20th May 1895

King of the Ecrehous is admitted to hospital

Phillipe Pinel was known by many as the King of the Ecrehous, under which title he “ruled” the uninhabited islands six miles off Jersey’s north-east coast. His kingdom was largely inhospitable, with just three of the islands remaining above the water line at high tide, and none of them having a source of fresh water. 

Despite the barren nature of the territory, France – and in particular French fishermen – have made claims over its ownership several times in the past, and when both countries had had enough of the dispute, the matter was referred to the international courts. Thus, the only buildings on the islands are fishing huts and a single customs house. The cottage, built in 1820 and once occupied by Pinel, is now just a ruin.

A hermit by any other name

Phillipe Pinel was a hardy man and quintessential hermit who lived for several decades on one of the largest islands, Blanche Ile, and was name-checked in the international court’s judgement over the islands’ ownership: “Philippe Pinel… lived there continuously for forty years, and became popularly known as the King of the Ecrehous. It is interesting, incidentally, to note that a Frenchman, Charles Fremine, considered Philippe Pinel to be a figure of sufficient importance to form the subject of a pamphlet entitled Le Roi des Ecrehous.”

Nobody knew quite how old he was, but it was assumed he was in his mid-70s when the crew of a boat taking supplies to him found him lying paralysed on the rocks. They brought him back to Jersey and he was admitted to the General Hospital on 20 May 1895 and diagnosed with heart and lung problems. Nonetheless, he managed to hang on to live for a considerable time, eventually dying in late December the following year.


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