Courtenay, Thomas, Earl of Devon
- 1) (1414–1458)Through his long and violent feud with William BONVILLE, Lord Bonville, Thomas Courtenay, fifth earl of Devon, contributed significantly to the rising disorder in the shires that helped initiate civil war in the 1450s. Courtenay became the premier nobleman in the West Country when he succeeded his 68 COURTENAY, PETER, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER father as earl of Devon in 1422. In 1441, Devon was appointed to the lucrative stewardship of the Duchy of Cornwall, an office HENRY VI had already conferred on Sir William Bonville in 1437. Bonville was a West Country gentleman whose growing influence at COURT threatened Courtenay dominance in the region. In 1442, after violence had repeatedly erupted in the West Country between the Courtenay and Bonville affinities (see Affinity), the COUNCIL intervened, stripping both men of the stewardship and putting both under large bonds to ensure good behavior.With Bonville serving in FRANCE between 1443 and 1447, and Devon restored to the Cornwall stewardship in 1444, the COURTENAY-BONVILLE FEUD lapsed until 1450, when Bonville, now raised to the PEERAGE as Lord Bonville, strengthened his standing at court by attaching himself to James BUTLER, earl of Wiltshire, a royal favorite who was also seeking to enhance his western influence at Devon’s expense. To compensate for his own lack of influence at court, Devon allied himself with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, the leading opponent of the court party. In 1452, Devon instigated proYork riots and assemblies across the West Country and was one of the few noblemen to side with York against the court at DARTFORD, an armed confrontation at which the duke and his allies were forced to submit to Henry VI.Imprisoned and stripped of his offices after Dartford, Devon was released by York in late 1453, when the king’s illness restored the duke’s political position (see Henry VI, Illness of). During York’s FIRST PROTECTORATE in 1454, Devon resumed his attacks on Bonville, forcing the council to again intervene with warnings and bonds. During 1455, Devon’s alliance with York dissolved. In May, Devon was with the royal army at the Battle of ST. ALBANS, where York and his new allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, destroyed their enemies and took custody of the king. Having watched York achieve his goals through direct action, Devon threw the West Country into an uproar in October 1455 by leading a force of several thousand in attacks on Bonville’s property and servants and by instigating the murder of Nicholas RADFORD.On 1 November, Devon seized Exeter, holding the city for six weeks. Although compelled to surrender by York and imprisoned in the TOWER OF LONDON for murder and riot, Devon was released in 1456 and pardoned in 1457 by a government now controlled by Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU, who looked upon Devon as an enemy of York and thus a friend of hers. Devon died shortly thereafter in February 1458, leaving his sons as committed supporters of the house of LANCASTER.See also all entries under CourtenayFurther Reading: Cherry, Martin,“The Struggle for Power in Mid-Fifteenth-Century Devonshire,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981), pp. 123–144; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).2) (1432–1461)A firm adherent of the house of LANCASTER, Thomas Courtenay, sixth earl of Devon,was, like his father,Thomas COURTENAY, fifth earl of Devon, a violent man whose vigorous pursuit of the COURTENAYBONVILLE FEUD helped shape the political alignments that fueled the civil war. In October 1455, Courtenay led the party of 100 men that invaded the Devonshire home of Nicholas RADFORD, a former Courtenay associate who had fallen afoul of the family for his recent support of William BONVILLE, Lord Bonville, the Courtenays’ chief rival for dominance in the West Country. The subsequent despoliation and murder of Radford were part of a regionwide campaign of violence conducted by the earl of Devon and his sons against the friends, servants, and property of Bonville. Indicted with his father and brothers for these crimes, Courtenay was pardoned, along with his family, in 1457, after control of the government had passed from Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, to Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU, who sought to lure the fifth earl, a former supporter of York, to the Lancastrian cause.Upon succeeding his father as earl of Devon in 1458, Courtenay continued the family’s recent support of HENRY VI, receiving two sizable annuities as rewards. When passage of the Act of ACCORD in October 1460 disinherited the queen’s son, EDWARD OF LANCASTER, Prince of Wales, Devon raised a force in the West Country and joined various other Lancastrian lords at the Battle of WAKEFIELD, where York was defeated and slain. In February 1461, Devon fought at the Battle of ST.ALBANS, where he had the satisfaction of seeing his enemy, Lord Bonville, beheaded after the Lancastrian victory. Six weeks later, Devon received the same summary justice, when he was executed by order of EDWARD IV after the Yorkist triumph at the Battle of TOWTON.See also all entries under CourtenayFurther Reading: Cherry, Martin,“The Struggle for Power in Mid-Fifteenth-Century Devonshire,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981), pp. 123–144; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.
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