Francois Godfray, leader of the Laurel Party
Born in St Helier on 8 January 1807, Francois Godfray was the youngest son of Hugh Godfray. He was educated at St Servan, France, and Wandsworth and joined the office of Attorney-General Thomas Le Breton at the age of 18, qualifying as an Advocate in 1829 after a period of study in Paris.
He was a dramatic orator such as Jersey had not seen for generations, and used his talents both in Court and the political arena. He soon became a member of the minority Laurel party and, to everyone's surprise, was elected as Constable of St Helier in 1830, beating Pierre Perrot of the Rose party by 33 votes. Three years later he was beaten by Perrot in the next election, but he had become established as a hard-working Constable, Advocate and States Member, and was elected another year later when the office of Constable in St Martin became vacant.
He was re-elected in 1838 and immediately became embroiled in the bitter disputes over the Gorey oyster beds, having to call for the support of troops after arresting the ringleaders of a protest against new controls. This made him unpopular in the parish and he failed in his attempt to seek re-election in 1941.
However, he had moved to St Saviour and stood for Constable there, being elected in 1842 and the five subsequent elections, before becoming a Deputy in 1860 and holding that office for six years. During his 33 years in the States he was known as an advocate of change, but the Laurel party had conservative traditions and, in the face of opposition from his fellow party members, his reforming zeal abated and he was eventually one of the main defenders of existing institutions against the arch-reformist, Abraham Le Cras.
The judicial system was split down the same party lines as the political arena in the mid 1850s and with Godfray inevitably called on to represent Laurel supporters, he invariably found himself on the opposite side of the Courtroom from St Helier Constable Pierre Le Sueur, representing Rose Party members. The two were renowned for their violent verbal battles, which the Bailiff, Jean de Veulle was scarcely capable of controlling. Even after Godfray lost his sight completely in 1858, he continued to appear in major cases for another ten years.
Godfray also clashed with de Veulle in the States and was notorious for the language he used. On one occasion it was reported that he "broke out into a violent and most indecent harangue and inveighed against the Bailiff in language most acrimonious and offensive", leading to his suspension as an Advocate. He appealed successfully to the Privy Council, but both of them were censured for their behaviour.
In his later years he became involved in speculative investments which brought with them severe financial difficulties and he died from apoplexy on 11 February 1868 when returning to his chambers after a successful Court hearing. He left a widow, Mary Le Vesconte, and son Charles and daughter Marie Elizabeth.