He was the only son of John Robert Godley, a colonial reformer, and Charlotte Godley, a letter-writer and community leader. Having studied at Radley, Rugby, and Balliol College, Oxford (where he won the Gaisford Prize for Greek Verse), his first important role was acting as Assistant Private Secretary to William Ewart Gladstone, then Prime Minister, during the years 1872 to 1874. He was elected a fellow of Hertford College, Oxford for the period 1874 to 1881. In 1880 Godley was appointed Commissioner for Inland Revenue, a position he held till 1882. Appointed Under-Secretary of State at the India Office in 1883, he remained there for 26 years, retiring in 1909. On 8 December 1909 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Kilbracken, of Killegar in the County of Leitrim. His autobiography, Reminiscences of Lord Kilbracken, was published in 1931, the year before he died. He was succeeded in the Barony by his eldest and only surviving son, Hugh.
Lord Kilbracken was a first cousin of the classical scholar A. D. Godley.
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| Permanent Under-Secretary of State for India
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
|Baron Kilbracken||Succeeded by|
Hugh John Godley