US citizen James Kaye recently became Jersey’s newest Seigneur after travelling across the Atlantic and appearing before the Royal Court to acquire the ancient feudal title.
His visit to the Island followed a successful bid for the title of Seigneur of the Fief ès Poingdestre, which was put up for auction by Islander Sam Le Quesne to raise funds for the Bailiff’s Ukraine Appeal.
But who is the mysterious new Seigneur? And why did someone from Colorado, with no prior connections to the Island, decide to spend £55,000 to gain the ceremonial title?
Mr Kaye is originally from the south-east of the United States. He joined the US Army at a young age and fought in the Iraq war.
Now married with three children, he works as an engineering manager for Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, Colorado.
Despite having no previous connections to the Channel Islands, Mr Kaye said that he had ‘known about Jersey, Guernsey and Sark for at least ten years or more’ because of his love of history.
He explained: ‘The US and Jersey in particular have a very close association through history with Sir George Carteret, Seigneur de St Ouen, being the first governor of New Jersey. I’ve always enjoyed reading history and that’s what led to my knowledge of the Channel Islands.
‘Most of my family emigrated from Wales, England and France, so my only connection is my love of history and now my Seigneury.’
Mr Kaye heard that the Seigneur du Fief ès Poingdestre title was up for sale through complete chance. He stumbled across the information through a ‘random Google search’ while doing research on Sir Edmond Andros, a Jersey Seigneur and the first governor of colonial New York.
‘It must have been the universe telling me something,’ he said. ‘I felt compelled to place a tender.’
Mr Kaye explained that he decided to bid on the title because of a combination of factors.
He said: ‘Apart from that it was going to a great cause, I saw this as a wonderful way to become a part of the history I’d studied for so long. I can’t think of a more beautiful place with wonderful people to try my best to become a part of.’
Mr Kaye described feeling ‘elated’ when he found out that he was the successful bidder.
‘I think I was at a loss, which is very rare for me,’ he said. ‘I put my best foot forward in my bid, but I was sceptical I’d be selected.’
The new Seigneur was also delighted that the money from his bid would be going towards humanitarian relief work in Ukraine.
Mr Kaye said: ‘I think that Jersey of all places understands what it’s like to be invaded, and the jubilation experienced when you’re liberated. I hope to one day attend a Liberation Day in Kyiv.’
Mr Kaye has recently returned to Colorado after completing an 11,000-mile round-trip to appear before the Royal Court in order to acquire his new title in person.
He described his trip to Jersey as ‘lovely’, adding that it was worth the long journey.
‘The ceremony was quick,’ he admitted. ‘But just being in the Royal Court in front of the Bailiff let it set in how much tradition Jersey holds.’
He added: ‘I came for the title, but left with friends.’
Summing up what the title of Seigneur du Fief ès Poingdestre means to him in one word, Mr Kaye said: ‘Duty.’
‘The greatest thing a person can do in this earth is to be of service to our fellow man,’ he explained.
‘I feel a sense of obligation to the citizens of Jersey, and I intend to follow through with that. This is not a novelty to me: it’s an honour and something that I take seriously.
‘I look forward to bringing my children with me to the Channel Islands so they can gain an understanding of what should be expected from them when it’s one of their turns to be the Seigneur or Dame de Poingdestre.’
Mr Kaye also added that he intends to donate to the preservation of Jèrriais, and also hopes to learn the historic language with his children.
He hopes to return to the Island for the Coronation celebrations in May, but will definitely be in Jersey in September for the Assise d’Héritage.
‘I plan to be there two or three times a year going forward,’ added Mr Kaye.
He concluded: ‘If this title gives me a small podium to speak from, then I’ll make the most of it and do the best work I can for Jersey and the US to improve the lives of our people.’