Baron Courtenay

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The Barony of Courtenay, called Baron Courtenay, was created in 1299.[1] The Earldom was confirmed by King Edward III and conferred on Hugh de Courtenay, Earl of Devon's summons to be a Lord of Parliament during his father's lifetime on 23 April 1337. This was Edward III's first Parliament as an adult king in charge of his own rule, and all writs were codified in Latin; Hugh was styled Hugoni de Courteney juniori. The writ of title was originally by Edward I in 1299. His father died at Christmas 1340, whence Hugh became Earl of Devon. Cokayne discussed the summons and esoteric point as to whether the writ had its origination in 1337 or earlier. In essence the title was a courtesy for the earldom, bestowed upon the eldest son and heir apparent.


Parliament sat in Curia Regis under King John's signature on the Magna Carta as lords in Parliament. Writs of Summons, variously ascribed different nomenclature during the reigns of Henry III and the Edwardian kings, were issued as warrants requiring a baron's presence at Parliament. In those days Parliament was a moveable feast; it sat where the King's Court happened to be on visitation. Famous Parliaments sat in the North of England at Lincoln, Carlisle and York; Parliaments in the south have sat at Gloucester and Oxford. Henry of Winchester wanted to build a new Royal Palace at that City and move the government to the south coast. But the Civil War with de Montfort interrupted proceedings suspending all Parliaments under the new Model Parliament. Landowners like de Courteney were ennobled as great landowners; as a perquisite for parliamentary privilege. In his case, being descended from Norman kinship with the monarch elevation was a natural progression. Subsequent marriages made certain calls to Westminster, when Edward I fixed Parliaments on the Minster west of the City of London. The style, 'lord in Parliament' was a necessary legal precaution required by the King so as to insist upon a dutiful and loyal, pliant nobleman in his High Court of Westminster Hall. Edward I was a stickler for loyalty and discipline in noble ranks thus, inherited Earldoms alone were too independent to act as servants of the Crown. The system of writs was legal instrumentation permitting the King to act unilaterally without the encumbrance to their landed powers. Edward I was renowned for his energetic urging of parliament to pass many statutes, developing the common law of England.

De Courtenay family[edit]

As a result, the Lords attempts to secure English rights in the Forest Perambulation were unsuccessful, because the King saw this as a challenge to his inherited right to determine the law. Edward I was a notoriously ruthless soldier and executioner, but he was widely respected by the Lords of Parliament for his honesty and good sense. The de Courtenays were natural King's or Privy Counsellors due to their martial prowess. As a family of campaigning soldiers they were a natural choice as loyal advisers, noblesse oblige. Hugh was a Lancastrian follower of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. His summons was a call-up to fight the French in the first of Edward III's many campaigns on the continent. The Lords would be responsible for raising their own troops, whilst the Commons would be expected to tax the towns and villages as well as the church. The Lords also played a role in raising the profile of the wars by being good ambassadors, both as diplomats abroad, and on progress throughout the country.


  1. ^ Cokayne, p. 325


  • Cokayne, G. E. (1937). The Complete Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland. vol. III (revised ed.). Appendix G. 
  • Doherty, Peter (2003). Isabella and the strange death of Edward II. London: Constable & Robinson. 
  • Morris, Marc (2008). The Great and Terrible King: Edward I. 
  • Mortimer, Ian (2002). Edward III. 
  • Prestwich, Michael (2003). The Three Edwards: War and State in England, 1272-1377. London: Routledge. 
  • Prestwich, Michael (2005). Plantagenet England 1225-1360. Oxford: Clarendon Press.