4th October 2006

Sark voted for democracy

Sark was once the last feudal state in Europe – a fact that was frequently trotted out. Feudalism, which was once prevalent throughout Europe, is a political system in which landowners hold power over the rest of the population. Sark was founded on precisely this principle.

The island had been divided into 40 lots, which were handed down through the families of the original 40 settlers. Each plot of land gave the owner certain voting rights. Anyone without land also found themselves without equivalent rights. Naturally this didn’t sit well with modern, democratic institutions like the European Union. The Barclay brothers who live on the neighbouring island of Brecqhou and own many businesses on Sark weren’t keen, either.

They – and, going on the result of the referendum – a large proportion of Sark’s population wanted to move away from the feudal system to a political constitution that more closely resembled that in Guernsey and Jersey, as well as the mainland: democracy.

Choosing the future

Islanders were asked to choose between two options: 28 open seats to which anyone could be elected, or a mix of 12 seats for Deputies, eight seats for Tenants and eight open seats.

The result of a vote on the issue was 234 in favour of the first option – democracy – with 184 voting for option two, which retained elements of the existing feudal system. As a result, 28 representatives would be elected to sit in the Chief Pleas, in place of the 52 that sat there before. Its previous make-up had comprised 40 hereditary representatives and 12 people’s deputies.

The issue had come to a head when the Barclay brothers challenged the rule that only male heirs could inherit on Sark. This restriction contravened the European Convention on Human Rights.


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Other events that occured in October

Guernsey Post Office was established 1st
Guernsey switched to Reichsmarks 2nd
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt 3rd
Sark voted for democracy 4th
Guernsey lifeboat saved a Swedish schooner 5th
Jeeves actor died in Guernsey 6th
Sarnia Theatre celebrated its most successful year 7th
The Story of Adele H opened in cinemas 8th
Howards’ Way came to Guernsey 9th
Guernsey Ladies’ College opened 10th
A Trislander ate itself between Jersey and Guernsey 11th
The Channel Islands’ king set sail for England 12th
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died 13th
Footballer Matt Le Tissier was born 14th
Island FM brings commercial radio to Guernsey 15th
Channel Television saw off a rival broadcaster 16th
The first mines were dug on Sark 17th
Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire 18th
Elizabeth College’s foundation stone was laid 19th
Hitler ordered the Channel Islands’ fortification 20th
Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise 21st
The desalination plant opened 22nd
Sir Charles Hayward buys Jethou for £91,000 23rd
Guernsey Monopoly board game went on sale 24th
Dame Sibyl Hathaway chose her Desert Island Discs 25th
GUNS founder Charles Machon died 26th
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born 27th
A man “disappeared” from a Guernsey ferry 28th
Express & Star bought Guernsey Press 29th
The first lighthouses were built on the Casquets 30th
States of Guernsey voted to lower the voting age 31st