Don Pero Nino
When Jersey came under attack from French forces in the wake of the split from Normandy in 1204, it was not necessarily an official attempt to recapture the island from the English, but more an opportunist raid at a time when the two countries were at war.
This was the case in 1403 when, in the wake of the Hundred Years War, a truce between the countries broke and English privateers attacked French merchant ships in the Channel. The best way the Bretons could retaliate without crossing to the English coast was to attack the nearby Channel Islands.
There was little opposition to their attacks and they were able to loot, burn down houses and take prisoners almost at will. The French did not always fight their own battles, but as in the case of Eustace the Monk’s 13th century attack on Jersey, they recruited a mercenary to caquse as much trouble as he could in the Channel.
Don Pero Niño, Count of Buelna, was a nobleman from Castille encouraged by the French to help in the struggle against England. He decided that Jersey offered easy pickings as he passed escorting a group of French merchant vessels in October 1406 and anchored off St Helier.
According to his biographer, Gutierre Diaz de Gamez, some of the force went ashore as the tide dropped in search of shellfish and were attacked and killed by islanders. The next time Buelna sent troops ashore they were organised for a fight and sufficiently well trained and experienced to capture the Jersey militia’s banner and cause them to flee. The raiding force then subjected the island to pillage and destruction for the next two days.
It appears that the Jersey garrison had retreated to Mont Orgueil Castle whereas the islanders took refuge in old earthworks in the centre of the island and persuaded Don Pero Nino to leave by negotiating a payment of ten thousand crowns.
The contemporary account of this attack by de Gamez recorded:
- They effected a landing at St Aubin's Bay, and the archers, with banners unfurled, marched across the sands at daybreak as the tide receded, to attack the islanders, who had mustered 3,000 strong beside 200 horse. The Receiver, who carried the banner of St. George, commanded them.
- The combat was fierce and bloody, and few would have survived on either side had not Nino called upon his men to capture with a supreme effort the Receiver's standard. "So long," he cried, "as the banner of St George is on high, so long will these English fight."
- A fierce onslaught killed the Receiver and the banner was laid low. The islanders took to flight and entrenched themselves on the heights of Grouville in full view of Mont Orgueil.
- A herald was then sent from the Castle and appealed for mercy on the ground that the islanders were Christians and should not be decimated as though they were infidels. If money was wanted, they would offer what they could, but they would staunchly defend the fortress. Accordingly a levy was made and four hostages taken as a security for the remainder, and the invaders departed.
- ''Le Victorial'' and the attack on Jersey in 1406 a detailed article on de Gamez' account.