GODFREY, Charles (c.1648-1715), of Windmill Street, Westminster and Huntercombe, Bucks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. c.1648, s. of Francis Godfrey of Little Chelsea, Mdx. m. c.1679, Arabella, da. of (Sir) Winston Churchill of Minterne Magna, Dorset, 1s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1688.1

Offices Held

Capt. R. Ft. Gds. (later Grenadier Gds.) 1674; lt-col. of ft. regt. of Sir Thomas Slingsby 1678; capt. Duke of Monmouth’s Horse 1678; maj. Ld. Gerard’s ft. 1679; col. of dgns. (later 5 Dgn. Gds.) Dec. 1688-93.

Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1689-90; freeman, Chipping Wycombe 1691; j.p. Bucks. 1695-?d., Mdx. by 1701-d.; dep. lt. Bucks. 1703-?d.2

Dep. constable of the Tower 1694-8; master of the jewels 1698-1704; clerk-comptroller of the green cloth 1704-d.3

Biography

Godfrey came of a recusant family, originating in Norfolk. His father, who had property in Oxfordshire, was commissioned ensign in the second Bishops’ war, but was dismissed as a Papist. At the outbreak of the Civil War, however, he rejoined the army and saw much action. When taken prisoner at Naseby he had risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was probably the Francis Godfrey, Papist and delinquent, whose rent-charge of £10 p.a. was sequestrated in Norfolk in April 1648. Godfrey served with the Duke of Monmouth as a volunteer in the French service and distinguished himself in a gallant action at the siege of Maestricht in June 1673. He carried the news of its capture to London, for which, it was incorrectly rumoured, he was to receive a knighthood. Commissioned captain in the guards shortly thereafter, he embarked upon a military career and served in Flanders in 1678, but apparently left the army in the next year.4

About this time Godfrey married Arabella Churchill, a former mistress of the Duke of York, a marriage which was to prove fortunate. He was an associate of Monmouth, who may have been hidden in his house in Covent Garden in November 1679 on his return to England, and he carried a letter from the Duke to Charles II asking for an audience, a letter which enraged the King. After the Rye House Plot it was reported that Godfrey and William Jephson had been arrested for denying belief in Monmouth’s confession published in the Gazette. By 1687 he was resident at a large house in Windmill Street, and a member of the ‘Treason Club’ which met under the presidency of Lord Colchester Richard Savage) at the Rose tavern in Covent Garden. With Colchester, Henry Wharton and Jephson, he was one of the first to join William of Orange and on 31 Dec. 1688 was rewarded with the command of a regiment of dragoons.5

Godfrey was returned for Malmesbury to the Convention on the Wharton interest. He was not an active Member, being named only to the committees to consider the first mutiny bill and to reverse the attainder of Sir Thomas Armstrong. On 22 Nov. he was given permission to testify before the Lords’ committee—the so-called ‘murder committee’—appointed to discover ‘who were the advisers and prosecutors of the murders’ of the Hon. William Russell, Colonel Algernon Sidney, and Armstrong. His testimony was designed to prove that Lord Halifax had compelled Monmouth to sign the paper which had incriminated Russell and Sidney. He supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations.6

After 1690 Godfrey voted with the Whigs. He took part in the campaigns of 1691-2 and his regiment fought well at the battle of Steinkirk. He gave up his commission, however, ‘said to be disgusted’, in March 1693. In 1698, when his brother-in-law the Duke of Marlborough John Churchill II) came back into favour, Godfrey was made master of the jewels and in 1704 a clerk of the green cloth. He died on 23 Feb. 1715, aged 66, when on a visit to Bath, and was buried in Bath Abbey. His son Francis, who represented St. Mawes in 1705, was also a soldier and rose to be a brigadier before his death in 1712. Two of his daughters were maids of honour to Queen Anne.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning

Notes

  • 1. St. James Piccadilly rate bk. 1686-7; Bucks. Sess. Recs. ii. 128; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700-15, pp. 240, 279-80; DNB; CP, v. 247; PCC 47 Exton.
  • 2. First Wycombe Ledger Bk. (Bucks. Rec. Soc. xi), 231; Bucks. Sess. Recs. ii. 455.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xiii. 367; Luttrell, v. 464; CSP Dom. 1703-4, p. 277.
  • 4. Stevens Pprs. (Oxf. Rec. Soc. xlii), 46; Oxon. Charters (Oxf. Rec. Soc. xlv), 86; P. Young, Edgehill, 218-19; W. Churchill, Marlborough, i. 97-98; Williamson Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. viii), 64.
  • 5. E. D’Oyley, Monmouth, 48; HMC Ormonde