Thomas Courtenay, 6th/14th Earl of Devon

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Arms of Thomas de Courtenay, The Earl of Devon: Arms: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, azure label or three torteaux (for Courtenay); 2nd and 3rd, or a lion rampant azure (for Redvers)
Ruins of Tiverton Castle, seat of the Earls of Devon

Thomas Courtenay, 6th/14th Earl of Devon (1432 – 3 April 1461), was the eldest son of Thomas de Courtenay, 5th/13th Earl of Devon, by his wife Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, and Margaret Holland, daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent. Through his mother he was a great-grandson of King Edward III. The ordinal number given to the early Courtenay Earls of Devon depends on whether the earldom is deemed a new creation by the letters patent granted 22 February 1334/5 or whether it is deemed a restitution of the old dignity of the de Redvers family. Authorities differ in their opinions,[1] and thus alternative ordinal numbers exist, given here.


Courtenay was born in 1432, the eldest son and heir of Thomas Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon, by Margaret Beaufort. He had two brothers and five sisters:[2]


Thomas Courtenay was 26 years old when his father died on 3 February 1458.[3] The Courtenay family were among the greatest magnates of the south-west, particularly in Devon, where they had their greatest concentration of estates and dominated a tightly-knit affinity among the local gentry.[4] In the mid-fifteenth century their local supremacy had been challenged by William, Lord Bonville, leading to a violent feud which culminated in Bonville's defeat by Thomas's father at Clyst Heath in 1455. That Earl, frequently in trouble with the law for his violent behaviour, had been among the closest allies of the disaffected Richard of York in the early 1450s, but a wedge was driven between York and the Courtenays when Bonville became a client of the leading Yorkist magnate Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.

When the first major phase of the Wars of the Roses broke out in 1459, Earl Thomas remained loyal to Henry VI. After the Yorkists seized power and captured King Henry in 1460, he joined other south-western aristocrats including Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset in raising a Lancastrian army, which went to join the forces being gathered by the Queen, Margaret of Anjou, in northern England. The Bonville family, fighting on the Yorkist side, were wiped out during the ensuing fighting, but the Lancastrians were decisively defeated in the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461. Courtenay was captured in the battle, and was beheaded at York on 3 April.[5] He was attainted by Parliament in November of that year, depriving his heirs of the earldom of Devon, the barony of Courtenay and his estates. Courtenay's younger brother, Henry, had been granted several manors by King Edward IV on 27 July 1461, including Topsham, and these manors were also forfeited by his elder brother's attainder. Henry himself was beheaded at Salisbury on 17 January 1469.[6]


Courtenay married, at Coventry, Warwickshire, shortly after 9 September 1456, Mary of Anjou, illegitimate daughter of Charles, Count of Maine. There were no issue of the marriage. She is thought to have been the 'Countess of Devonshire' who was captured with Margaret of Anjou after the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471.[6]


  1. ^ Watson, GEC Peerage, IV, p.324 & footnote (c): "This would appear more like a restitution of the old dignity than the creation of a new earldom"; Debrett's Peerage however gives the ordinal numbers as if a new earldom had been created. (Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.353)
  2. ^ Richardson I 2011, p. 547; Richardson IV 2011, pp. 38–43.
  3. ^ Cokayne 1916, p. 327.
  4. ^ Given-Wilson 1987, pp. xiv-xv, 75-6, 80, 82, 163-6, 174
  5. ^ Anthony Goodman, The Wars of the Roses, (Dorset Press, 1981), 51-52.
  6. ^ a b Richardson IV 2011, p. 41.


  • Cokayne, George Edward (1916). The Complete Peerage, edited by Vicary Gibbs. IV. London: St. Catherine Press. 
  • Davis, Norman, ed. (1976). 'The Paston Letters and Papers of Fifteenth century'. 2 vols. Oxford University Press. 
  • Fiorato, V., A.; Boylston, C. Knüsel (2007). 'Blood Red Roses' (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxbow Books. 
  • Given-Wilson, Chris (1987). The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: the fourteenth-century political community. London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 
  • The Nobility of Later Medieval England. London: Oxford University Press. 1973. 
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1449966373
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. IV (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City.  ISBN 1460992709
  • Wars of the Roses. London: Thames and Hudson. 1986. 
  • Seward, Desmond (1995). Wars of the Roses; and the lives of five men and women in the fifteenth century. London: Constable. 
  • Warrington, John, ed (1956). 'The Paston Letters'. vol.1. New York: E.P. Dutton. 
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Thomas de Courtenay
Earl of Devon
1458 – 1461
Succeeded by
John Courtenay