6th July 1996
Queen Elizabeth II gifts Elizabeth Castle and Mont Orgueil to Jersey
Elizabeth Castle and Mont Orgueil were both once owned by the monarch but, when the threat of invasion finally seemed an impossibility, Queen Elizabeth II handed them over to the people of Jersey. The official ceremony saw her representative on the island, General Sir Michael Wilkes, pass the keys to the castles to the Bailiff, Sir Philip Bailhache. Maintenance and day-to-day running of the castles was already the responsibility of the States of Jersey – and had been for almost a century.
Two ancient strongpoints
Mont Orgueil, which faces France, is the older of the two by 300 years, having been built in the 13th century. Elizabeth Castle, which overlooks the capital, is built into a rock that was reputedly home to Helier, the Belgian monk who was murdered on the site and gave Jersey’s capital its name.
Mont Orgueil was built not long after the Channel Islands opted to remain true to the English crown in 1204, rather than reverting to France and, for a long time it was the island’s seat of government.
The States met at 11.45am on Saturday 6 July 1996 to witness the handover. The minutes from that day record that, “The States assembled in extraordinary session in the Middle Ward of Mont Orgeuil Castle to receive His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and to acknowledge formally their acceptance of the most gracious gift by Her Majesty The Queen in conveying by deed of gift to the public of the Island the reversionary ownership of Mont Orgueil Castle and Elizabeth Castle. His Excellency handed to the Bailiff the keys of Mont Orgueil Castle. The States rose at 12.10 p.m.”
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