Le Geyt, Philip (DNB00)

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LE GEYT, PHILIP (1635–1716), writer on the laws of Jersey, eldest son of Philippe Le Geyt (1602–1669), by his wife Jeanne Sealle, was born at St. Helier and baptised there on 26 April 1635. His father, who was a jurat of the royal court of Jersey, and like most of his countrymen a supporter of the royalist cause in the civil war, was taken prisoner at the capture of Elizabeth Castle in 1651, and in addition to having his house pillaged was fined to the extent of two years of his income. The son, as was usual at the time, was educated at Duplessis-Mornay's school, Saumur; completed his legal studies at Caen and Paris; returned to Jersey shortly before the Restoration, and was in 1660 appointed greffier of the royal court. Five years later he was made a jurat, and in 1671 was elected member of a committee which was to endeavour to obtain the repeal of some obnoxious ordinances for the better administration of justice in Jersey which had been promulgated by the court of St. James in 1668. He proceeded to London with the other deputies; they attended the court for nearly a year, were well received by the Duke of York and other magnates, but effected nothing, and returned to Jersey towards the end of 1672. Le Geyt was appointed lieutenant-bailiff in 1676 in place of Jean Poingdestre, and had a share in 1685 in drawing up an abstract of the ‘Privileges of Jersey,’ a work which was subsequently suppressed. Upon the death of the bailiff, Philip Carteret, in 1693 he was appointed deputy, and filled the office of chief magistrate until the arrival, nearly a year later, of the newly elected bailiff, Edward Carteret. Though pressed to do so by the new-comer, he refused to retain the post of lieutenant-bailiff, but continued to act as jurat until 1710, when he resigned after forty-five years' service. After his resignation he lived with his nephew of the same name. The latter was elected ‘Her Majesty's Procurator in the room of Daniel Messervey, deceased,’ in October 1708 (grant in Harl. MS. 2263, fol. 297); he subsequently became lieutenant-bailiff, but fled from the island in 1730, when his life was in danger during the riots consequent on the recent change of the currency. Philip Le Geyt the elder died unmarried on 31 Jan. 1715–16, and was buried alongside of the jurats' pew in the parish church of St. Helier. His funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. François Le Couteur, rector of St. Helier.

A good speaker, and well competent to exact the respect due to his station, Le Geyt was probably the best judge, as he was certainly the ablest jurist, that Jersey has produced (cf. Ahier, Tableaux historiques de la Civilisation à Jersey, pp. 343–4). Besides an extensive acquaintance with the French writers of his time, he had a fair knowledge of English, and could at need write passably in that language, an accomplishment by no means common among his contemporaries. A conservative both by education and temperament, Le Geyt was above all a staunch upholder of the local customs of Jersey, and he left extensive manuscript collections on the constitution and laws of the island, which were acquired about 1845 by Francis Jeune [q. v.], president of Pembroke College, Oxford, for the sum of 43l. Having been placed at the disposal of the states they were published with their sanction, and at the island's expense, by Philip Falle in 1846–7, under the title of ‘Les Manuscrits de Philippe Le Geyt, Ecuyer, Lieutenant-Bailli de l'île de Jersey, sur la constitution, les lois, et les usages de cette île,’ 8vo, 4 vols. St. Helier. This important work, fragments of which only, such as the section on the ‘Jurisdiction of the Royal Court,’ had been printed before, supplements on almost every point the old ‘Coûtumes de Normandie,’ and is frequently quoted by Le Quesne in his ‘Constitution of Jersey’ (1856). Besides the above work Le Geyt also left in manuscript some religious works which have not been printed. A portrait in the Public Library at St. Helier shows him to have been a dark man of middle height, with a high forehead marked by two deep transverse furrows.

[Notice sur la Vie et les Écrits de M. Le Geyt, par Robert Pipon Marett, Ecr., avocat du Barreau de Jersey, prefixed to Le Geyt's Works; Falle's Jersey, ed. Durell, ix. 283, 300, 355; Sorsoleil's Éloge de M. Le Geyt, an English version of which is in Dr. Shebbeare's Narrative of the Oppressions of the Islanders of Jersey (1771); Payne's Armorial of Jersey, pp. 213–14; Le Quesne's Constitution of Jersey, pp. 20, 47, 204, 211 (where, however, Le Geyt is confused with his nephew. See index under ‘Geyt’).]

T. S.