Melius de Villiers, e1f8

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About Melius de Villiers, e1f8


Melius de Villiers was born 5 September 1849, Paarl v. He attended Paarl Gymnasium and South African College School. In 1872 he obtained the “Certificate of the Higher Class in Law and Jurisprudence” and this, together with two other Certificates of Merit and Attainment of the Board of Examiners, allowed him admission as an advocate to the Cape Bar.

On 15 May 1876, he was sworn in as Second Puisne Judge of the High Court of Justice of the Oranje Vrijstaat along side the Chief Justice Francis William Reitz and Justice James Buchanan. In 1898, the University of the Cape of Good Hope conferred on him the honorary degrees of MA and LLB. In January 1889, he succeeded Reitz as Chief Justice and held the position until May 1900, the fall of Bloemfontein to the British forces during the Second Anglo-Boer War. At that time, De Villiers was refused permission to join President Steyn in the field and was sent to the Cape as a prisoner-of-war. He and his family lived in the United Kingdom between 1900-1902 whereafter he rejoined the Cape bar. Offered the position of Chief Justice of the Orange River Colony by Alfred Lord Milner, he declined citing as his reason the oath of allegiance he had sworn to the independence of the former Oranje Vrijstaat. In 1905, the Law Faculty of the University of Leyden, Netherlands established a Chair in “Zuid-Afrikaansche Recht” which he accepted. There he became a staunch advocate of and international authority on Roman- Dutch Law. He held the post with distinction until 1912, when he resigned for reasons unknown.

Though his unassuming, almost self-deprecating nature at first had him being overlooked, his unquestionable intelligence, capacity for work, reputation for impartiality and ability for calm methodical analysis earned him the respect of most with whom he had contact. Together with his brother, Henry Lord de Villiers, he is still acknowledged as being one of the most influential southern African jurists of his generation.

He married Sarah Adelaide Holmes-Orr who bore him four children vi. He died on 6 July 1938 vii and is buried in the graveyard of the Anglican Church, Groot Drakenstein; she died on 16 January 1940 viii.

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Melius de Villiers, e1f8's Timeline

September 5, 1849
September 30, 1849
Paarl, WC, South Africa
July 6, 1938
Age 88
Stellenbosch, WC, South Africa