The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown dependency in the English Channel off the coast of Normandy.
Guernsey is not part of the UK but rather a separate possession of the Crown, comparable to the Isle of Man. Guernsey is also not part of the European Union. The island of Guernsey is divided into 10 parishes. Together with the Bailiwick of Jersey, it is included in the collective grouping known as the Channel Islands. Guernsey belongs to the Common Travel Area.
English is the only language spoken by a majority of the population, while Guernésiais, the Norman language of the island, is currently spoken fluently by 2% of the population (according to 2001 census). However, 14% of the population claim some understanding of the language, Sercquiais is spoken by a few people on the island of sark and Auregnais was spoken on the island of Alderney until it became extinct. Until the early twentieth century French was the only official language. Family and place names reflect this linguistic heritage. George Métivier, considered by some to be the island's national poet, wrote in Guernésiais. The island's loss of the language and subsequent anglicisation of its culture was due to the majority of the island's children having been evacuated, prior to German invasion of World War II, returning home, having received an education in the UK during the war and afterwards, speaking English and familiar with English customs.
Victor Hugo wrote some of his best-known works while in exile in Guernsey, including Les Misérables. His home in St. Peter Port, Hauteville House, is now a museum administered by the city of Paris. In 1866, he published a novel set in the island, Travailleurs de la Mer (Toilers of the Sea), which he dedicated to the island of Guernsey.
The best-known novel by a Guernseyman is The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, by GB Edwards which, in addition to being a critically-acclaimed work of literature, also contains a wealth of insights into life in Guernsey during the twentieth century.
The national animals of the island of Guernsey are the donkey and the Guernsey cow. The traditional explanation for the donkey (âne in French and Guernésiais) is the steepness of St Peter Port streets that necessitated beasts of burden for transport (in contrast to the flat terrain of the rival capital of St. Helier in Jersey), although it is also used in reference to Guernsey inhabitants' stubbornness.
The Guernsey cow is a more internationally famous icon of the island. As well as being prized for its rich creamy milk, which is claimed by some to hold health benefits over milk from other breeds, Guernsey cattle are increasingly being raised for their beef, which has a distinctive flavour and rich yellow fat. Although the number of individual islanders raising these cattle for private supply has diminished significantly since the 1960s, Guernsey steers can still be occasionally seen grazing on L'Ancresse common.
There is also a breed of goat known as the Golden Guernsey, which is distinguished by its golden-coloured coat. At the end of World War II, the Golden Guernsey was almost extinct, due to interbreeding with other varieties on the island. The resurrection of this breed is largely credited to the work of a single woman, Miss Miriam Milbourne. Although no longer considered in a 'critical' status, the breed remains on the "Watch List" of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Guernsey people are traditionally nicknamed donkeys or ânes, especially by Jersey people (who in turn are nicknamed crapauds – toads). Inhabitants of each of the parishes of Guernsey also have traditional nicknames, although these have generally dropped out of use among the English-speaking population.