Gautier de la Salle, Guernsey
Everybody loves a nice simple story of the baddie who gets his come-uppance, and the Guernsey myth - or is it a legend? - of Gautier de la Salle and the hidden silver cups is just such a tale.
The story goes that Gautier de la Salle was a bailiff of Guernsey in the 13th century, at a time when the island was being bled by the English overlords who taxed it into poverty. This injustice went much further. Gautier de la Salle owned a fine property in St Peter Port, built on land owned by his wealthy wife. This house, La Petite Ville, only had one drawback: a poor neighbour, Massey by name, possessed a small field near the Bailiff's house, and with it held the right to take water from a well on his rich counterpart's land.
The sight of Massey on his land vexed de la Salle. Surely the wealthy should not have to put up with such annoyances, spoiling the view and lowering the tone. The Bailiff pressured Massey to sell his little field; but in spite of a good price being dangled before him the stubborn pauper would not budge.
Now de la Salle showed his corrupt nature. He decided to have the thorn in his side removed by a wicked deception. The Bailiff hid two silver cups of great value in one of his own hayricks, and accused Massey of stealing them from him. A poor peasant's word against the power and influence of the Bailiff could only have one result - Massey was found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged.
When the day of execution arrived, however, a servant of de la Salle found the two cups in the hayrick, and ran to tell his master. Unfortunately for de la Salle this was in front of witnesses, and worse yet he lost his temper and berated the servant for searching the hayrick when he had been specifically told not to.
Perhaps the wicked de la Salle had gone too far elsewhere. Perhaps his star was waning. Massey was freed, de la Salle arrested. For his heinous crime, perverting justice and seeking the judicial murder of his neighbour, de la Salle was tried, found guilty, and hanged, his property being forfeited to King Edward I , and La Petite Ville being elevated to its new name, La Ville au Roi
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