Cortnay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
The name Cortnay was brought to England by the Normans when they conquered the country in 1066. The ancestors of the Cortnay family lived in Devon. The name, however, is a reference one of two areas bearing the name Courtenay in Normandy. The names of both of these areas derive from the Gallo-Roman landlord, Curtenus. 
Early Origins of the Cortnay family
The surname Cortnay was first found in the Gâtinais province of France, where they held the castle of Courtenay since the 10th century. They claim descent from the Counts of Sens and from Pharamond, reputed founder of the French monarchy in 420. However, historians have only been able to prove the line back to about the year 1020, in the Isles of France where they were descended from the great Emperor Charlemagne. The name was established by this trace only to the year 790. 
Regardless of the earliest origin, in the mid-12th century, a branch of the family settled in England, where they obtained the barony of Okehampton and inherited the title of Earls of Devon in 1293. "This illustrious house is descended from Reginald de Courtney, who came over to England with Henry II AD 1151." 
Another source notes that Whitchurch in Devon was home to the family. "Walreddon House, here, the property of William Courtenay, Esq., a descendant of the Courtenays, earls of Devon, is an ancient mansion of the time of Edward VI., whose arms in the hall are still in good preservation." 
"Powderham Castle [in Exeter, Devon] holds the first place among the ancient mansions of the county. No other great house continues so fully its olden glories. Nearly six centuries have passed since the Courtenays first seated themselves by the Exe, at Powderham, and there, amidst many vicissitudes, they have continued. At the compilation of ' Domesday,' Powderham was one of the two Devonshire manors of William de Ow, and on his forfeiture came to a family who thence took name. The attainder of John de Powderham led to the manor becoming the property of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford ; and his daughter Margaret, in 1325, brought it to her husband Hugh, the second Courtenay Earl of Devon." 
"The House of Courtenay is the most distinguished family of Devon. They have been called ' the ubiquitous Courtenays,' for there is hardly a parish in the county which is not linked with their history by some traces of lordship or alliance. The history of the English branch of this great house, whose famous coat of three torteaux 'at once waved over the towers of Edessa, and was reflected by the waters of the Seine/ has been set forth most graphically by Gibbon. Ranked among the chief barons of the realm, it was not 'till after a strenuous dispute that they yielded to the fief of Arundel the first place in Parliament. Their alliances were contracted with the noblest families the Veres, De Spencers, Bonviles, St. Johns, Talbots, Bohuns, and even the Plantagenets themselves ; and in a contest with John of Lancaster, a Courtenay, Bishop of London and afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, might be accused of profane confidence in the strength and numbers of his kindred." 
Wooton-Courtney in Somerset was another ancient family seat. "This parish takes the adjunct to its name from the Courtney family, who formerly held the manor." 
"The manor of Braddock [Cornwall] was at a very early period in the Courtenay family, in which it continued until the attainder of the Marquis of Exeter. In ancient times, St. Bennet's, when in a state of comparative magnificence, was long the seat of the Courtenay family, by a female branch of whom it was sold in 1710 to Bernard Pennington." 
Early History of the Cortnay family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cortnay research. Another 91 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1125, 1194, 1303, 1377, 1346, 1405, 1377, 1399, 1367, 1378, 1355, 1406, 1556, 1527, 1556, 1415, 1377, 1413, 1413, 1411, 1415, 1415 and are included under the topic Early Cortnay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Cortnay Spelling Variations
It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, Anglo-Norman surnames like Cortnay are characterized by many spelling variations. Scribes and monks in the Middle Ages spelled names they sounded, so it is common to find several variations that refer to a single person. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages such as Norman French and Latin, even literate people regularly changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Cortnay include Courtenay, Courtney, Courtnay, Courteney, Courtny and many more.
Early Notables of the Cortnay family (pre 1700)
Outstanding amongst the family at this time was Renaud de Courtenay (1125-1194), English nobleman from Sutton, Berkshire, progenitor of the Devon line; Sir Hugh de Courtenay (1303-1377), the 2nd Earl of Devon; and Sir Peter Courtenay (1346-1405), soldier, knight of the shire, Chamberlain to King Richard II (1377-1399), famous jouster, received the honour of knighthood from the Black Prince after the Battle of Najera in 1367, at the same time as his brother Sir Philip, 1378 on a naval expedition with his brother Sir Philip, the fleet was attacked by Spaniards off the coast of Brittany and Sir Peter and his...
Another 240 words (17 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Cortnay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Cortnay family to Ireland
Some of the Cortnay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 57 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Cortnay family
Faced with the chaos present in England at that time, many English families looked towards the open frontiers of the New World with its opportunities to escape oppression and starvation. People migrated to North America, as well as Australia and Ireland in droves, paying exorbitant rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, but those who did see the shores of North America were welcomed with great opportunity. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Some of the first immigrants to cross the Atlantic and come to North America carried the name Cortnay, or a variant listed above: Hercules and Francis Courtenay settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1769 and 1771 respectively; John Courtenay settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1819.
The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.
Motto: Quod verum tutum
Motto Translation: What is true is safe.
- The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
- Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
- Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital
- Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print