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.


FREE Guernsey history newsletter

Don't miss our weekly update on Guernsey's fascinating history. We promise never to sell your data to anyone else, and there's a super-easy unsubscribe link on the bottom of each email so you can leave whenever you want. We'll also keep you up to date with our latest book releases and early-bird discounts.


Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st