Channel Islands Facts

Channel Islands, group of islands in the English Channel, located off the coast of France.The largest islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark.


The Channel Islands are geologically related to the Norman peninsula Cotentin. The dominant rocks are granites and shales, often very weathered because the islands were never reached by the quaternary icebergs. Most of the islands have plateau-like upper surfaces. At the coasts there are often striking cliffs. The ground cover is largely made up of loose soil and sand, which formed dunes at many beaches.

Jersey, the largest of the islands, has up to 150 m high slopes along the north coast, from which deep-cut valleys head south.

Instead, Guernsey, the second largest island, descends gradually towards the north from steep granite cliffs to the south.

The Channel Islands enjoy a mild maritime climate; the temperature difference between the warmest and coldest month is only about 10 °C; The average annual temperature is + 11 °C in Jersey. The mild climate has favored a heat-intensive flora with some Mediterranean features. However, the islands are exposed to severe storms during the winter months. The large tidal differences, over 10 m at the flood, and the many shores at the coasts also pose problems for shipping.

Political conditions

The Channel Islands were originally part of the Duchy of Normandy, which in 1066 was linked to the English crown. They are not part of the UK but as Crown Dependencies have special relationships with it. The Channel Islands have their own legislative assemblies, their own courts, their own Norman custom (which is, however, undergoing decommissioning) and their own local administration. They also have their own coin right, their own postal system and low income taxes. The British government is responsible for defense, foreign policy and, ultimately, for the island’s governance. Since 1958, trade with the United Kingdom is regarded as domestic trade and the islands are associated with the EC. Laws enacted in the British Parliament apply only in the Channel Islands unless explicitly stated. The affairs of the islands are handled on the British side by the Home Secretary, in some cases by the Privy Council.

Administratively, the Channel Islands are divided into two autonomous areas, bailiwicks. One includes Jersey, the other Guernsey, Alderney, Sark and some smaller islands. In every bailiwick, the British crown is represented by a lieutenant-governor and a bailiff. The former are governors, commanders and official channels of communication between the Crown and the governments of the islands. The latter is chairman of the Legislative Assembly, president of the royal court and head of the local government. Decisions adopted by the Parliament of the Channel Islands (“the States”), which are now democratically elected, must be approved by the British Crown. However, feudal elements still remain in the islands’ constitutions. This is most evident in Sark, where a majority of the local parliament is made up of non-elected tenants. Sark is also controlled by a Seigneur (or Dame ), who among other things. has banned cars on the island.


From 933, the Channel Islands were linked to Normandy, whose Duke in 1066 became English King. The islands were dominated by Norman landowners, but the Mont-Saint-Michel Monastery also owned land in the Channel Islands. After the French conquest of Normandy, the Channel Islands from 1204–05 came to obey directly under the English crown, but the institutional development of the Channel Islands has since been separated from both Normandy and England. To stop piracy, the Crown handed over much of the direct power over the Channel Islands in the 16th and 16th centuries to the De Carteret family, seigneurs of Saint Ouen. In the 18th century, however, the Channel Islands were notorious for smuggling and hijacking. Gradually the power of the feudal lords was eroded, but at Sark another seigneurial power survives.

The Channel Islands were occupied by Germany during World War II. Some of the smallest islands, the Ecrehous cliffs and Les Minquiers, have often, by the late 1970s, been the subject of disputes between Britain and France.