Godefroy - Encyclopedia

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GODEFROY (GOTHOFREDUS), a French noble family, which numbered among its members several distinguished jurists and historians. The family claimed descent from Symon Godefroy, who was born at Mons about 1320 and was lord of Sapigneulx near Berry-au-bac, now in the department of Aisne.

Denis Godefroy (Dionysius Gothofredus) (1549-1622), jurist, son of Leon Godefroy, lord of Guignecourt, was born in Paris on the 17th of October 1549. He was educated at the College de. Navarre, and studied law at Louvain, Cologne and Heidelberg, returning to Paris in 1573. He embraced the reformed religion, and in 1579 left Paris, where his abilities and connexions promised a brilliant career, to establish himself at Geneva. He became professor of law there, received the freedom of the city in 1580, and in 1587 became a member of the Council of the Two Hundred. Henry IV. induced him to return to France by making him grand bailli of Gex,but no sooner had he installed himself than the town was sacked and his library burnt by the troops of the duke of Savoy. In 1591 he became professor of Roman law at Strassburg, where he remained until April 1600, when in response to an invitation from Frederick IV., elector palatine, he removed to Heidelberg. The difficulties of his position led to his return to Strassburg for a short time, but in November 1604 he definitely settled at Heidelberg. He was made head of the faculty of law in the university, and was from time to time employed on missions to the French court. His repeated refusal of offers of advancement in his own country was due to his Calvinism. He died at Strassburg on the 7th of September 1622, having left Heidelberg before the city was sacked by the imperial troops in 1621. His most important work was the Corpus juris civilis, originally published at Geneva in 1583, which went through some twenty editions, the most valuable of them being that printed by the Elzevirs at Amsterdam in 1633 and the Leipzig edition of 1740.

Lists of his other learned works may be found in Senebier's Hist. lift. de Geneve, vol. ii., and in Niceron's Memoires, vol. xvii. Some of his correspondence with his learned friends, with his kinsman President de Thou, Isaac Casaubon, Jean Jacques Grynaeus and others, is preserved in the libraries of the British Museum, of Basel and Paris.

His eldest SOn, Theodore Godefroy (1580-1649), was born at Geneva on the 14th of July 1580. He abjured Calvinism, and was called to the bar in Paris. He became historiographer of France in 1613, and was employed from time to time on diplomatic missions. He was employed at the congress of Munster, where he remained after the signing of peace in 1648 as charge d'affaires until his death on the 5th of October of the next year. His most important work is Le Ceremonial de France.. . (1619), a work which became a classic on the subject of royal ceremonial, and was re-edited by his son in an enlarged edition in 1649.

Besides his printed works he made vast collections of historical material which remains in MS. and fills the greater part of the Godefroy collection of over five hundred portfolios in the Library of the Institute in Paris. These were catalogued by Ludovic Lalanne in the Annuaire Bulletin (1865-1866 and 1892) of the Societe de l'histoire de France. The second son of Denis, Jacques Godefroy (1587-1652), jurist, was born at Geneva on the 13th of September 1587. He was sent to France in 1611, and studied law and history at Bourges and Paris. He remained faithful to the Calvinist persuasion, and soon returned to Geneva, where he became active in public affairs. He was secretary of state from 1632 to 1636, and syndic or chief magistrate in 1637, 1641, 1645 and 1649. He died on the 23rd of June 1652. In addition to his civic and political work he lectured on law, and produced, after thirty years of labour, his edition of the Codex Theodosianus. This code formed the principal, though not the only, source of the legal systems of the countries formed from the Western Empire. Godefroy's edition was enriched with a multitude of important notes and historical comments, and became a standard authority on the decadent period of the Western Empire. It was only printed thirteen years after his death under the care of his friend Antoine Marville at Lyons (4 vols. 1665), and was reprinted at Leipzig (6 vols.) in 1736-1745. Of his numerous other works the most important was the reconstruction of the twelve tables of early Roman law.

See also the dictionary of Moreri, Niceron's Memoires (vol. 17) and a notice in the Bibliotheque universelle de Geneve (Dec. 1837). Denis Godefroy (1615-1681), eldest son of Theodore, succeeded his father as historiographer of France, and re-edited various chronicles which had been published by him. He was entrusted by Colbert with the care and investigation of the records concerning the Low Countries preserved at Lille, where great part of his life was spent. He was also the historian of the reigns of Charles VII. and Charles VIII.

Other members of the family who attained distinction in the same branch of learning were the two sons of Denis GodefroiDenis (1653-1719), also an historian, and Jean, sieur d'Aumont (1656-1732), who edited the letters of Louis XII., the memoirs of Marguerite de Valois, of Castelnau and Pierre de l'Estoire, and left some useful material for the history of the Low Countries; Jean Baptiste Achille Godefroy, sieur de Maillart (1697-1759), and Denis Joseph Godefroy, sieur de Maillart (1740-1819), son and grandson of Jean Godefroy, who were both officials at Lille, and left valuable historical documents which have remained in MS.

For further details see Les Savants Godefroy (Paris, 1873) by the marquis de Godefroy-Menilglaise, son of Denis Joseph Godefroy.

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