Philip is a Lawyer, former naval officer and OV. His grandfather held a senior position during the Occupation and was held in respect whilst others were not. That honesty and integrity is evident in the grandson. He is a disillusioned Jerseyman who understands exactly what the problem is with Jersey politics. He has the analysis and solutions. Listen to an educated man.
I took him out canvassing with me yesterday and he proved a useful assistant. We went to a working class estate and talked to the residents. The emphasis is on the word talked. We did not just slip a leaflet through the door. We listened. All are thoroughly disillusioned with a rotten and corrupt government. Three will be pre-polling on Monday morning 19th September. None have ever voted. One is French and the others Portuguese. They are excited at the idea that someone took the trouble to explain why voting matters.
Into the Lions Den – Norman Law
This evening Philip and I went to a lecture in the Royal Court by Mrs Sophie Poirey, lecturer at the University of Caen, on “The Droit Normand today”.
I undertook the six months course on the Droit Normand back in 1995 at Caen University and obtained the “Certificat d'Études Juridiques Françaises et Normandes”. Thus I have an interest and understanding of the subject.
The lecture was opened by the Bailiff, Mr Michael Birt. There were about 40 members of the Jersey legal profession in attendance. I realised why there were so many there because attendance carried CPD – continuing education points. There is nothing like inducements.
The lecturer gave her lecture in French, with pauses to summarize her point in English for the benefit of those present that did not understand that language. Most of those there will have understood French, however only one person attempted to ask a question at the end of the lecture in French. Others asked their questions in English.
The lecture was essentially about the influences of the Norman customary law in Jersey Law, be it customary or statutory. The Droit Normand in France disappeared by a process beginning in 1789, with the commencement of the French Revolution, and culminating with the 1804 Code Napoleon, which abolished the Coutumes of the various Ancien Regime Pays, to replace them with a common national Code. It was never abolished in Jersey and this remnant of the Ancien Regime persists.
Mrs Poirey discussed the matrimonial law. Norman Law had a reputation for being extremely severe on wives and daughters, something that was despised even by other commentators for other Coutume Pays of France and especially those of Paris. We did learn that in France those married under the pre 1804 Coutume continued to live under its terms after that date, so there was no radical break, merely a transition.
The sound system in the Royal Court is virtually non existent. It makes little difference if one sits in the front or the back, speech is inaudible. Straining to listen in a foreign language left me drained.
Lecture over, there came the point for questions. This is usually a point of stunned silence, but instead I got my question in immediately. Initially it was not understood, because I spoke in English and its essence had to be translated into French for the benefit of Mrs Poirey, the lecturer. I wanted to know what resistance there was in Normandy to the revolutionary process that culminated in the 1804 Code. There was little. As I suspected, Normandy embraced the Revolution and became a part of the French Nation State. There was no Vendee uprising in Normany. Peasants became Frenchmen, not serfs.
Tom Gruchy asked, in English, if there had been any commentary in France on the so called Charter of King John, a bogus charter of rights to the Channel Island, no copy of which is extant in Jersey and only a remnant is Guernsey. The reply was in French and he understood nothing as he does not speak French.
Next up was a French speaking Advocate from the front of the Courtroom followed by Deputy Roy Le Herissier practicing his best French. He asked how the Droit Normand could me made living in Jersey, given that those training to be Advocates in Jersey are no longer obliged to attend Caen University and none go voluntarily. Mrs Poirey pointed out that it was still compulsory for trainees from Guernsey to complete the same course on Norman Law that I took. The irony was that of those she taught none had Guernsey names – they were Australians or English. This reflects the influx of non indigenous Lawyers to join the Finance Industry in the island and who wish to progress their careers as Guernsey Advocates and thus must attend the compulsory course.
I realise now that I am soon to be a fossil, as I am the last living link to the Droit Normand course in Jersey. I was among the final contingent in 1995. "Après moi, le déluge".
Norman Law at Caen University is a third year law undergraduate option. It is a peculiarity for those that enjoy antiquarian research and the investigation of recherché topics. It is part of a Norman nationalism or patriotism, for those that retain a Normandy identity that is different from that associated with being French. I wonder what that scion of the Norman Aristocracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, would have said?
In France the Norman Law is a tourist attraction – a medieval ruin for contemporary intellectual entertainment. In Jersey it is part of the ideological base for the concept of the island as a separate legal jurisdiction with its own law – a foundation for the Finance Industry to rest upon.
There was a final question from one of the younger members of the legal profession (in English). Normally the hierarchy demands that the junior members of the profession sit dutifully in silence at such events. To ask a question is to doubt. Her question was whether there was any law on employment in the Droit Normand. This rather naive question produced a smirk from the historians in the back row. Employment law may be in its infancy in contemporary Jersey and in the UK there is a substantial body of rights and obligations surrounding labour contracts, however in 18th Century Ancien Regime France there were no Citizens with inalienable Rights only subjects of a King. Answer; there was no employment law under the Droit Normand.
Speaking of serfs, no doubt under the new Chief Minister Senator Philip Bailhache, the island will become an independent feudal state with him as its hereditary Prince. It may be a temporary usurpation as the Cromwells of Whitehall will send an Admiral Blake with the Commonwealth Fleet to root out the Royalist Pirates.