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Carteret, Sir George, first baronet (1610?–1680), naval officer and administrator, was the eldest son of Elie de Carteret (c.1585–1640), and his wife, Elizabeth Dumaresq (d. 1640). This cadet line of the Carterets had for generations held the manor of St Ouen, Jersey. George was born (as he subsequently celebrated) on 6 May, probably in 1610, in Broad Street, St Helier. He doubtless had some rudimentary schooling in the parish of St Peter's, where his father bought a farm in 1619. His defective education and provincial accent would later be mocked. He was ‘bred a sea-boy’ (Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, 61), becoming lieutenant of the Garland in 1629 and of the Convertine in 1632. On 18 March 1633 he was appointed captain of the small Eighth Lion's Whelp but swiftly rose to command much larger and more powerful ships such as the Mary Rose. In 1637 he was vice-admiral to William Rainborowe in the expedition which rescued captives from Salé. He returned there with the Convertine in 1638, as recorded in his journal. On 6 May 1640 he married his first cousin Elizabeth de Carteret (d. 1697).

In 1641 Carteret bought the office of comptroller of the navy and in 1642 he was designated by parliament vice-admiral to the earl of Warwick, but the king prevented his acceptance. When the civil war began, he at first attempted to raise a troop of horse for the king in Cornwall, but was induced instead to undertake the supply of western royalists with arms and ammunition. He established himself at St Malo and used his own credit and great local influence to supply both the western gentry and the fortresses of the Channel Islands. On the death in August 1643 of his uncle Sir Philip de Carteret, he succeeded as bailiff of Jersey, the reversion having been granted to him by patent in 1639. From the king he received also appointment as lieutenant-governor of the island under Sir Thomas Jermyn. Landing there in November 1643, he reconquered it and expelled Major Lydcott, the parliamentary governor, before the end of the month. From Jersey he carried on a vigorous privateering war against English trade, by virtue of the king's commission as vice-admiral, which he received on 13 December 1644. He was knighted on 21 January 1645 and created baronet on 9 May following. Parliament excluded him (‘a great Fomenter of these present Distractions’) from amnesty in subsequent treaties with the king, and declared void all commissions granted by him (Firth and Rait, 1.772–4). Carteret governed with great severity, imprisoning the persons and confiscating the estates of parliamentarians, but developing with great skill all the resources of the island. These were strained to the utmost when in 1646 the island became the refuge of royalist fugitives, and the cessation of the war enabled the parliamentarians to turn their forces against it. In spring 1646 Prince Charles landed in Jersey and invested Carteret with his honours. Edward Hyde, who was two years on the island as Carteret's guest, wrote of him:
He was truly a worthy and most excellent person, of extraordinary merit towards the crown and nation of England; the most generous man in kindness, and the most dexterous man in business ever known; and a most prudent and skilful lieutenant-governor, who reduced Jersey not with greater skill and discretion than he kept it. And besides his other great parts of honesty and courage, undoubtedly as good, if not the best seaman of England … deserving as much from his Majesty and the crown of England for his fidelity as an honest man can do. (Hoskins, 1.179)
Carteret joined Arthur, Lord Capel, and Hyde in the articles of association for the preservation of Jersey, drawn up when Henry Jermyn (who had succeeded his father as governor) was suspected of designing to sell the island to the French. On the second visit of Charles II to Jersey, from 17 September 1649 to 13 February 1650, Carteret was again his host. Among other rewards he was granted Smith's Island at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia (briefly known as New Jersey), but a ship sent by Carteret to establish the new colony was captured.

The growing naval strength of the Commonwealth rendered Carteret's position on Jersey more difficult each month; an attack threatened in May 1647 proved abortive, but a second was successful and Carteret surrendered on 12 December 1651, having secured very advantageous terms. He joined the exiles in France, and became vice-admiral under the duke of Vendôme. In August 1657 he was imprisoned in the Bastille on the complaint of Sir William Lockhart, the English ambassador, in consequence of an attempt to seduce the English forces then acting as auxiliaries of France in the Low Countries, or perhaps for giving secret intelligence to the Spaniards. He was released in December 1657, but banished from France, and went to Venice intending to serve the republic. Nevertheless he was back in France soon after Cromwell's death (September 1658). He kept in touch with the royalist court, adopting the pseudonym Milton.

At the Restoration Carteret moved to the centre stage. He had notionally been vice-chamberlain of the household since 1647; on 30 May 1660 this appointment was confirmed and the practical arrangements for the return of the king and court to Whitehall were his immediate concern. In July he was sworn of the privy council and made treasurer of the navy. At the coronation, on 23 April 1661, he served as almoner. In 1661 he was also elected MP for Portsmouth. The navy treasurership, which he secured against competition from Sir Robert Slingsby, was his most important work. His new colleagues found him amiable, but increasingly disposed to delegate responsibility. Pepys admired his devotion to his family but called him ‘the most passionate man in the world’ (Pepys, Diary, 6.175) and deplored his ‘perverse ignorance’ of business affairs (ibid., 4.192). The complexities of naval accounting were, in fact, beyond him. He had been assigned a salary of £2000, but soon reverted to the previous custom of taking 3d. in the pound on all payments, of which most were to the victualler. This led to a long struggle with Sir William Coventry, then secretary to the lord high admiral and a navy commissioner, which lasted until Carteret's resignation. Yet Coventry:
did not deny Sir G. Carteret his due, in saying that he is a man that doth take the most pains and gives himself the most to do business of any man about the Court, without any desire of pleasure or divertisements. (ibid., 3.243)
During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Carteret's personal credit with the bankers was of the greatest service; he borrowed £280,000 and thus kept the fleet at sea.

The fall of his friend Clarendon and the miscarriage of the war undermined Carteret's position. In June 1667 he exchanged his office with Lord Anglesey for the place of vice-treasurer of Ireland. ‘The King’, Carteret told Pepys, ‘at his earnest entreaty, did with much unwillingness, but with owning of great obligations to him for his faithful and long service to him and his father … grant his desire’ (Pepys, Diary, 8.301). Carteret could nevertheless not escape the censure of parliament. In October 1669 the commissioners for public accounts, sitting at Brooke House, presented their report which alleged gross mismanagement in the navy during the war, with ten ‘observations’ directed at Carteret's keeping of the accounts. Both houses appointed committees, before which Carteret declined to appear in person. The Lords committee, so far as it went, exonerated him. But in the Commons he was voted guilty on all but one of the ten counts, and on 10 December was suspended from the house by 100 votes to 97. His impeachment was averted only when the king prorogued the session. During the recess the issues were debated in meetings between the Brooke House commissioners and the privy council. The king, who chaired these proceedings, flatly announced that he had found nothing wrong with Carteret's accounts, repeating his assurances when parliament met again on 14 February. Carteret, meanwhile, had sold his vice-treasurership of Ireland (for £11,000) and would never again hold a major office. He was, however, appointed a commissioner of the Admiralty on 9 July 1673, serving until 14 May 1679. Among many other involvements he was a member of the councils of trade and of the plantations, and of successor bodies which directed these concerns, between 1660 and 1674. He was a member of the Tangier committee from 1662, and a prize commissioner in 1665–7. He was master of Trinity House in 1664–5, and sat on the bench and other local commissions in several English counties.

Outside the navy, colonial affairs chiefly occupied Carteret's attention. He was a founder member of the Guinea Company of 1660, being paid £300 as consultant on the strength of his previous experience of the African continent. But it was in America, which he never visited, that he was most involved. On 24 March 1663 he was named by patent one of the original proprietors of Carolina, where Carteret county preserves his name. In 1665 Cape Romano was also renamed after him. In 1669 he became the colony's first admiral. Meanwhile in 1664, following annexation of former Dutch possessions to the north, he was granted the whole land between the Hudson and the Delaware for the rent of a peppercorn. He re-employed the name first given to his abortive venture in Virginia, and so the state of New Jersey had its foundation. In 1670 he also acquired a share in the islands of the Bahamas. In England he bought in May 1667 a country estate of 800 acres at Hawnes in Bedfordshire. He also had a London house on the south side of Pall Mall, and official residences in Whitehall Palace (as vice-chamberlain), at Cranbourne Lodge in Windsor Great Park, and, while he was navy treasurer, at Deptford.

By the government of Jersey, by successful privateering, and by the various offices he had held since the Restoration, Carteret became, as Marvell termed him, ‘Carteret the rich’ (‘Last instructions to a painter’, Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, 1.152). He told Pepys in 1667 that he was worth £50,000 when the king came in, and was £15,000 better since then. ‘I do take the Vice chamberlain for a most honest man’, added the diarist (Pepys, Diary, 8.165). He was also a bold man, recommending to the king ‘the necessity of having at least a show of religion in the government, and sobriety’ (ibid., 8.355). Marvell sneered at his ‘ill English’ (‘Last instructions’, Poems and Letters of Andrew Marvell, 1.152) and Pepys thought his ignorance of the device SPQR ‘not to be borne in a Privy-Counsellor … that a schoolboy should be whipt for not knowing’ (Pepys, Diary, 4.217).

Carteret died on the afternoon of 14 January 1680, in his chamber at Whitehall, and was buried on 12 February in Hawnes church. His will, made on 5 December 1678, was proved on 14 February 1680. At the time of his death the king was about to raise him to the peerage, and consequently granted his widow, by warrant dated 11 February 1680, precedence as if the creation had taken place. There were three sons and five daughters of the marriage. The eldest son, Philip, whose wedding to Lady Jemima Montagu, daughter of the first earl of Sandwich, on 31 July 1665 was amusingly described by Pepys, had been killed with his father-in-law in the battle of Solebay in 1672. Philip's son George was elevated to the peerage on 19 October 1681 as Baron Carteret of Hawnes.

C. H. Firth, rev. C. S. Knighton

Sources  

G. R. Balleine, All for the king: the life story of Sir George Carteret (1976) · P. Watson, ‘Carteret, Sir George’, HoP, Commons, 1660–90 · Pepys, Diary · S. E. Hoskins, Charles the Second in the Channel Islands, 2 vols. (1854) · Clarendon, Hist. rebellion, 2.22–3, 224–5, 458–9; 5.64, 261–2 · C. H. Firth and R. S. Rait, eds., Acts and ordinances of the interregnum, 1642–1660, 1 (1911), 772–4 · Memoirs of Lady Fanshawe, wife of the Right Hon. Sir Richard Fanshawe, bart. written by herself (1829), 60–1 · The poems and letters of Andrew Marvell, ed. H. Margoliouth, rev. P. Legouis and E. E. Duncan-Jones, 3rd edn, 2 vols. (1971), vol. 1, pp.152, 357n.; vol. 2, pp. 88, 92, 94, 96, 325 · CSP dom., 1637–81 · CSP col., 1661–80 · GEC, Peerage, new edn · Mercurius Politicus (25 Dec 1651–1 Jan 1652), 1036 · Mercurius Politicus (21–8 Oct 1652) · LondG (12–15 Jan 1680) · First report, HMC, 1/1 (1870); repr. (1874), 34 · Eighth report, 3 vols. in 5, HMC, 7 (1881–1910) · Samuel Pepys and the Second Dutch War: Pepys's navy white book and Brooke House papers, ed. R. Latham, Navy RS, 133 (1995) [transcribed by W. Matthews and C. Knighton] · Thurloe, State papers, 6.421, 682 · B. Whitelocke, Memorials of English affairs, new edn, 4 vols. (1853), vol. 3, p. 191 · W. Kennett, A register and chronicle ecclesiastical and civil (1728), 167 · Calendar of the Clarendon state papers preserved in the Bodleian Library, 1: To Jan 1649, ed. O. Ogle and W. H. Bliss (1872), 338; 2: 1649–1654, ed. W. D. Macray (1869), 275 · E. McCrady, The history of South Carolina under the proprietary government, 1670–1719 (1897), 56, 63, 92, 110 · K. R. Andrews, Ships, money, and politics: seafaring and naval enterprise in the reign of Charles I (1991) · TNA: PRO, PROB 11/362, fols. 129–32

Archives  

Société Jersiaise, Jersey, MSS · St Ouen's Manor, Jersey, MSS


Likenesses  

P. Lely, oils, St Ouen's Manor, Jersey; repro. in Latham and Mathews, eds., The diary of Samuel Pepys, vol. 6, facing p. 168

Wealth at death  

property in Jersey; whole island of Alderney; many manors in UK; property in North America: will, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/362, fols. 129–32