17th December 1651

Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey

It seems inconceivable that Castle Cornet could ever have been considered as “separate” from Guernsey. Yet, this central feature of St Peter Port was once opposed to the politics of the island it was built to defend.

Between 1642 and 1651, during the English Civil War, Castle Cornet’s occupants supported the king and the retention of his powers, which put them at odds with the majority of Guernsey’s other residents, who supported a free parliament. As such, the castle found itself at siege. Its doors were closed, and it took to firing its cannon at St Peter Port, striking the town with more than 10,000 shells in total.

Guernsey’s residents weren’t fans of the king, who had raised taxes to pay for soldiers who were, probably not coincidentally, housed within the castle itself. They had been posted there to guard against a possible French invasion, which you might have imagined the populace would have supported. However, when their reluctance to pay the king’s charges became obvious, the king tried to impose martial law (direct military control), which unsurprisingly turned his subjects against him once and for all.

Rivalry established

Jersey also supported the king, and it’s said that the rivalry that developed between Jersey and Guernsey over the years can be traced back to this difference of opinion. However, with Jersey seemingly not prepared to come to the castle’s defence, all the Guernsey residents needed to do was sit and wait.

Cut off from the outside world, it was only a matter of time before the castle’s occupants had to admit defeat. Thus, on 17 December 1651, nine years after the castle had cut itself off from the island and two years after the head of the king, Charles I, had been cut off from his body, they had no choice but to surrender. The 55 men who had been holed up there were forced to leave the island for good.


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