GODFREY, Charles (c.1648-1715), of Windmill Street, Westminster, Mdx., and Huntercombe, Bucks.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. c.1648, s. of Francis Godfrey of Little Chelsea, Mdx. m. c.1679, Arabella (d. 1730), da. of Sir Winston Churchill† of Great Minterne, Dorset, sis. of Charles*, George* and John Churchill†, 1st Earl (later Duke) of Marlborough, 1s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1688.1
Capt. Grenadier Gds. 1674; lt.-col. of ft. Sir Thomas Slingsby’s† regt. 1678; capt.-lt. of horse, Duke of Monmouth’s regt. 1678; maj. of horse, Ld. Gerard’s regt. 1679; col. 4 Drag. Gds. Dec. 1688–93.
Burgess, Chipping Wycombe 1691.2
Dep.-master marshal of King’s hawks 1693; dep.-constable of the Tower 1694–?1698; master of the jewel office 1698–1704; clerk comptroller of Bd. of Green Cloth 1704–14; clerk of Green Cloth Oct. 1714–d.3
Godfrey was fortunate in his friends. His military career probably introduced him to John Churchill, whose elder sister he married, thereby paving the way for his future preferment in the royal household. Through his Buckinghamshire property he was brought into contact with his close friend and political patron Hon. Thomas Wharton*, to whom he acted as a second in many duels. Like Wharton and Churchill, Godfrey was one of the first to join the Prince of Orange at the Revolution. His reward was a regiment and a seat in the Convention, courtesy of Wharton’s influence at Malmesbury.4
In the 1690 election Godfrey switched constituencies, contesting Westminster, where he himself had property. For all his confidence that he would be ‘certainly chose at Westminster’ even though ‘the dean and chapter and all the parsons solicit against him’, he was defeated. In company with Wharton, Godfrey sold horses worth £43,000 to supply the army in Ireland in 1690. In July of that year he was sent by Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) to report on the French landing at Teignmouth. In the autumn of 1691 he was returned by Wharton at a by-election for Chipping Wycombe, caused by the death of their mutual friend William Jephson. In a debate on army estimates on 15 Dec. 1691, Godfrey declared:
The manner of fighting is now much altered to what it was. The French, the enemy we have to deal with, fights after another manner. His companies now consist of fewer men but his officers are trebled; they have two captains and two lieutenants to each company. And you would find it more for your service if you would increase your officers rather than lessen them. I will not deny your men are brave, but without officers to lead them on you will, I am afraid, not have the success you expect.
In 1692 he was classed as a placeman on two lists.5
During the following session, on 23 Nov. 1692, in the debate on the conduct of foreign officers at the battle of Steenkerk, he said that he ‘saw no miscarriage of army officers but all served bravely’, picked out Hon. Thomas Tollemache* for special praise, and supported the motion that in future none but English officers should lead the army. On 3 Dec. he supported the Court in the debate over the army estimates for 1693. On 16 Dec. 1692 he was among the appointees to draft the militia bill. Having presented a petition on 16 Dec. on behalf of the Company of Pinners for a statutory confirmation of their charter and a ban on the import of foreign pins, he duly presented a bill for these purposes on the 29th. Continuing his interest in military matters, he was named on 11 Feb. 1693 to draft a clause for the mutiny bill. He also supported the triennial bill on 9 Feb. 1693. Shortly afterwards he resigned his army commission, ‘said to be disgusted’. The reasons for his disenchantment have been variously identified as ‘that the going to the campaigns is too expensive for him, he having spent the last year £1,500 more than he got’, annoyance at the promotion of other officers to the rank of brigadier, or as a political gesture following Edward Russell’s* resignation and Wharton’s retirement from the capital. However, in July Godfrey was named by the Duke of St. Albans as deputy-master marshal of the King’s hawks.6
In the following session, when the commissioners of accounts investigated secret service grants to Members of Parliament, Robert Harley* revealed in December 1693 that Godfrey was receiving £1,000 p.a. in consideration of a grant made in 1668 by the Duke of York to his mistress Arabella Churchill (now Godfrey’s wife), and this was confirmed by a Treasury official in February 1694 from William Jephson’s secret service accounts. It was probably this disclosure that allowed Grascome to class Godfrey as a Court supporter with a place or pension. In December 1694 he was appointed deputy-constable of the Tower, a further indication of his acceptability to the Court. Godfrey invested between £2,000–3,000 in the Bank of England at this time and in 1697 was to subscribe £500 to the contract for lending money to circulate Exchequer bills.7
At the general election of 1695 Godfrey attended the poll at Aylesbury in support of Wharton’s protégé, Simon Mayne*, his own election two days later being unopposed. In the opening session of the Parliament he was forecast as likely to support the Court in a division of 31 Jan. 1696 over the proposed council of trade, signed the Association, and voted for fixing the price of guineas at 22s. In July one of the conspirators in the Fenwick (Sir John†) plot testified that Godfrey had taken his stepson, the Duke of Berwick, to see Princess Anne, but the charge was later withdrawn. When Fenwick himself gave evidence involving John Churchill (now Earl of Marlborough) ‘Colonel Godfrey moved the questions in behalf of my Lord Marlborough’ on 17 Nov., declaring:
I desire some question may be asked him in relation to a noble lord, my Lord Marlborough: if he be guilty, I would have it known, and I would as willingly have it known if he be innocent, as I believe it will appear. I would have him asked, whether since the beginning of this war, or from the time of the King’s landing, Sir J[ohn] F[enwick] did ever speak to him, in public or private? Or ever did write to him, or receive any message by word of mouth, or letter, from my Lord Marlborough? He says, that some service he had promised King James inclined him to promise him pardon: I would know what that service was?
Godfrey supported the attainder bill against Fenwick, telling for its engrossment on 23 Nov. and voting for its third reading on the 25th. His only other important activities in this session were on 5 Feb. 1697, when he acted as a teller against a motion to omit from a supply bill a duty on plate not brought to the Mint and at the very end of the session, on 16 Apr., when he told for a motion to read the Act for abolishing the court of wards during discussions of a bill preventing the undue marriage of infants.8
The 1697–8 session saw Godfrey come to the fore in defence of the standing army. In the debate on 17 Jan. in the committee of supply, he proposed an amendment to a motion that ‘all the commissioned officers who are natural born subjects of England’ receive half-pay, adding the words unless ‘otherwise provided for’. No doubt because of his dependability over the army question, there were rumours that Godfrey would be promoted. James Vernon I* reported that Godfrey ‘thinks it almost time he should be putting in for master of the Household, in consideration whereof he is willing to abate so much of his pension’. He was instead made master of the jewel office in May 1698.9
Returned again in 1698, Godfrey was listed as a member of the Court party and a placeman in about September 1698. In December rumours circulated that he would succeed Wharton as comptroller of the Household, but he remained at the jewel office. He voted against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. The irascible side of Godfrey’s nature was revealed in June 1699 when he forcibly took possession of a room in the jewel office which Edward Pauncefort* had been dilatory in vacating. In July following, Godfrey lent his sword to Lord Wharton in a duel with Lord Cheyne (Hon. William*) in Buckinghamshire. A week later Godfrey suffered a ‘touch of palsy’, which came upon him without pain, leaving ‘his mouth distorted and drawn awry’. The compiler of an analysis of MPs into interests in January–May 1700 classed Godfrey as a placeman. Re-elected in January 1701, he was perceived by Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, as one of the few placemen willing to stand by the Junto Lord Somers (Sir John*) and oppose the impeachments of April 1701. In December 1701, he was classed by Harley as a Whig.10
Godfrey came back into high favour at court on the accession of Queen Anne, through the influence of the Marlboroughs. Rumours abounded that he would succeed Sir Henry Goodricke, 2nd Bt.*, as lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, but these came to nothing. His rising stock may also account for the marriage of his daughter in April 1702 to Edmund Dunch* and negotiations for the marriage of another daughter to the Duke of Grafton in September. Meanwhile, Godfrey did not abandon his Whiggish politics, issuing a challenge to Henry St. John II for besmirching the honour of William III during the debate on the Queen’s speech on 26 Oct. 1702. Godfrey also voted on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. Also in February Godfrey and his wife were forced to petition the Commons (9 Feb.) concerning their claim of a rent charge of £1,000 p.a. out of an Irish estate of James II which had been sold by the trustees for forfeited estates.11
Godfrey now looked more towards the Marlboroughs than to Wharton for advancement. Thus as early as March 1703 Marlborough referred to a promise he had extracted from the Queen that Godfrey should be clerk [comptroller] of the Green Cloth when the incumbent died and be allowed to keep his present lodgings. In the event the incumbent did not die, so Godfrey had to await the death of Anthony Rowe* (also an officer at the Green Cloth) in August and the possibility even then that his post might be used as a ‘sweetener’ to buy off a Tory supporter of the Tack. He eventually gained the place in November. At this time, James Boucher, an aide-de-camp to Berwick who had been arraigned for high treason in the Scotch Plot, testified that Godfrey had promised to secure permission for him to return to England, but the matter failed to imperil Godfrey’s position. In the 1704–5 session he was listed as a probable opponent of the Tack and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704.12
Returned in 1705, Godfrey was joined in the Commons by his son, a colonel in the army. This makes identification difficult, because both men used their military titles. However, most references in the Commons Journals have been taken to refer to Colonel Godfrey snr. He was classed as a ‘High Church’ courtier on one list of the new Parliament. On 25 Oct. 1705 he voted for the Court candidate as Speaker, and on 18 Feb. 1706 supported the Court on the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. On 4 Mar. 1706, on the third reading of the bill to prevent the further growth of popery, Godfrey was among those who endeavoured to show the injustice of such a bill, not least in the way it echoed the conduct of Louis XIV towards the Huguenots. On 28 Mar. 1707 ‘Colonel’ Godfrey was a teller in favour of giving a third reading to a bill for the relief of Francis Scarsfield, a bill then rejected by the Commons. In June Marlborough sought the Queen’s promise for Godfrey’s wife to succeed Percy Kirke (should he die) as keeper of Whitehall Palace and later he reported that Arabella was making difficulties, ‘for her husband is selfish and unreasonable’, no doubt a heartfelt comment considering the places given to Godfrey and his family. On two lists from early 1708 he was classed as as Whig.13
Godfrey voted in 1709 for naturalizing the Palatines and in 1710 for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. In 1710 he was classed as a Whig on the ‘Hanover list’, and was one of the Whig placemen who voted on 7 Dec. 1711 for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion. However, he was one of the very few Whigs who voted on 18 June 1713 for the French commerce bill. If this vote was conditioned by self-interest and the need to keep his post, it backfired because it led to the loss of his seat at the 1713 election. Wharton refused to countenance his return for Wycombe and no other seat was made available. Nevertheless, it would appear that family ties ensured that he was promoted to be clerk of the Green Cloth after the Hanoverian succession. Godfrey died on 23 Feb. 1715, aged 66, while on a visit to Bath, and was buried in the abbey there. In his will he left his daughters £100 each and Hugh Boscawen II* (husband of Charlotte) and Edmund Dunch (husband of Elizabeth) a similar sum. His widow acquired the remainder of his estate.14
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley
- 1. PCC 47 Exton; Boyer, Pol. State, xxxix. 562.
- 2. First Ledger Bk. of High Wycombe ed. Greaves (Bucks. Rec. Soc. 11), 231.
- 3. Add. ch. 66239; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 81; R. O. Bucholz, Augustan Court, 262; info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
- 4. Bucholz, 101; J. Carswell, Good Old Cause, 45, 96.
- 5. Bodl. Carte 79, f. 300; Carswell, 76; HMC 7th Rep. 479, 497; CSP Dom. 1690–1, pp. 81, 311; Luttrell Diary, 80.
- 6. Luttrell Diary, 254–5, 290, 323; Grey, x. 258–9; Ranke, vi. 185, 212; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 2385, acct. of debate 23 Nov. 1692; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 36; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O59/2, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 14 Feb. 1692–3; H. Horwitz, Parliament and Policy Wm. III, 109; Add. ch. 66239.
- 7. CJ, xi. 27, 89; Luttrell, iii. 410; Add. 42593, f. 40; Univ. of London Lib. ms 65 item 3, May 1697.
- 8. Stowe 304, f. 206; HMC Hastings, ii. 262; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 64; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 1051.
- 9. CSP Dom. 1698, pp. 33, 238; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, i. 222; ii. 81.
- 10. Luttrell, iv. 459; Add. 40774, ff. 35, 104–5, 116; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 324; Cocks Diary, 95; Horwitz, 288.
- 11. Hervey Letter Bks. i. 159; Luttrell, v. 169, 212; W. A. Speck, Birth of a Nation, 42.
- 12. Marlborough– Godolphin Corresp. 162, 171, 310, 331, 356; Boyer, Anne Annals, ii. 223; Bull. IHR, xli. 178.
- 13. Cobbett, vi. 515; Marlborough– Godolphin Corresp. 808–9, 832–3.
- 14. G. S. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 324; info. from Prof. Bucholz; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, pp. 279–80; PCC 47 Fagg.