COURTENAY, Sir Hugh (aft.1358-1425), of Haccombe and Bampton, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. aft. 1358, yr. s. of Edward Courtenay of Goodrington, Devon (3rd s. of Hugh, earl of Devon) by Emmeline (d.1372), da. and h. of Sir John Dauney of Mudford Terry and Hinton, Som. m. (1) 1387, Elizabeth (d.c.1392), wid. of Sir Thomas Audley; (2) by Feb. 1393, Elizabeth (c.1373-29 Oct. 1397), da. and h. of Sir William Cogan of Bampton by his 2nd w. Isabel, er. da. and coh. of Sir Nigel Loring of Chalgrave, Beds., wid. of Sir Fulk Fitzwaryn (d.1391) of Whittington, Salop, 1ch. d.v.p.; (3) by 1407, Philippa, da. and coh. of Sir Warin Archdeacon† of Haccombe, 2da.; (4) lic. 16 Oct. 1417, Maud (d. 3 July 1467), da. of Sir William Beaumont of Heanton Punchardon, Devon, 2s. 1da. Kntd. by 1387.1
Commr. to survey the estates of the Lords Appellant of 1388, Devon, Cornw. Oct. 1397; of array, Devon Dec. 1399, July 1402, Aug., Sept., Oct. 1403, Mar. 1404, July 1405, Apr. 1418, June 1421; oyer and terminer Feb. 1400; inquiry, Devon, Cornw. Aug. 1400 (wastes), Devon, Som., Dorset, Wilts., Bristol, Hants Dec. 1400 (concealment of possessions of Richard II’s adherents), Devon July 1401 (concealment of alnage), Cornw. Jan. 1406 (unlawful assemblies); to proclaim the King’s intention to govern well, Devon May 1402; treat for royal loans Nov. 1419; take musters June 1421; enforce statutes relating to salmon Feb. 1425.
J.p. Devon 16 Feb. 1400-7, 12 Feb. 1422-d.
Tax collector, Devon Mar. 1404.
Sheriff, Devon 4 Nov. 1418-23 Nov. 1419.
The death of Hugh, earl of Devon, in 1377 brought the title to his grandson, Edward, elder brother of this Member. Both the new earl and Hugh were somewhat overshadowed by their prominent uncles, Sir Philip*, Sir Peter† and William Courtenay, the archbishop of Canterbury, and took little part in national affairs. Hugh apparently accompanied his uncles Peter and Philip on the naval expedition of 1378 which was all but destroyed by Spaniards. He was retrospectively referred to by Thomas Walsingham (the chronicler) as ‘miles egregius’, although he was not by then a knight and probably still a minor. At all events, he was taken prisoner in the struggle, only to be quickly ransomed. By 1384 he was receiving livery as one of his brother the earl’s esquires, and he served at sea as a member of his retinue from March 1387, under the admiral, Richard, earl of Arundel. Few other traces of his activities are found before he went to Ireland with Richard II. On that occasion, in April 1399, he received royal letters of protection as accompanying Edward, duke of Aumâle (elder son of the duke of York), with whom he had been connected since 1397 when Aumâle had been granted custody of the estates of Courtenay’s stepson, Fulk Fitzwaryn.2
Most of Courtenay’s recorded activities, however, had to do with the acquisition of land. At his death he held some 14 manors and other properties, mostly in Devon but also in Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, Essex and Herefordshire. The provenance of this estate varied: Corston (Somerset) and the advowson of the chantry there came from his grandmother, the Countess Margaret, and like Hinton and Mudford in the same county, which had been his mother’s, were held, along with lands in Dorset, by grant of his brother, Earl Edward. Goodrington, Allington and Stancombe, Devon, were settled on Courtenay and his first wife in September 1387, within three months of their marriage. Courtenay laid claim to half the manor of Kingston (?near Plymouth) as part of his first wife’s dower from the Audley estates, but failed to proved his case against Sir Fulk Fitzwaryn. His second marriage, not licenced by the King, to Elizabeth Fitzwaryn, his opponent’s widow, brought him not only her substantial dower lands in Staffordshire and Shropshire but also the estates which had belonged to her father, Sir William Cogan, in Devon and Somerset. Courtenay thus acquired the manor and hundred of Bampton and at least six more manors and other property including Ilfracombe, Nymet Tracey and Up Exe. He evidently had issue by his second wife, for he was able to retain her estates (‘by the courtesy’) after her death in 1397 and until his own 28 years later. By 1407 Courtenay had married one of the coheirs of Sir Warin Archdeacon, and acquired in her right properties in Essex and Herefordshire, including part of the manor of Woodham Mortimer and land at Richards Castle. His property was not completely assessed in 1412, but lands in Devon, Dorset and Somerset alone were valued at over £135 a year.3
The tendency towards doubtfully legal acquisition of land was a characteristics of the Courtenays. The example, in particular, of his uncle Sir Philip must have prompted Hugh to attempt similar actions. In 1397 Simon Brit, holder of two-thirds of the manor of Huish Champflower (Somerset) was accused of novel disseisin by Alice Colne who entered ‘by maintenance and counsel of Hugh Courtenay, knight’. Brit declared that he dared not sue at common law against Hugh and therefore petitioned Chancery. A more complicated situation arose over the manor of West Ogwell, Devon, which Courtenay acquired in contravention of the provisions of an entail. A petition to Chancery alleged that he ‘imagines and hath imagined from day to day’ to obtain a release from the heir, and had ‘perceived certain strifes to be raised and moved’ between his tenant and the claimant. In order to ruin the latter, Courtenay bribed one of his servants to sue for the appointment of a commission of oyer and terminer against him.4
The chronology of Courtenay’s political service is curious, and cannot be explained in terms of sympathy with Richard II, for his appointment on several early commissions of Henry IV, particularly concerned with inquiry into the possession of the late King’s supporters and with providing men and supplies for the army deployed in suppressing the Welsh rebellion, were positions of trust where suspicion of loyalty was out of the question. And yet a gap of nearly 25 years in parliamentary service and another of more than 15 on the commission of the peace need some explanation. Perhaps Courtenay’s own personal preference for obscurity, country life and local business transactions accounts for it. The death of his brother in 1419 and the accession to the earldom of his nephew, Hugh who spent much time abroad in royal service, would have made him the senior member of the family at home; and this may well account for his renewed activity. As sheriff of Devon, Courtenay held the elections at Exeter to the Parliament of 1419, and he made an appearance at those held in the autumn of 1422, by which time, after the death of his nephew, Earl Hugh, and during the minority of the heir, he had become the effective head of the family.5
Courtenay died on 5 or 6 Mar. 1425, leaving as his heir Edward, his elder son by his fourth marriage, who was then about eight years old. That part of his lands which had belonged to his third wife, Philippa (next to whose body he was buried at Haccombe), were divided between their two daughters, Joan and Eleanor. Courtenay’s other son, Sir Hugh Courtenay (d.1471) of Boconnoc, was the father of Edward, who became earl of Devon in 1485. Courtenay’s widow survived him by more than 40 years, dying in 1467.