordinance of Henry VII, ratified by his Son and Successor Henry VIII, or the Patentary Clause, should stand: which being brought before King James and his Council for a determination, the former carried it; with the addition of another Office withdrawn from the Governor's Nomination, namely that of Advocate, or Solicitor General, and there the Matter has rested ever since."

Predecessor Successor
Sir Walter Raleigh
Sir John Peyton
Sir Thomas Jermyn
1631-1643, 1643-1644
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