Global Programs
May 2017 Field ​Study
Student Blogs

Jersey (Channel Islands) map and flag

Facilitating Trade

Student Bloggers:
Caitlyn Ashley, John Cox, Arild Doerge, Mengyuan Fang, Jordan Jensen, Enrica Martey, Sara Murdock, Kaitlyn Pound, Elizabeth Spencer-Berthiaume and Steven Traeger
Jersey students

​A Tour of the Royal Court with former Bailiff Sir Michael Birt

Jersey Royal CourthouseOutside view of the Jersey Royal Court in St. Helier from the town square.

On our fifth day in Jersey we were lucky enough to get a tour of the Royal Court, meet the former Bailiff, and learn about Jersey history. In Jersey, the Bailiff is the Chief Justice of the island, and the symbolic head of the government. The Bailiff also acts as an appellate judge for other crown dependencies.

Jersey became a part of the Duchy of Normandy in 933 AD. In 1066, the Duke of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror, successfully invaded England and was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey. Since 1066, the English Crown has ruled Jersey. In 1204, King John lost the Duchy of Normandy, but despite its proximity to France, Jersey and the other Channel Islands stayed under English control. Jersey then became the frontier of England and subsequently saw many battles between the English and the French through the centuries.

The Bailiff was particularly proud to show us Jersey’s Royal Mace. Jersey was gifted the Royal Mace by King Charles II because of Jersey’s loyalty to the crown during the English Civil War. Charles II was even harbored in Jersey for a time while Oliver Cromwell and the parliamentarians ruled England. There are other Royal Maces around the United Kingdom, but they only represent the Queen’s power, they are not a symbol of loyalty like Jersey’s mace. The Bailiff was also very proud that Jersey had a royal mace and Guernsey does not. When he learned that we were going to be spending a day in Guernsey he said to ask the Bailiff to show us his mace.

We learned that Jersey’s legal system is a mixture between English and Norman traditions. There are two sources of substantive law in Jersey: English common law, and Jersey custom law. Jersey custom law comes from Norman law, and is in French. Jersey custom law is used for land issues and inheritance. Tort, criminal, and banking issues are governed by English common law. Statutory provisions and English common law govern finance law.

After our review of Jersey law and court structure the Bailiff took us into the States of Jersey Assembly Chamber, which is where their parliament meets. We learned that Jersey does not have political parties and that most of the time stuff moves quickly through the assembly. The Lieutenant Governor of Jersey is the leader of the government, but the Bailiff is the symbolic head of the assembly. The Bailiff and the Governor sit in two chairs at the head of the assembly, but the Governor’s chair is seven inches shorter than Bailiff’s chair. In 1618 the Bailiff and the Governor were having a dispute over who took precedence over the assembly, and the two began to fight in their seats. The dispute as brought before the privy council, which decided that the Bailiff took precedence over the Governor in the court, the seat of justice, and in the assembly of the states.

Overall it was a great tour!​

Jersey Royal Court tour guideUnfortunately we could not take pictures inside the court, but here is a picture of all us with our tour guide Dean.
Royal Mace of Jersey 2013 a
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
​Jersey's Royal Mace; a ceremonial honor bestowed upon Jersey for siding with the British Crown during the English Civil War.