Sir William COURTENAY of East Coker, Ilton and Powderham, Knight

Born: ABT 1477

Died: 24 Nov 1535, Powderham, Devonshire, England

Father: William COURTENAY of Powderham (Sir Knight)

Mother: Cecily CHENEY

Married 1: Margaret EDGECOMBE (d. BEF Nov 1520) (dau. of Sir Richard Edgcombe and Joan Tremayne)



2. Peter COURTENAY of Ugbrooke (Sir)


4. Nicholas COURTENAY

5. Anthony COURTENAY

Married 2: Mary GAYNSFORD (b. ABT 1495 - d. BEF 12 Feb 1572) (dau. of John Gaynsford and Anne Hawte) (m.2 of Sir Anthony Kingston)


6. Gertrude COURTENAY

7. James COURTENAY (b. 1521)

8. Elizabeth COURTENAY (b. 1529)

9. Catherine COURTENAY (b. 1527)


11. Thomas COURTENAY (b. 1533)

12. Phillip COURTENAY (b. 1523)

The details in this biography come from the History of Parliament, a biographical dictionary of Members of the House of Commons.

Born by 1485, first son of Sir William Courtenay of Powderham by Cecily, dau. of Sir John Cheney of Pinhoe, Devon. Married first, by 4 Nov 1506, Margaret, dau. of Sir Richard Edgecombe of Cotehele, wid. of William St. Maure; and secondly, by 27 Oct 1512, Mary, dau. of Sir John Gainsford of Crowhurst. Suc. family 1512. Kntd. Jul 1517/Mar 1521. Esq. of the body by Sep 1512 ; commr. subsidy, Devon 1512, 1514, 1515, 1524; other commissions, Cornw. and Devon 1527-d.; j.p. Devon 1513-d.; keeper, North Petherton park, Som. 1513-d.; sheriff, Devon Feb-Nov 1522, 1525-6, 1533-4.

William Courtenay obtained livery of his lands on 11 Sep 1512. In Jan of that year he had been bound (as had Richard Cornwall) in a recognizance of 500 marks not to go two miles from London: the cause of the restriction is not known, but the bond was cancelled three months later. On entering upon his inheritance Courtenay moved from East Coker, where he had lived after his first marriage, to the family seat of Powderham, whence he intervened in the affairs of Devon but also travelled regularly to give attendance at court. His place near Henry VIII had probably been found for him by his father or by his kinsman the Earl of Devon. He took part in the military campaigns of 1514 and 1523, and was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and the King's meeting with Carlos V at Gravelines. It was during these years that he was knighted, although the date and occasion are unknown.

Courtenay had become intimate with Sir Thomas Denys and had worked closely with him in Devon before the two were returned as knights of the shire to the Parliament of 1529: either or both mar have sat in earlier Parliaments for which the Members' names are lost. Among Courtenay's relatives who sat in 1529 was Sir Peter Edgecombe, his brother-in-law, retumed as knight for Cornwall at the time when he was serving as Sheriff of Devon. Cromwell appears to have thought well of Courtenay and entrusted him with matters of importance, notably in connexion with the visitation of monasteries. Fragments of their correspondence survive: in three letters of the year 1533 Courtenay excused himself from attending the coronation of Anne Boleyn because of an injured leg, discussed a proposed marriage between his daughter-in-law, a kinswoman of the Queen, and Richard Cromwell, alias Williams, and successfully solicited the next shrievalty for himself. Shortly before his death Courtenay was granted an annuity of five marks by the city of Exeter.

Courtenay died at Powderham either late on 23 Nov or early on 24 Nov 1535. According to John Hussee, when he reported the event to Lord Lisle at Calais, 'some were sorry but for the most part made little moan': the corporation of Plymouth, at least, mourned one who had been 'a special good master to the town'. Courtenay's heir was his grand-son William, his eldest son George having predeceased him. He had made a will on 8 Nov 1527 in which he provided amply for his wife, to whom he left a life interest at Cadleigh, and for his children, and appointed among others as its supervisors Denys and James Courtenay. It may have been because some of his sons and executors had predeceased him that probate was not granted until 27 May 1541; by then his widow had married Anthony Kingston. Courtenay's place in Parliament was filled, during the last session, by his kinsman George Carew.

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