8th March 1486
Guernsey’s first governor, Edmund Weston, is appointed
Edmund Weston was Guernsey’s first governor – twice over. He assumed the title jointly with Thomas de St Martin in November 1485, a date that coincided with the start of Henry VII’s reign.
However, just a few months later he was upgraded. On 8 March the following year, he was appointed as the first solo governor of the island. By this point, Weston, who had been born in Lincolnshire, was aged around 50.
Power with responsibility
Despite the fact that this all happened in the 15th century, when personal power was far greater than it is today, being governor didn’t necessarily mean Weston had an absolute right to do what he wanted. The States of Guernsey had met for the first time five years earlier, giving the people some representation, and the pope had also had his say. Sixtus IV, who reigned from 1471 until 1484, declared the Channel Islands neutral in times of war.
This latter point was particularly important, as England and France, to both of whom Guernsey has connections, frequently fell out. England was also experiencing a quasi civil war in the shape of the War of the Roses. This battle, which lasted more than three decades, saw the houses of York and Lancaster fight over the English throne.
The War of the Roses had implications that reached far beyond the mainland, though. The disruption had encouraged France to set its sights on Jersey, and piracy was rife. It seems that the intention of the Bull – Sixtus’ proclamation – was to tackle the piracy rather than anything else. Anyone who ignored it was threatened with instant excommunication and eternal damnation.
Line of succession
Edmund’s son Richard, who was born in Jersey, was appointed to the same position in 1509, shortly after Henry VIII came to the throne. He had previously been the keeper of Castle Cornet. Thus, the governorship of Guernsey passed from father to son without the line being broken.