Henry, Lord Jermyn - Governor of Jersey 1644-51, 1660-1666
Henry Jermyn succeeded his father, Sir Thomas Jermyn as Governor of Jersey during the Civil War. He was his father's third son. At an early age he won the favour of Henrietta Maria of France, Queen consort of Charles I, whose vice-chamberlain he became in 1628, and Master of the Horse in 1639. He was a consummate courtier, a man of dissolute morals, and much addicted to gambling.
He was a member of Parliament for Bodmin from 1625 to 1626. He was member for Bury St Edmunds in the Long Parliament and an active and reckless royalist. He took a prominent part in the army plot of 1641, and on its discovery fled to France. Returning to England in 1643, he resumed his personal attendance on the queen, and after being raised to the peerage as Baron Jermyn of St Edmundsbury in that year, he accompanied Henrietta Maria in 1644 to France, where he continued to act as her secretary.
In the same year he was made governor of Jersey, taking the Prince of Wales (subsequently Charles II) from there to Paris. He conceived the idea of ceding the Channel Islands to France as the price of French aid to Charles against the parliament; and in other respects he meddled with foreign politics, his great influence with the queen being a continual embarrassment to royalist statesmen, especially after the execution of Charles I.
When Charles II went to Breda, Jermyn remained in Paris with Henrietta Maria, who persuaded her son to create him Earl of St Albans around 1660.
His governorship was interrupted briefly in 1650 when Charles II appointed his brother James, Duke of York, to the position when he left Jersey on 13 February after spending five months in the island, but when the Duke himself left the island on 21 August, the office reverted to Jermyn. He arrived in Jersey on 15 May 1651 and was formally sworn into office on 2 June, but within weeks Colonel James Heanes had taken the island for Paliament, forcing Jermyn to flee.
He resumed his role at the Restoration in 1660, remaining in office for another six years.
His Lieutenants during this period were Captain Thomas Jermyn, 1660-1664; Sir Philippe de Carteret, 1661; George Raleigh, 1661; and Benjamin Henshaw, 1665. Jermyn was succeeded in 1666 by his nephew Sir Thomas Morgan.
A wine bottle has been on display at Mont Orgueil castle since the 1920s, stamped with the Jermyn coat of arms, which is believed to have been owned by Henry Jermyn. This would make it the oldest datable wine bottle in the world.
The following was sent by Jermyn biographer Anthony Adolph to the Jersey Evening Post in 2007:
- "I have just been sent your piece about the early wine bottle found at Mont Orgueil, which may be ‘the earliest known datable wine bottle’. I must say, I almost fell off my chair when I read it, because I have just written and published the first ever biography of its possible owner, Henry Jermyn, Earl of St Albans (1605-1684).
- The bottle may or may not have been Henry Jermyn’s, because it is identifiable only by his family’s coat of arms, and as you know several members of his family held the office of Governor of Jersey. The first was actually his father, Sir Thomas Jermyn (1573-1645), who became governor on 22 December 1631, with special dispensation to avoid the tedious necessity of having to live there. His son Henry was a very close friend of Charles I’s queen, Henrietta Maria, and may actually have had an affair with her. After this Henry had an affair with one of the Queen’s maids of honour, for which he was exiled briefly to Jersey in 1634. He inherited the Governorship himself when his father died in 1645 and paid a very grand return visit there in 1646, to escort the young Prince of Wales, the future Charles II – who may actually have been his son – back to Paris.
- The wine bottle could therefore date back to 1631: if it’s though unlikely that an armorial wine bottle would have been there in the absence of a Jermyn in person, then I can certainly give you 1634 as a possibility. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me at all if the bottle was Henry Jermyn’s. The title I have given my book, Full of Soup and Gold, is from a contemporary poem alluding to his inordinate love of the high life – wine, female company and food – which marked him out even by the sozzled standards of Charles II’s day.
- Henry Jermyn was one of the great movers and shakers of his day. London’s St James’s Square was his idea too, kick-starting the growth of the West End as we know it today. The Restoration owed a great deal to his behind-the-scenes diplomacy, as did the marriage of Charles to Catherine of Braganza, that brought Bombay as a dowry, thus laying the foundations for the British Empire in India.
- But I never suspected that he was responsible for the earliest datable wine bottle. Icing on the cake? I’d raise a glass to that! "