COURTENAY, James (1522/23-92), of Upcott, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1522/23, 1st s. of James Courtenay of ‘Boltebery Alden’ by Anne, da. of Sir John Bassett of Umberleigh. suc. fa. 20 Sept. 1546. m. at least 1s.1

Offices Held

J.p. Devon 1554; sheriff 1554-5.2


James Courtenay was a nephew of Sir William Courtenay I of Powderham and a cousin of Sir William Courtenay II, with whom he was to sit in the Parliament of 1555. Nothing has been discovered of his life before he succeeded, at the age of 23, to the scattered properties which had been settled on his father at marriage. A minor landowner and a Catholic, he was to play no part in public affairs except under Mary.3

It was probably to his Bassett mother that Courtenay owed his Catholicism, and the influence of his uncle James Bassett is discernible in his political career. Bassett was his fellow-knight in the Parliament of November 1554 and probably also had a hand in his election for Dartmouth to the following one, in which Bassett was again senior knight: as Courtenay was then sheriff he stretched the rule which forbade the election of sheriffs within their own counties, but his acceptability to the crown was a safeguard against official challenge. Not surprisingly his name appears on neither of the catalogues of dissentient Members of these two Parliaments, those who quitted the first one before its dissolution and those who in the second opposed a government measure. Named an overseer of Bassett’s will of 1558, he was also given ‘preferment’ in the purchase of the Carew lands which Bassett ordered his executors to sell, but does not appear to have exercised this option.4

The accession of Elizabeth meant eclipse for Courtenay. After refusing to subscribe to the Act of Uniformity in 1569 he exposed himself to penalty, and although some of the later references of this nature may be to his son and namesake he clearly suffered considerable hardship. He died on 8 Oct. 1592 and was succeeded by his grandson James, then aged 16 years.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/84/28. Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 246; C142/234/84.
  • 2. CPR, 1553-4, p. 18.
  • 3. C142/84/28, 234/84.
  • 4. PCC 19 Welles.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 354-5; 1581-90, p. 279; Cath. Rec. Soc. xviii. 35-36; xxii. 124; C142/234/84.