Philippe Baudains

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Philippe Baudains (1836-1908)

Constable of St Helier, lawyer and controversial Freemason

Baudains, the son of Jean Baudains and Marguerite Valpy, was born in St John on 21 April 1836. He had a remarkable career as a lawyer and politician, and managed to upset the Freemasonry heirarchy so much that he was excommunicated, together with a Lodge he founded and all its members.

Father of the Parish

But it is probably as Constable that he achieved greatest success, leading the parish for a total of 21 years and proving to be probably the most active member of the States for much of that time. He was responsible for the introduction in the assembly of voting by ballot but failed to abolish seigneurial rights.

Educated at the Central School, St John, he entered a law office at the age of 15 as a clerk and was taught law by one of the French proscrits who accompanied Victor Hugo into exile in Jersey. He was admitted as an Ecrivain by the Bailiff and then studied further in Paris before eventually becoming only the second person to pass the qualifying exam for the Jersey Bar and being sworn in as an Advocate at the age of 32.

Freemasonry conflict

For the previous five years he had run a new Freemasonry Lodge for the benefit of the French proscrits despite this being rejected by the English heirarchy because many of the members were atheists. He remained Master of the breakway Lodge but it steadily lost membership and folded in 1873. It was 15 years after that before he returned to La Césarée Lodge and in 1893 he was re-elected to its chair.

He was one of the founder members of La Société Jersiaise in 1873 and an officer in the Jersey Militia for nearly 20 years, rising to the rank of Captain, despite drawing unwelcome attention for the unmilitary length of his hair.

Political career

His first attempt to enter politics in 1879 was somewhat ignominious. He received only 86 votes in an election for Deputy in St Helier. Two years later, however, he was returned unopposed as Constable, and served five three-year terms before ill health forced his retirement. A bronze bust was erected in the Parade to honour his service.

His health improved and he returned to politics as a Deputy in 1899, and later that year he returned to his old post of Constable, in which he served for another six years. He died of cancer in 1908.

Sources

A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey by G R Balleine.

A report in the Illustrated London News in 1899
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