Generations of Jerseymen have Laurens Baudains to thank for their university education, for it is his bequest, known as the Don Baudains, which has been used since the 17th century to finance the studies at Oxford and Cambridge of those who would not otherwise have been able to attend. But this was not Laurens Baudains' original intention, when he decided to give his wealth to the island after the death of his only son.
The son of merchant and farmer Edouard Baudains, and Susanne Hicques, Laurens Baudains made his money by joining his father in business. His father was an educated man, who once fell foul of the Royal Court by addressing the Jurats in French, English and Latin, They were not impressed and fined him for contempt.
When Laurens' son, also Laurens, died in 1596, he determined to use his money to the best effect for the island and decided to found a school "for the instruction of youth in grammar, Latin, the liberal arts and religion". On 7 October that year he offered the States Dannemarche Mill and 18 quarters of wheat rent to set up this project, and the following year Queen Elizabeth I issued Letters Patent allowing others to add to his gift.
After a good start, however, the scheme foundered. In 1598 Edmund Snape, a Puritan who had been chaplain to the troops at Mont Orgueil, was appointed Master by the States, but he left after a few months. The States added 20 quarters to the endowment the following year, and then authorised the two senior boys to run the college as sub-regents in 1600 while trying to decide what to do next. There were suggestions that the school should be merged with St Mannelier, and others, including Sir Philippe de Carteret, were trying to divert the money to other causes.
By 1608 nothing was happening and Baudains made an official complaint to the States, at the same time trying to spur them into action by offering another 15 quarters, plus 200 crowns for the building of a College. There were conditions: a suitable building should be built at once in the town or nearby, a university graduate capable of teaching Latin and Greek should be appointed within a year as Master and the Rectors should agree to take turns at teaching in the absence of the Master. These conditions were accepted, but although Jerseyman Pierre Guille was appointed Master, he resigned after a short time and was not replaced.
Baudains decided that the time had come to follow a different course and in 1611 he applied for Letters Patent to divert his endowment to financing the education of young islanders at Oxford and Cambridge, on condition that they returned afterwards to devote themselves to the service of their native island. The plan was accepted, although Baudains died just before approval was received from the Privy Council. In his will he left considerable sums to the parishes for the care of the poor.
By the middle of the 20th century 120 young Jerseymen had benefited from the Don Baudains, including historians Jean Poingdestre, Philippe Falle and Edouard Le Vavasseur dit Durell; Deans Thomas Le Breton and Edouard Dupre; Elie Messervy, the first Jersey Rector to receive Anglican orders; headmasters John Dupre, Marius d'Assigny and Richard Valpy; and many other clergymen. The importance of the Don Baudains in educating Jerseymen who could return to the island to take up positions as Rector can be judged from the fact that five out of 12 Rectors were Don Baudains scholars in 1670; five in 1720; four in 1770; six in 1820; and no fewer than seven, plus the incumbents of three other churches, in 1870.
A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by the Rev G R Balleine.