Nicolas Morin, Bailiff of Jersey 1459-1468
Nicolas Morin had the distinction of serving as Bailiff during the occupation of Jersey by French forces commanded by Pierre de Brézé, Comte de Maulevrier, or his lieutenant, Floquet de Sourdeval.
Morin had been in office for two years when, in early 1461, Mont Orgueil Castle was taken by the French. He appears to have remained in office throughout the seven years of French occupation, although J A Messervy shows a break in 1463. Messervy also shows his period of office ending in 1467, but suggests that he might have occupied the position again in 1477. Since this was two years after his death, it seems safe to accord him with a continuous period of office from 1459 to 1468.
He was forced to sign documents as Bailiff under the high and mighty Lord, the Count of Maulevrier, Lord of the Isles. He was not considered a traitor when the French were expelled and, although he then ceased to be Bailiff, he retained a place on the Jurats' bench until his death. In many ways his position mirrors that of Alexander Coutanche, Bailiff during the German Occupation of World War 2.
Nicolas Morin, born about 1405 in St Saviour, married Perronelle Le Febvre, daughter of Michel and Nicola Collette de Sausmarez, of Guernsey. Their daughter Helen married Jean Poingdestre, son of the Bailiff, Jean Poingdestre, and himself Bailiff after Nicolas Morin.
Several important changes to Jersey's administration were introduced during Morin's period of office, encouraged by the French occupiers. There is some doubt as to whether these changes were personally instigated by Maulevrier, but historian A C Saunders in the 1930s claimed that they were and that he visited Jersey in 1463:
- "Toward the end of 1463 de Brézé arrived in the Island and called together a meeting of such principal inhabitants as he could induce to attend, and, among others we find the names of Nicolas Morin, who had been appointed Bailiff in 1458, John Poingdestre, John Le Lorreur, Guillaume de la Rocque, the St Martins, and others, and at that meeting regulations were passed which were known as Les Ordonnances de Maulevrier. Nicolas Morin had been Bailiff of Jersey prior to the French invasion. He lived at Le Muorin in the parish of St Saviour and apparently was not a man of war. St Saviour was one of the parishes dominated by the French from Mont Orgueil. After de Brézé arrived in the Island he called a Court of Assize to be held at the Castle on 2 October 1463, and Morin was as Bailiff directed to preside over the Court. All the principal inhabitants were summoned to attend. There was one innovation by which jurats in future were to be elected by the Bailiff, Jurats, Curés and Constbales, thereby depriving the people of the right to elect their own representatives".
Unfortunately, as is usually the case in Saunders' works, he does not quote sources and other historians have failed to substantiate his claim that Maulevrier was present in Jersey at the meeting. There are two documents which carry Maulevrier's signature which suggest that he might have visited Jersey the previous year, but other documents suggest that he was in Northumbria at the time and probably signed the documents in Normandy before leaving.
Whenever the Assize was held (probably 1462) it was presided over by a Commission of six, appointed by Maulevrier, and, according to Balleine's History of Jersey it heard a petition from a deputation of clergy and prominent islanders asking that the island might be governed "as of old by the custom of Normandy with certain exceptions which were granted some time ago in writing". Balleine does not record whether Morin and his Jurats constituted the Commission or the prominent islanders, but he does confirm that the outcome of the event was a charter known as Les Ordonnances de Maulevrier, which went further than Saunders writes, because it constituted an assembly of Bailiff, Jurats, Rectors and Constables, with legislative and judicial functions. This was the forerunner of the States, which was established some time between then and 1524.
Other matters, such as returning the Saturday market from Gorey to St Helier and the establishment of a public register of property transactions, were referred to Maulevrier for a decision, strongly suggesting that he was not present in Jersey.