GUERNSEY -- AN IMPORTANT SERIES OF THIRTEEN LETTERS AND ONE DOCUMENT RELATING TO THE DEFENCE OF CASTLE CORNET BY SIR PETER OSBORNE, ROYALIST GOVERNOR OF GUERNSEY, DURING THE ENGLISH CIVIL WAR, 9 December 1642 - 25 October 1646, including:
CHARLES I (King of England, 1625-1649). Two letters signed. Charles II (King of England, 1660-1685). Five letters signed and one document signed. OSBORNE, Sir Peter (1584-1553). Four letters (retained copies in a scribal hand). RICH, Robert (2nd Earl of Warwick, 1587-1658, Parliamentary Lord High Admiral and Governor of Guernsey). One letter (scribal copy). HYDE, Edward (1st Earl of Clarendon, 1609-1674). One letter signed; altogether approximately 19½ pages, folio (the date annotated at the head of each letter, annotations on the versos in later hands and by Ferdinand Brock Tupper, author of The Chronicle of Castle Cornet, 1853).
The series comprises
1. CHARLES I. Letter signed to Earl Danby (Governor of Guernsey), his Deputy (Sir Peter Osborne) and the Bailiff and Jurats of Guernsey, Oxford, 9 December 1642, referring to false reports by 'some factious ambitious spirits' who 'doe nothing but disperse Untruthes of or person, Councill and Government', and requiring that they make known in the island the King's care for the Protestant religion and the islanders' liberties, also ordering them to punish disloyal offenders and put down insurrection, signed at the head, 2 pages written on one leaf, 290 x 190mm., fragment of red wax seal in upper margin (small tear repaired with tape).
2. OSBORNE, Sir Peter. Letter (retained scribal copy) to the Parliamentary Commissioners for Guernsey ('Gentlemen'), Castle Cornet, 23 February 1643, declining to 'forfeit my reputation to save an estate', refusing to come over to the parliamentary side and enjoining them to consider 'against whome you serve and for whome, against your Lawfull and gracious King and for these Islanders faithflesse and unthankfull', one page, 285 x 185mm.
3. OSBORNE, Sir Peter. Letter (retained copy) of instructions for Seigneur Sausmarez n.p. [Castle Cornet], n.d. [September 1643], ordering him to go with all speed to Prince Maurice to represent the distressed state of the garrison and seek supplies and men, 'For men you shall both neede to require more for the Castle and to come in ships for landing upon the Island; five hundred are as fewe as you can demand that may reduce the island and secure us from a second revolt', also instructing him to discover if the island is considered 'for a retreate in extremity' and advising against extending the general pardon to the parliamentary commissioners in Guernsey, 1½ pages, 300 x 205mm.
4. RICH, Robert, 2nd Earl of Warwick. Letter (a copy in a late 17th century hand) to Sir Peter Osborne, On board the James 'at Anchor before Lyme', 7 June 1644, urging him to come over to Parliament, and offering him and Lady Osborne a safe convoy to Portsmouth and other inducements, 3 pages, 285 x 185mm.
5. OSBORNE, Sir Peter. Letter (a copy in a later 17th century hand) to Lord Warwick, Castle Cornet, 22 June 1644, refuting the islanders' complaints against him and refusing to surrender, recalling that the islands 'have never had to doe wth Parliats whose Ordinances and Commands not to extend hither hath ever been accounted one of their Cheifest freedomes', also acknowledging Warwick's consideration of 'that desolate fugitive my wife, driven to seek refuge and her safety amongst stangers', 3 pages, 285 x 185mm.
6. OSBORNE, Sir Peter. Letter (retained copy) to Charles I, Castle Cornet, 3 October 1644, representing the impossibility of his situation, 'Whilst I had the ability and credit to subsist I strove upon my owne strength against all necessities the best I could. But now unable longer to struggle with them, become too many for me, I am forced to crave assistance', and recalling that his estates have been sequestered, 1½ pages, 300 x 205mm.
7. CHARLES I. Letter signed to Sir Peter Osborne, Oxford, 23 January 1644, emphasising the 'very great consequence' of maintaining the castle and island against the rebels, assuring Sir Peter that recruits and provisions will be sent before the rebels' ships return, and acknowledging his 'eminent dservings' signed at the head, one page, 290 x 185mm., countersigned by Sir Edward Nicholas, (neatly repaired with tape at folds on verso).
8. CHARLES II. Letter signed (as Prince of Wales, 'Charles P'), to Sir George Carteret (at Jersey), Liscard, 15 July 1645, referring to supplies and ordering him to transport them speedily to the castle of Guernsey, ½ page, 300 x 180mm., countersigned by Sir Robert Long.
9. CHARLES II. Letter signed ('Charles P') to Sir Peter Osborne, Exeter, 15 September 1645, referring to a letter from Osborne's son appraising him of the state of the siege, announcing his departure for Cornwall the following day, promising to send clothes and victuals soon, and commending Osborne, one page, 295 x 180mm., countersigned by Sir Richard Fanshawe (secretary to the Prince).
10. CHARLES II. Letter signed ('Charles P') to Sir Peter Osborne, Launceston, 1 February 1645, recognising Osborne's services and 'Loyall sufferings' by sending Sir Thomas Fanshawe, a gentleman particularly well known to you as you to him' with instructions and accommodations for the garrison, one page, 305 x 185mm., countersigned by Sir Richard Fanshawe, traces of seal in lower margin.
11. HYDE, Edward (1st Earl of Clarendon). Letter signed to Sir Peter Osborne, Pendennis Castle, 13 February 1645, referring to the difficulty of sending supplies, assuring him that if he knew the privations endured by the Prince 'you would comfort yourself with those very small supplies he hath from time to time sent to you, as with your testimony of his kindness and care of you', and referring to Fanshawe's mission, one page, 330 x 220mm.
12. CHARLES II. Letter signed ('Charles P') to Sir Peter Osborne, 'Given at our Court in ye Island of Jersey', 4 May 1646, acknowledging his letter (brought by Fanshawe) describing the state of the garrison, and his readiness to comply with the Prince's wishes by withdrawing from the castle, and appointing Sir Baldwin Wake in his place, while promising to retain a 'Princely memory' of Osborne's services, and agreeing that he may go to St. Malo, one page, 300 x 180mm., countersigned by Sir Richard Fanshawe, papered seal in lower margin.
13. CHARLES II. Document signed (as Prince of Wales, 'Charles P'), formally affirming his satisfaction with Sir Peter's conduct at the castle, at his resignation to accommodate the King's business in Guernsey, his rebuffal of the Earl of Warwick's threats, and his 'careful and discreet overtures' to the islanders, 21 lines written in brown ink on vellum, 250 x 365mm., signed at the head, countersigned by Sir Richard Fanshawe, papered seal in inner margin, 'Given under our hand and seale at our Court in Jersey this 6th of June 1646'.
14. CHARLES II. Letter signed ('Charles P'), to Sir Peter Osborne, St. Germain en Laye, 25 October 1646, acknowledging a communication conveyed by Osborne's son, confirming promises made for his subsistence on leaving Castle Cornet and declaring that 'we shall not fayle when it shall please God to restore us to a better condition, to remember it upon all occasions for your advantage', signed at the head, one page, 190 x 180mm.
The defence of Castle Cornet, last of the Royalist strongholds to surrender, is one of the most remarkable episodes of the Civil War. Guernsey, strong in Presbyterian and French Calvinist sympathisers, from the first espoused the cause of Parliament. But the castle, a substantial fortress on an islet off St. Peter's Port, accessible by land only at low tide, was held for the king for almost nine years, only surrendering in December 1651. This remarkable feat was largely due to the stuborn determination of Sir Peter Osborne, the Royalist Lieutenant Governor, whose gallant resistance in the crucial years from 1642-1646, is revealed in these letters. At the outbreak of hostilities, he had held his office for twenty years. Parliament, taking advantage of certain complaints against him and rumours about the King's intentions ('This ill spirit that ... brought woe upon this Kingdome begins to be harkened to in our Island of Guernsey'), and the activities of 'one Mr. Desgranges whom wee have known formerly under a better Character', appointed first Lord Scudamore and then Lord Warwick as Governor.
The siege of the castle commenced on 13 March 1643. Osborne's family waited at St. Malo, engaged in obtaining supplies and in communication with the beleaguered Court. Ironically, Sir Peter's daughter Dorothy, later wife of Sir William Temple, had been briefly courted by Henry Cromwell and Lord Warwick was a former friend, which accounts for his letter of June 1644 being an exhortation rather than a summons, and Sir Peter's reply opening with a 'sad remembrance of yt much valued happiness wth in your Lps favours ... I have formerly enjoyed'.
The garrison, consisting of barely 80 men, endured great hardships, principally from lack of supplies and the uncertainty of communications with England. Sir Peter was also beset with other problems, including the machinations of Sir George Carteret, in Jersey, and Seigneur de Saumarez to turn the situation at Castle Cornet to their own advantage. The garrison existed by 1644 largely on a diet of bread and porridge, the castle woodwork was used for fuel and Sir Peter, deprived of his estates and his funds used up in purchasing supplies from St. Malo, writes in October 1644 of 'having nothing left to serve yr Matie with but with my life'. A letter to his family (not present) reveals that Lady Osborne in St. Malo sold their furniture and plate and later even Sir Peter's clothes were sold to purchase food for the castle.
The redoubtable cavalier rebuffed threats from Lord Warwick, intervened in disputes within the fortress and without and sometimes warded off attacks by firing salvoes from the fortress to the shore. In February 1646 he was persuaded by Sir Thomas Fanshawe to prepare to hand over the castle to Sir Baldwin Wake, probably because the Royalist plans to land troops on Guernsey and recover the island from Crown persuaded the Court that Osborne's place should be taken by a younger man, but perhaps also to appease Sir George Carteret's jealousy of him.
Despite the royal promise of future rewards Sir Peter died before the Restoration, and the baronetcy awarded to his son was the only recompense for his gallant conduct and the years of privation endured at Castle Cornet.