Channel Islands

Alternative meaning: Channel Islands of California

The Channel Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Normandy, France, in the English Channel. They comprise two separate bailiwicks: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey.



Major articles: History of Jersey, History of Guernsey

The Islands were annexed to the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1066 the Duke William the Conqueror invaded and conquered England, becoming the English monarch. Since 1204, the loss of the rest of the monarch's lands in mainland Normandy has meant that the Channel Islands have been governed as separate possessions of the Crown.

The Bailiwicks have been administered separately from each other since the late 13th century, and although those unacquainted with the Islands often assume they form one political unit, common institutions are the exception rather than the rule. The two Bailiwicks have no common laws, no common elections, and no common representative body (although their politicians consult regularly). There is no common newspaper or radio station, but a common television station, Channel Television.

During the Second World War the Islands were the only British soil occupied by Germany.


Major articles: Politics of Jersey, Politics of Guernsey

Both the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey are British crown dependencies, but neither is part of the United Kingdom. They have been part of the Duchy of Normandy since the 10th century and Queen Elizabeth II is often referred to by her traditional and conventional title of Duke of Normandy. However, pursuant to the Treaty of Paris (1259) she is not the Duke in a constitutional capacity and instead governs in her right as Queen. This notwithstanding, it is a matter of local pride to treat the situation otherwise; the Loyal Toast at formal dinners is to "The Queen, our Duke" rather than to "Her Majesty, the Queen" as in the UK.

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Entrance to the public gallery of the States Chamber in Jersey

The Channel Islands are not represented in the UK Parliament and each Island has its own primary legislature, known as the States ("Chief Pleas" in Sark). Laws passed by the States are given Royal Sanction by the Queen-in-Council. In addition, Acts of the UK Parliament may be extended to any of the Channel Islands by Order-in-Council (thus giving the UK Government the ultimate responsiblility for good government in the Islands). By constitutional convention this is only done at the request of the Insular Authorities, and has become a rare option, the Islands usually preferring nowadays to pass localised versions of laws giving effect to international treaties. Matters reserved to the Crown (i.e. the United Kingdom government) are limited to defence, citizenship, and diplomatic representation. The Islands are not bound by treaties concluded by the United Kingdom (unless they so request) and may separately conclude treaties with foreign governments (except concerning matters reserved to the Crown). The United Kingdom conceded at the end of the 20th century that the Islands may establish direct political (non-diplomatic) contacts with foreign governments to avoid the situation whereby British Embassies were obliged to pass on communications from the governments of the Bailiwicks that were in conflict with United Kingdom government policy.

The Islands are not part of the European Union but are part of the Customs Territory of the European Community by virtue of Protocol 3 to the Treaty on European Union.

The islands' governments are responsible to The Queen in Council. In 2001 responsibility for links between the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and the Crown passed from the Home Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department, replaced in 2003 by the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

Islanders are full British Citizens, but not all are European Citizens. Any British citizen who applies for a passport in Jersey or Guernsey receive passports which bear the words 'British Islands, Bailiwick of Jersey' or 'British Islands, Bailiwick of Guernsey'. Under the provisions of Protocol 3, Channel Islanders who do not have a close connection with the UK (no parent or grandparent from the UK, and have never been resident in Great Britain or Northern Ireland for any 5 year period) do not automatically benefit from the EU provisions on free movement within the EU and consequently their passports receive an endorsement to that effect. This only affects a minority of Islanders.

Under the Interpretation Act 1978, the Channel Islands are deemed to be part of the British Islands, not to be confused with the British Isles, of which they are also historically considered a part.

Both Bailiwicks are members of the British-Irish Council, and Jèrriais and Dgèrnésiais are recognised regional languages of the Isles.

The legal courts are separate, but there is a joint court of appeal. Among the legal heritage from Norman law is the Clameur de Haro.


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Viewed from Jersey's north coast, Jethou, Herm and Sark are hazy outlines on the horizon

The inhabited islands of the Channel Isles are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm (the main islands); Jethou, Brecqhou (Brechou), and Lihou. All of these except Jersey are in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but the Minquiers and Ecréhous, uninhabited groups of islets, are part of the Bailiwick of Jersey. Burhou lies off Alderney.

There is another small island Chausey, south of Jersey - not generally included in the geographical definition of the Channel Islands but occasionally as a 'Channel Island' in English despite its French jurisdiction. It is part of France and is incorporated in the commune of Granville (Manche), and although popular with visitors from France, it is rarely visited by Channel Islanders as there are no direct transport links from the other islands. In official Channel Island French, the Islands are called Îles de la Manche, while in France, the term Îles anglo-normandes (Anglo-Norman isles) is used to refer to the British Channel Islands in contrast to other islands in the channel. Chausey is referred to as an Île normande (as opposed to anglo-normande). Îles Normandes and Archipel Normand have also historically been used in Channel Island French to refer to the islands as a whole.

The very large tidal variation provides an environmentally rich inter-tidal zone around the islands.


Tourism is the major industry in the smaller islands (with some agriculture). Jersey and Guernsey have, since the 1960s, relied on financial services. Guernsey's horticultural and glasshouse activities have been more significant than in Jersey, and Guernsey has maintained light industry as a higher proportion of its economy than Jersey. Jersey's economy since the 1980s has been substantially more reliant on finance.

Both Bailiwicks issue their own banknotes and coins, and operate independent postal administrations with their own postage stamps. Banknotes and coins of both Bailiwicks circulate freely in all the islands alongside UK coinage and Bank of England and Scottish banknotes, but postage stamps can be used for postage only in their respective Bailiwicks. See: Guernsey pound and Jersey pound

Each of the three largest islands has a distinct vehicle registration scheme:

  • Guernsey - simply a number, up to five digits;
  • Jersey - J followed by up to six digits (vanity plates are also issued);
  • Alderney - AY followed by up to five digits.

In Sark - where most motor traffic is prohibited - the few vehicles (nearly all tractors) on the island do not display plates.

The Channel Islands have their own country-code top-level-domains (ccTLDs) on the internet, managed by a single registry based in Alderney. The ccTLDs are .gg for the Bailiwick of Guernsey (including Alderney and Sark) and .je for the Bailiwick of Jersey. Alderney has a large and growing internet gambling industry.


Main article: Culture of Jersey

Culturally, the Norman language predominated in the Islands until the 19th century, when increasing influence from English-speaking settlers and easier transport links led to anglicisation.

Victor Hugo spent many years in exile, first in Jersey and then in Guernsey where he wrote Les Misérables. Guernsey is also the setting of Hugo's later novel, Les travailleurs de la mer (The Toilers of the Sea).

The annual Muratti, the inter-Island football match, is considered the sporting event of the year - although, thanks to broadcast coverage, it no longer attracts the crowds of spectators travelling between the islands that occurred during the 20th century.

Channel Island sportsmen and women compete in the Commonwealth Games for their respective Islands, and the Islands have been enthusiastic supporters of the Island Games. Shooting is a popular sport - islanders have won Commonwealth medals in this discipline.

Guernsey's traditional colour for sporting and other purposes is green, and Jersey's is red.

The main islanders have traditional animal nicknames:

  • Guernsey: donkeys - The steepness of St. Peter Port streets required beasts of burden, but Guernsey people also claim it is a symbol of their strength of character.
  • Jersey: crapauds ("toads" in French and Jèrriais) - Jersey has toads and snakes that Guernsey lacks.
  • Sark: corbins ("crows" in Sarkese, Dgèrnésiais and Jèrriais) - Crows could be seen from sea on the island's coasts.
  • Alderney: lapins ("rabbits") - The island is noted for its warrens.

Christianity was brought to the islands around the 6th century; according to tradition, Jersey was evangelized by Saint Helier, Guernsey by Saint Samson of Dol and other smaller islands were occupied at various times by monastic communities representing strands of Celtic Christianity. At the Reformation, the islands turned Calvinist under the influence of an influx of French-language pamphlets published in Geneva. Anglicanism was imposed in the 17th century, but the non-conformist tendency re-emerged with a strong adoption of Methodism. The presence of long-term Catholic communities from France and seasonal workers from Brittany and Normandy added to the mix of denominations among the population.

See also Music of the Channel Islands

Other islands in the English channel

There are other islands in other stretches of the English Channel that are not traditionally included within the grouping of Channel Islands. Among these are Ouessant/Ushant, Bréhat, Île de Batz, and Îles Saint-Marcouf (under French jurisdiction), and the Isle of Wight, and Isles of Scilly (under UK jurisdiction).

External links

  • Map of Alderney (
  • Map of Guernsey, Herm, and Sark (
  • Map of Jersey (
  • .GG and .JE Domain Registry (

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