COURTNEY, Francis (c.1592-at least 1648), of St. Benet's, Lanivet, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



6 Mar. 1626

Family and Education

b. c.1592,1 1st s. of Henry Courtney of St. Benet’s and Elizabeth, da. of one Giles of Kent.2 educ. M. Temple 1610; vol. Low Countries by 1615-at least 1622.3 m. 27 Dec. 1617, Katherine, da. of Edward Lower of St. Tudy, Cornw., 2s. 1da.4 suc. fa. 1601.5

Offices Held

Commr. assessment, Cornw. 1647-8, militia 1648.6


This Member’s identity has not been certainly established. He may have been Francis Courtenay* of Powderham, Devon; if so he perhaps obtained the Grampound burgess-ship through his distant kinsman, John Mohun*, a leading electoral patron of the borough at this time. However, apart from an undistinguished performance as a knight of the shire for Devon in 1625, this man had as yet taken little part in public life, and it seems doubtful that he would have sought a late entrance to the 1626 Parliament by such a route.7 It seems much more likely, given the context of the 1626 Grampound election, that this Member belonged to a distant junior branch of the Devon man’s family based at Lanivet. This Cornish Courtney’s father, a younger son, earned his living as a Middle Temple lawyer for many years, and, on his early death in 1601, left his infant son little more than the seat of St. Benet’s, a converted medieval lazar-house about ten miles from Grampound.8 Courtney himself entered the Middle Temple in 1610, where he was bound with a distant relative, Thomas St. Aubyn*. However, military life appealed to him more strongly, and within a few years he was serving as a volunteer in the Low Countries. During a visit home in 1617 he married Katherine Lower, the cousin of one of his Middle Temple associates, Alexander Lower, and the niece of Humphrey Nicoll*, a local landowner who already possessed an interest in part of his property. Courtney finally settled in Lanivet again around the early 1620s.9

The Grampound election of March 1626 arose because an initial contest had seen three men returned. Edward Thomas, representing the Mohun interest, was allowed to take his seat, but the second place remained vacant after Sir Benjamin Rudyard opted to sit elsewhere and Thomas St. Aubyn’s election was overturned. St. Aubyn had probably relied on his own family’s local standing to secure him a place, but Rudyard was a client of the lord warden of the Stannaries, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, who presumably exerted influence over Grampound, a duchy of Cornwall borough, through his vice-warden, William Coryton*. If, as is likely, Pembroke’s interest was again mobilized to replace Rudyard, it seems reasonable to assume that it was Courtney of Lanivet who stood for election. He was one of the few Cornishmen known to have publicly supported Coryton’s stand against the Forced Loan in the following year, and may therefore have already become his political ally. However, even if it was Mohun and not Coryton who decided the election’s outcome, the choice of Courtney of Lanivet remains plausible, since he had been bound with Mohun at the Middle Temple in 1611. Whoever Courtney was, no trace of his subsequent performance in Parliament survives.10

Alongside Humphrey Nicoll, Courtney was summoned before the Privy Council in July 1627 for opposing the Loan, but whether he received further punishment is not known. He was still living in 1641, and was almost certainly the man of that name who served as a Cornish commissioner after the Civil War, in which conflict his eldest son fought for Parliament. However, no record of his death or burial has been found. A will which is ostensibly his, drafted in 1655 and proved in 1660, may actually have been drawn up by his younger son and namesake, since it seems to describe a family of young children. None of Courtney’s immediate descendants sat in Parliament.11

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Age calculated from date of admiss. to M. Temple.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 115; Bp. of London Mar. Lics. 1520-1610 ed. G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxv), 141.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.; C2/Jas.I/C20/53.
  • 4. Vivian, 115.
  • 5. PROB 11/98, f. 309v.
  • 6. A. and O. i. 962, 1079, 1235.
  • 7. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 247, 464.
  • 8. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 108, 113-5; MTR, 220, 320; PROB 11/98, f. 309v; C. Henderson et al. Cornish Church Guide, 130.
  • 9. MTR, 517, 520; C2/Jas.I/C20/53; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 115, 117, 299-300, 302, 344, 438.
  • 10. Procs. 1626, ii. 61; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 231; MTR, 531.
  • 11. APC, 1627, p. 421; E179/89/327; J. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. iii. 18; PROB 11/297, f. 247.