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Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter, from the Black Book of the Garter, c1535
Signature of Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, from Doyle's 'Official Baronage'
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter and Earl of Devonshire (1496?-1538)

HENRY COURTENAY, Marquis of Exeter and Earl of Devonshire (1496?-1538), born about 1496, was son of Sir William Courtenay, by Princess Catharine, youngest daughter of Edward IV. His grandfather, Edward Courtenay, was on 26 Oct. 1485 created Earl of Devonshire by Henry VII; was granted at the same time very large estates in Devonshire; was made knight of the Garter in 1490; resisted Perkin Warbeck's attack on Exeter in 1497; and dying 1 March 1509, was buried at Tiverton.

Henry Courtenay's father, Sir William Courtenay, was in high favour at the court of Henry VII in the lifetime of his wife's sister, Queen Elizabeth, and is praised for his bravery and manly bearing by Polydore Vergil. In 1487 he became knight of the Bath. But on the queen's death in 1503, the king, fearing that Courtenay's near relationship to the throne might tempt him to conspiracy, committed him to the Tower on an obscure charge of corresponding with Edmund de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, the surviving chief of the Yorkist faction. Attainder followed. On Henry VIII's accession in 1509 he was released from prison, and carried the sword at his coronation. On 10 May 1511 he was allowed to succeed to his father's earldom; but the formalities for restoring him in blood were not completed before his death on 9 June 1511. He was buried in Blackfriars Church. His wife, the Princess Catherine, died 15 Nov. 1527, and was buried at Tiverton.

Coat of Arms of Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter The boy Henry was treated kindly by his first cousin, Henry VIII; was allowed to succeed to his father's earldom in 1511, and the attainder was formally removed in the following year. He took part in the naval campaign with France in 1513, when about 17 years old, as second captain of a man-of-war, and in 1520 was made both a privy councillor (May) and gentleman of the privy chamber (July). On 15 April he was created K. G. in the place of the Duke of Buckingham, who was tried and convicted of treason in May of the same year, and the lordship of Caliland, Cornwall, together with a mansion in St. Lawrence Pountney, formerly Buckingham's property, was conferred on him at the same time.

Courtenay attended Henry VIII at Calais, at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, in 1521, and took part in the tournaments. The keepership of Birling manor, the stewardries of Winkeley, Gloucesterhire, and of the duchies of Exeter, Somerset, and Cornwall were granted him in 1522 and 1523. In April 1525 he became constable of Windsor Castle, and on 18 June following [1525] Marquis of Exeter. In August of the same year [1525] Courtenay went to France as the king's envoy to negotiate an alliance, and to secure the release of Francis I, taken prisoner by Spain at the battle of Pavia. On his return in September the king appointed him the privy councillor to be in immediate attendance on him, and on 17 May 1528 he was nominated lieutenant of the order of the Garter.

Throughout the proceedings for the divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon Courtenay actively aided the king; he subscribed the articles against Wolsey (1529), signed the letter to Clement VII demanding the divorce in 1531, and acted as commissioner for the deposition of Catherine in 1533. When the suppression of the monasteries was imminent in 1535, Exeter was made steward of very many abbeys and priories in the western counties, where he was also acting as commissioner of array (6. Oct. 1534). At the king's request he also acted as commissioner at the trial of Anne Boleyn two years later, and was sent to Yorkshire with the Duke of Norfolk in October 1536, in order to aid in the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace. But he hurriedly retired from the north to Devonshire. A rebellion under Lord Darcy broke out in Somersetshire in 1537, and Exeter was ordered to act as lord steward at Darcy's trial.

Courtenay's power in the west of England had now become supreme, and he assumed a very independent attitude to Henry's minister, Cromwell, whom he cordially disliked. As the grandson of Edward IV, he had a certain claim to the throne, and his wealth and intimacy with the Yorkist Poles and the Nevilles readily enabled Cromwell to point him out to the king as a danger to the succession.

Of the character of his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John Grey, viscount Lisle, by whom he had no issue, nothing is known. But his second wife, Gertrude, daughter of William Blount, fourth lord Mountjoy, by whom he had a son Edward, was a devout catholic; had supported the agitation of Elizabeth Barton, and had visited her shrine at Canterbury. In 1533, when Barton was executed, the marchioness had begged the king to pardon the intimacy. She was godmother to the Princess Elizabeth in the same year, and carried Prince Edward at his christening in 1537; but her decided views in favour of the Roman catholic religion and her affection for Queen Catherine, with whom she corresponded after the divorce, gave additional ground for the suspicions with which her husband was regarded as soon as Cromwell had become his avowed enemy.

Gradually information was collected in Devonshire and Cornwall to justify a prosecution for treason. At St. Keverne, Cornwall, a painted banner had been made which was to be carried round the villages, rousing the men to rebel against the crown in order to declare Courtenay heir-apparent to the throne, at any rate in the west of England. Reginald Pole, the cardinal, was found to be in repeated communication with Courtenay. Pole's brother, Sir Geoffrey, turned traitor, and came to London to announce that a conspiracy was hatching on the lines of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Early in November 1538 Courtenay, his wife, and son were committed to the Tower. On 3 Dec. Courtenay was tried by his peers in Westminster Hall. Evidence as to the marquis's treasonable conversation with Sir Geoffrey Pole was alone adduced; but he was condemned and beheaded on Tower Hill 9 Dec. 1538. A week later he was proclaimed a convicted traitor, and guilty of compassing the king's death.

His wife and son were kept in prison, and were attainted in July 1539. The marchioness for a time had for her companion Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury (mother of Cardinal Pole), who was beheaded 27 May 1541, and the distressed condition of these two ladies was made the subject of a petition from their gaoler to the king in 1540. Subsequently the king pardoned the marchioness, and she was released. The Princess Mary was always her friend: in 1543 Mary sent her a puncheon of wine, and other presents were interchanged between them for many years afterwards. On Mary's accession to the throne she became a lady-in-waiting; her attainder was removed, and she took part in the coronation and all court ceremonies. She died on 26 Sept. 1558, and was buried at Wimborne. Her extant letters to her son Edward show her in a very attractive light.

      Excerpted from:

      Lee, Sidney. "Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter."
      Dictionary of National Biography. Vol IV. Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Eds.
      New York: The Macmillan Company, 1908. 1261-62.

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This page was created on April 26, 2009. Last updated May 11, 2023.

Index of Encyclopedia Entries:

Medieval Cosmology
Prices of Items in Medieval England

Edward II
Isabella of France, Queen of England
Piers Gaveston
Thomas of Brotherton, E. of Norfolk
Edmund of Woodstock, E. of Kent
Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Lancaster
Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster
Roger Mortimer, Earl of March
Hugh le Despenser the Younger
Bartholomew, Lord Burghersh, elder

Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Edward III
Philippa of Hainault, Queen of England
Edward, Black Prince of Wales
John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
The Battle of Crécy, 1346
The Siege of Calais, 1346-7
The Battle of Poitiers, 1356
Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster
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Thomas of Woodstock, Gloucester
Richard of York, E. of Cambridge
Richard Fitzalan, 3. Earl of Arundel
Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
The Good Parliament, 1376
Richard II
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Lords Appellant, 1388
Richard Fitzalan, 4. Earl of Arundel
Archbishop Thomas Arundel
Thomas de Beauchamp, E. Warwick
Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford
Ralph Neville, E. of Westmorland
Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk
Edmund Mortimer, 3. Earl of March
Roger Mortimer, 4. Earl of March
John Holland, Duke of Exeter
Michael de la Pole, E. Suffolk
Hugh de Stafford, 2. E. Stafford
Henry IV
Edward, Duke of York
Edmund Mortimer, 5. Earl of March
Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland
Sir Henry Percy, "Harry Hotspur"
Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
Owen Glendower
The Battle of Shrewsbury, 1403
Archbishop Richard Scrope
Thomas Mowbray, 3. E. Nottingham
John Mowbray, 2. Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Fitzalan, 5. Earl of Arundel
Henry V
Thomas, Duke of Clarence
John, Duke of Bedford
Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester
John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury
Richard, Earl of Cambridge
Henry, Baron Scrope of Masham
William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Montacute, E. Salisbury
Richard Beauchamp, E. of Warwick
Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick
Thomas Beaufort, Duke of Exeter
Cardinal Henry Beaufort
John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset
Sir John Fastolf
John Holland, 2. Duke of Exeter
Archbishop John Stafford
Archbishop John Kemp
Catherine of Valois
Owen Tudor
John Fitzalan, 7. Earl of Arundel
John, Lord Tiptoft

Charles VII, King of France
Joan of Arc
Louis XI, King of France
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy
The Battle of Agincourt, 1415
The Battle of Castillon, 1453

The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485
Causes of the Wars of the Roses
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The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
The Battle of Bosworth Field, 1485
The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
Margaret of Anjou
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
George, Duke of Clarence

Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick
Edward Neville, Baron Bergavenny
William Neville, Lord Fauconberg
Robert Neville, Bishop of Salisbury
John Neville, Marquis of Montagu
George Neville, Archbishop of York
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Edmund Beaufort, 2. Duke Somerset
Henry Beaufort, 3. Duke of Somerset
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Margaret Beaufort
Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond
Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
Humphrey Stafford, D. Buckingham
Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
John Mowbray, 4. Duke of Norfolk
John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
Henry Percy, 2. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 3. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 4. E. Northumberland
William, Lord Hastings
Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter
William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Thomas de Clifford, 8. Baron Clifford
John de Clifford, 9. Baron Clifford
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Thomas Grey, 1. Marquis Dorset
Sir Andrew Trollop
Archbishop John Morton
Edward Plantagenet, E. of Warwick
John Talbot, 2. E. Shrewsbury
John Talbot, 3. E. Shrewsbury
John de la Pole, 2. Duke of Suffolk
John de la Pole, E. of Lincoln
Edmund de la Pole, E. of Suffolk
Richard de la Pole
John Sutton, Baron Dudley
James Butler, 5. Earl of Ormonde
Sir James Tyrell
Edmund Grey, first Earl of Kent
George Grey, 2nd Earl of Kent
John, 5th Baron Scrope of Bolton
James Touchet, 7th Baron Audley
Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy
Robert Hungerford, Lord Moleyns
Thomas, Lord Scales
John, Lord Lovel and Holand
Francis Lovell, Viscount Lovell
Sir Richard Ratcliffe
William Catesby
Ralph, 4th Lord Cromwell
Jack Cade's Rebellion, 1450

Tudor Period

King Henry VII
Queen Elizabeth of York
Arthur, Prince of Wales
Lambert Simnel
Perkin Warbeck
The Battle of Blackheath, 1497

King Ferdinand II of Aragon
Queen Isabella of Castile
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

King Henry VIII
Queen Catherine of Aragon
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Queen Catherine Howard
Queen Katherine Parr

King Edward VI
Queen Mary I
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Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond

Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland
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The Battle of Flodden Field, 1513
James V, King of Scotland
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Mary Tudor, Queen of France
Louis XII, King of France
Francis I, King of France
The Battle of the Spurs, 1513
Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Eustace Chapuys, Imperial Ambassador
The Siege of Boulogne, 1544

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer
Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex
Thomas, Lord Audley
Thomas Wriothesley, E. Southampton
Sir Richard Rich

Edward Stafford, D. of Buckingham
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
Thomas Boleyn, Earl of Wiltshire
George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford
John Russell, Earl of Bedford
Thomas Grey, 2. Marquis of Dorset
Henry Grey, D. of Suffolk
Charles Somerset, Earl of Worcester
George Talbot, 4. E. Shrewsbury
Francis Talbot, 5. E. Shrewsbury
Henry Algernon Percy,
     5th Earl of Northumberland
Henry Algernon Percy,
     6th Earl of Northumberland
Ralph Neville, 4. E. Westmorland
Henry Neville, 5. E. Westmorland
William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester
Sir Francis Bryan
Sir Nicholas Carew
John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 16th Earl of Oxford
Thomas Seymour, Lord Admiral
Edward Seymour, Protector Somerset
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury
Henry Pole, Lord Montague
Sir Geoffrey Pole
Thomas Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Manners, Earl of Rutland
Henry Bourchier, 2. Earl of Essex
Robert Radcliffe, 1. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 2. Earl of Sussex
George Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon
Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter
George Neville, Baron Bergavenny
Sir Edward Neville
William, Lord Paget
William Sandys, Baron Sandys
William Fitzwilliam, E. Southampton
Sir Anthony Browne
Sir Thomas Wriothesley
Sir William Kingston
George Brooke, Lord Cobham
Sir Richard Southwell
Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre
Sir Francis Weston
Henry Norris
Lady Jane Grey
Sir Thomas Arundel
Sir Richard Sackville
Sir William Petre
Sir John Cheke
Walter Haddon, L.L.D
Sir Peter Carew
Sir John Mason
Nicholas Wotton
John Taylor
Sir Thomas Wyatt, the Younger

Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio
Cardinal Reginald Pole
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester
Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London
Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London
John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester
John Aylmer, Bishop of London
Thomas Linacre
William Grocyn
Archbishop William Warham
Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham
Richard Fox, Bishop of Winchester
Edward Fox, Bishop of Hereford

Pope Julius II
Pope Leo X
Pope Clement VII
Pope Paul III
Pope Pius V

Pico della Mirandola
Desiderius Erasmus
Martin Bucer
Richard Pace
Christopher Saint-German
Thomas Tallis
Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent
Hans Holbein, the Younger
The Sweating Sickness

Dissolution of the Monasteries
Pilgrimage of Grace, 1536
Robert Aske
Anne Askew
Lord Thomas Darcy
Sir Robert Constable

Oath of Supremacy
The Act of Supremacy, 1534
The First Act of Succession, 1534
The Third Act of Succession, 1544
The Ten Articles, 1536
The Six Articles, 1539
The Second Statute of Repeal, 1555
The Act of Supremacy, 1559
Articles Touching Preachers, 1583

Queen Elizabeth I
William Cecil, Lord Burghley
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury
Sir Francis Walsingham
Sir Nicholas Bacon
Sir Thomas Bromley

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester
Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick
Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
Sir Thomas Egerton, Viscount Brackley
Sir Francis Knollys
Katherine "Kat" Ashley
Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester
George Talbot, 6. E. of Shrewsbury
Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury
Gilbert Talbot, 7. E. of Shrewsbury
Sir Henry Sidney
Sir Robert Sidney
Archbishop Matthew Parker
Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex
Penelope Devereux, Lady Rich
Sir Christopher Hatton
Edward Courtenay, E. Devonshire
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Thomas Radcliffe, 3. Earl of Sussex
Henry Radcliffe, 4. Earl of Sussex
Robert Radcliffe, 5. Earl of Sussex
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Henry Wriothesley, 2. Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3. Southampton
Charles Neville, 6. E. Westmorland
Thomas Percy, 7. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 8. E. Northumberland
Henry Percy, 9. E. Nothumberland
William Herbert, 1. Earl of Pembroke
Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham
Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk
Henry Howard, 1. Earl of Northampton
Thomas Howard, 1. Earl of Suffolk
Henry Hastings, 3. E. of Huntingdon
Edward Manners, 3rd Earl of Rutland
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland
Francis Manners, 6th Earl of Rutland
Henry FitzAlan, 12. Earl of Arundel
Thomas, Earl Arundell of Wardour
Edward Somerset, E. of Worcester
William Davison
Sir Walter Mildmay
Sir Ralph Sadler
Sir Amyas Paulet
Gilbert Gifford
Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague
François, Duke of Alençon & Anjou

Mary, Queen of Scots
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell
Anthony Babington and the Babington Plot
John Knox

Philip II of Spain
The Spanish Armada, 1588
Sir Francis Drake
Sir John Hawkins

William Camden
Archbishop Whitgift
Martin Marprelate Controversy
John Penry (Martin Marprelate)
Richard Bancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury
John Dee, Alchemist

Philip Henslowe
Edward Alleyn
The Blackfriars Theatre
The Fortune Theatre
The Rose Theatre
The Swan Theatre
Children's Companies
The Admiral's Men
The Lord Chamberlain's Men
Citizen Comedy
The Isle of Dogs, 1597

Common Law
Court of Common Pleas
Court of King's Bench
Court of Star Chamber
Council of the North
Fleet Prison
First Fruits & Tenths
Livery and Maintenance
Oyer and terminer

The Stuarts

King James I of England
Anne of Denmark
Henry, Prince of Wales
The Gunpowder Plot, 1605
George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham
Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset
Arabella Stuart, Lady Lennox

William Alabaster
Bishop Hall
Bishop Thomas Morton
Archbishop William Laud
John Selden
Lucy Harington, Countess of Bedford
Henry Lawes

King Charles I
Queen Henrietta Maria

Long Parliament
Rump Parliament
Kentish Petition, 1642

Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford
John Digby, Earl of Bristol
George Digby, 2nd Earl of Bristol
Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax
Robert Devereux, 3rd E. of Essex
Robert Sidney, 2. E. of Leicester
Algernon Percy, E. of Northumberland
Henry Montagu, Earl of Manchester
Edward Montagu, 2. Earl of Manchester

The Restoration

King Charles II
King James II
Test Acts

Greenwich Palace
Hatfield House
Richmond Palace
Windsor Palace
Woodstock Manor

The Cinque Ports
Mermaid Tavern
Malmsey Wine
Great Fire of London, 1666
Merchant Taylors' School
Westminster School
The Sanctuary at Westminster


Chart of the English Succession from William I through Henry VII

Medieval English Drama

London c1480, MS Royal 16
London, 1510, the earliest view in print
Map of England from Saxton's Descriptio Angliae, 1579
London in late 16th century
Location Map of Elizabethan London
Plan of the Bankside, Southwark, in Shakespeare's time
Detail of Norden's Map of the Bankside, 1593
Bull and Bear Baiting Rings from the Agas Map (1569-1590, pub. 1631)
Sketch of the Swan Theatre, c. 1596
Westminster in the Seventeenth Century, by Hollar
Visscher's View of London, 1616
Larger Visscher's View in Sections
c. 1690. View of London Churches, after the Great Fire
The Yard of the Tabard Inn from Thornbury, Old and New London

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