The history of the Visite Royale

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The history of the Visite Royale

Visite royale StClement 1959.jpg

A visite royale in St Clement in 1959

This article by Ralph Mollet was first published in the 1961 Annual Bulletin of La Société Jersiaise

The Royal Court consisting of the Bailiff, the Jurats, Her Majesty's Attorney-General, the Greffier, an Arpenteur and a member of the Bar, during the months of July and August, out of Term, visit two parishes each year, one in the East and one in the West of the Island. The Island having 12 Parishes each parish has a Visite Royale once in six years.

On arrival at the Parish Hall, the Royal Court is met by the Constable, the roads inspectors and 12 men (Les Voyeurs) residents in the Parish called together by the Constable. After the Court is constituted and prayers read, they examine the books and accounts concerning the roads of the Parish. Then the Voyeurs take the following oath:

"Vous jurez et promettez par la foi et serment que vous devez à Dieu, que vous conduirez la Justice par les Chemins Royaux, Voyes et Sentiers publics, ou vous croirez qu'il y a le plus de fautes et d'empêchemens, lesquelles fautes et empêchemens vous déclarerez sans aucune faveur ou partialité, comme vous vous voudrez en repondre devant Dieu, a l'acquit et decharge de votre conscience".

A procession is then formed headed by the Constable and the Voyeurs, the Vicomte with a measuring rod, also a Vingtenier with an axe. The Voyeurs seek out any nuisances which may exist, the encroachments which may have been made and the trees which, interfering with the free use of the road, should be removed. As all proprietors of land bordering on the public roads are bound to keep their hedges properly trimmed, and also to have the trees pruned in such a manner as not to overhang the road below a certain height, it is a rule that if the official staff of the Vicomte (measuring rod), as he paces along the road, is arrested by an overhanging branch, a report is made to the Court, who, ascertaining that the report is correct, impose a fine on the owner of the land. After the perigrination of the day is over, a dinner is provided for the Court, and another for the Voyeurs.

Besides the Visite Royale there is the annual Visite de Brancage (Branchage) conducted during the month of July in each parish, the Constable, Centeniers, members of the parish Road's Committee, the Road Inspectors and the Vingteniers (all Honorary Officials of the parish) meet at the parish hall and then perambulate the roads of the parish, inspecting them to ascertain if there are any branches of trees and hedges overhanging the roadway. The height allowed is 8 feet on the pavement; 10 feet on the parish bye roads and 12 feet over the States main roads, the owners of branches obstructing the way are fined five shillings and this is levied by the Vingtenier. All taking part are provided with a dinner by the parish.

There is also the Visite des Chemins, which takes place every year in the month of September in each parish. The Constable, Centeniers and the Road Inspectors examine the roads in the parish to decide on any necessary repairs required to the surface of the roads.

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