31st October 1855

Victor Hugo leaves Jersey

Although more often associated with Guernsey, where he wrote Les Miserables during 15 years’ exile, Hugo first sought sanctuary in Jersey. Never one to keep quiet when he believed that a cause was worth fighting, his opposition to Napoleon had forced him to flee France. After a brief stop in Belgium, he arrived in Jersey from which, with other refugees, he was expelled for supporting a local paper that had criticised Queen Victoria.

As reported by the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph on 27 October 1855, “not satisfied with having insulted the Queen of England, they must, forsooth, come out with a violent tirade against the Jersey authorities, and a threat of annexing the island to France, in the shape of a Declaration, which they caused to be posted all over the town in the night of Saturday last, and had reprinted in that vile paper called ‘L’Homme’ on the following Wednesday”.

Victor Hugo’s departure

If the authorities believed that the refugees’ expulsion would be the end of the matter, they were mistaken. When a second newspaper printed material submitted by the group, the editor was assaulted in the street by Centenier Asplet, who “threw him on the flag stones and caused his face to bleed copiously”, according to the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph of 17 November.

A little over a week later, at a public meeting in Newcastle upon Tyne, attendees criticised what the Jersey authorities had done, saying they had acted not so much to protect the Queen’s honour as to impress Napoleon.

Upon moving to Guernsey, Hugo bought St Peter Port’s Hauteville House, where he remained until 1870. During that time he planted an oak tree in the garden and declared that by the time it was mature the states of Europe would be united and using a single currency.


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