From Queen Elizabeth I to Barclays bank - the legacy of enclosures in the Island of Sark

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Thu May 22 09:31:38 BST 2008

Barclays take battle of Sark to court

By Megan Murphy, Law Courts Correspondent

Published: May 22 2008 03:26 | Last updated: May 22 2008 03:26

The billionaire Barclay brothers on Wednesday asked the High Court to 
sweep the vestiges of feudalism from the tiny Channel Island of Sark, in 
the latest move in a battle over how the Crown protectorate should be 

The twins, who own a fifth of the island in addition to their interests 
in London’s Ritz Hotel and The Daily Telegraph, have been pushing for 
constitutional modernisation since buying the neighbouring isle of 
Brecqhou 15 years ago.

Last month the Privy Council approved legislation that would establish 
an elected parliament of 28 members on Sark, replacing a chamber in 
which the island’s 40 landowners sit with 12 elected deputies.

The Barclays, however, claim the changes do not go far enough in leaving 
in place the feudal titles of seigneur – the hereditary lord who leases 
Sark from the Queen – and seneschal, the island’s head criminal and 
civil judge as well as the presiding speaker of parliament.

David Pannick, QC, for the brothers, on Wednesday claimed the failure to 
reform those offices violated human rights law and was inconsistent with 
modern democratic principles.

The Barclays, who have built a £60m ($118m) gothic castle on Brecqhou, 
have invested heavily in the tourist industry that provides much of 
Sark’s income.

Since purchasing the neighbouring 80-acre island in 1993, they have 
sought to dismantle the feudal structure that was first established in 
Sark more than 400 years ago. Opponents fear they will turn the tiny 
island into an upmarket resort for the wealthy, doing away with its 
traditions and sense of history.

Sark’s royal charter was established in 1565 by Queen Elizabeth I, with 
its land divided into 40 tenements, or parcels. The island, population 
600, has no cars, streetlights or income tax.

Sark’s residents voted in favour of setting up an elected legislature in 
a 2006 referendum, following years of pressure from the British 
government. The Barclays are concerned, however, that the new chamber 
may fail to adopt more far-reaching changes.

Tomaz Slivnik, a Slovenian now resident in Sark, is also challenging the 
new constitution on the grounds it would bar him from seeking election 
to parliament as an “alien”.

The hearing is expected to conclude this week.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

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