13th January 1884

Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, is born

Sibyl Hathaway was born on Guernsey in 1884 and died on Sark, the island she had ruled for 47 years, on 14 July 1974. Her tenure spanned that of four monarchs – George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II – and the German occupation of the Channel Islands.

Hathaway was born to a man who much preferred boys. He raised her as though she was one and, when she gave birth to her first daughter, in London, he sent a note of condolence. By that point he had thrown her out of the Seigneurie, the family home on Sark, because he disapproved of her choice of husband.

She was widowed in 1918, aged 34, when her husband, Dudley Beaumont, succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic. That left her with six children to raise alone, and one more on the way. Nine years later, her father died and she inherited his title. She returned to Sark to assume her rightful position.

The Dame assumes her role

She saw an opportunity to capitalise on the rights that the role gave her, not only to assert her own authority, but also as a means of promoting the island. She made much of the fact that it retained a feudal system and marketed this in the hope of attracting tourists. She also maintained a ban on motorised vehicles, although exceptions were made for tractors since agriculture was also important.

She married for the second time in 1929 after a 12-day romance with Robert Hathaway. He was to remain her husband until she was widowed for a second time upon his death in 1954. Robert – or Bob – was deported to a German prisoner camp for part of the Second World War, but Sibyl herself remained on the island throughout and was unflinching when dealing with the occupying forces.

She spoke German, having worked for some time in Cologne between the wars, and made the Germans come to her when they needed to meet. She would make them bow and kiss her hand before she allowed them to sit in her presence. Following the island’s liberation on 10 May 1945 – one day after Guernsey’s liberation – she was put in charge of the German troops still present on Sark and tasked them with repairing damage and dismantling the minefields.

She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire at Buckingham Palace in 1965, in an event marking the 400th anniversary of Elizabeth I’s granting of the charter to Hellier de Carteret, the first seigneur of Sark. She was also the subject of an episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme, Desert Island Discs.

Upon her death, she was succeeded by Michael Beaumont, her grandson. Her own son had been killed during an air raid in the Second World War.


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Other events that occured in January

Alderney elects its first president 1st
Guille and Alles open their library 2nd
Guernsey bans smoking in public places 3rd
Guernsey Press registers its domain 4th
Guernsey Zoo is sold as a going concern 5th
Guernsey opens its wartime files
Guernsey Police moves to its new headquarters 6th
Guernsey Fisher makes its maiden voyage 7th
Work begins on the Val des Terres 8th
A hotel porter goes on trial for murder 9th
Guernsey Police Service appoints its first inspector 10th
Royal theft inquiry heads to Guernsey 11th
Channel Express Airways plane crashes in Guernsey 12th
Sibyl Hathaway, Dame of Sark, is born 13th
Channel Television disappears 14th
Benefactor Osmond de Beauvoir Priaulx dies 15th
MV Prosperity is wrecked at Perelle 16th
Guernsey’s Royal Court sits for the first time 17th
Doctor Who travels to Guernsey 18th
Channel 4 gameshow Treasure Hunt comes to Guernsey 19th
Hanois Lighthouse is cut off by the weather 20th
Guernsey-built prototype plane crashes 21st
Guernsey Steam Tramway stops running 22nd
Radiant Med sinks with loss of life 23rd
Guernsey wins gold at the Commonwealth Games 24th
Sark is awarded Dark-Sky status 25th
Guernsey passengers are battered by storms 26th
Sir Isaac Newton has his say on a mysterious Guernsey invention 27th
Guernsey’s last witch trial takes place 28th
Guernsey poet George Métivier is born 29th
The States of Guernsey proposes a new airport 30th
Guernsey lifeboat performs a chemical tanker rescue 31st