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Hugh Courtenay


Born: 22nd March 1327, probably at Tiverton Castle, Devon
Lord Courtenay
Died: pre September 1349

Hugh Courtenay, the second Earl of Devon of that illustrious house, had issue, by Margaret, his wife, daughter of Humphrey De Bohun, Earl of Hereford and Essex, and of the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Edward I, six sons, of whom the eldest was Sir Hugh Courtenay "Junior," the subject of this biography, born 22nd March 1327.

In common with persons of his rank, at that warlike period, Sir Hugh was probably armed at, or soon after, the age of fifteen. He appears to have been a young man of extreme personal courage and adroitness in the tilting lists, hence his election as a founding member of the Order of the Garter when he had scarcely completed his seventeenth year. 

Sir Hugh Courtenay attended the King in his expedition against France in 1346 and was present, in the following year, at the Siege of Calais, in the company of his uncle, William De Bohun, Earl of Northampton. Whilst in the camp before that town, the King, upon their joint supplication, excused the Earl of Devon, on account of infirm health, from attending on any military service out of the realm. After the surrender, he probably returned in the Royal suite to England and we find him at Eltham Palace (Surrey) towards the close of 1347, distinguishing himself at a tournament, and receiving from the King, as his guerdon, a hood of white cloth, buttoned with large pearls and embroidered with figures of men in dancing postures.

There is no trace of our young knight in the public records after Easter 1348. For the citations by the historian of the family and by Ashmole - who asserts that he died in 1366 and that the inquisition taken in 1374 was consequent upon his death - refer partly to another Sir Hugh Courtenay, his son, and partly to the Earl, his father.

That he died in or before 1349 is evident from two remarkable circumstances. It appears that Queen Philippa, on a progress through Dorsetshire (the King being then in Wales), sojourned at Ford Abbey from the 31st August until the 2nd September in that year; and that, on the last?mentioned day, she placed a piece of cloth of gold, as an oblation, upon the tomb of Sir Hugh de Courtenay. This interesting manifestation of feeling on the part of his Royal mistress may have been naturally prompted by the recent and premature loss of a youth of high promise, who had possessed accomplishments so well fitted, in that the most chivalrous age of our history, to adorn the splendid court over which she presided. To a question whether this tomb may not have been that of some other individual of the same name and family, it may be answered, that the sacred repository did not contain, previously to that date, the remains of any other Sir Hugh Courtenay.

Our inference derives strength from the additional fact that the Earl of Northampton, who succeeded Sir Hugh Courtenay in the seventh Garter Stall on the Sovereign's side in St. George's College Chapel, Windsor (Berks), had licence, on the 26th January following (1350), to assign the advowson of Dadington to the custos and chaplains of the said college, and that, on the 4th May 1350, the Earl completed that donation, which was made in conformity to a custom observed by Knights of the Order soon after the foundation.

Sir Hugh Courtenay "Junior" died in the lifetime of his father, having married, in 1341, Elizabeth, said to have been the daughter of Sir Guy De Bryan (though probably his sister), by whom he had a son, Hugh Courtenay, who also died before the Earl, his grandfather. Sir Hugh's widow, Lady Elizabeth, died on the 23rd September 1375.

Edited from George Frederick Beltz's
"Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter" (1861).    Copyright ©2001, LLC