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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

The name Courtenay was carried to England in the enormous movement of people that followed the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Courtenay 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.


The surname Courtenay was first found in the Gātinais 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." [1] 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." [2] 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." [2]

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Courtenay, Courtney, Courtnay, Courteney, Courtny and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Courtenay research. Another 181 words (13 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 Courtenay History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 665 words (48 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Courtenay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Courtenay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 103 words (7 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Courtenay or a variant listed above:

Courtenay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Hercules and Francis Courtenay settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1769 and 1771 respectively

Courtenay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • John Courtenay settled in Boston Massachusetts in 1819
  • John Courtenay, who landed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1819

Courtenay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Thomas Courtenay arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Constance" in 1848


  • Charles Christopher Courtenay (1916-1998), 17th Earl of Devon, English peer
  • Henry Reginald Courtenay (1714-1763), English politician, Member of the Parliament for Honiton (1741-1747) and (1754-1763)
  • The Rt Rev Reginald Reginald Courtenay DD (1813-1906), English Anglican Bishop of Jamaica (1872-1879)
  • Sir William Courtenay (1794-1838), English political and religious maniac
  • Hugh Rupert Courtenay D.L. (1942-2015), 18th Earl of Devon, a British peer
  • John Courtenay (1738-1816), British politician for Tamworth and Appleby
  • Edward Emmett Courtenay (b. 1968), Canadian former professional ice hockey right winger and head coach
  • Jasmine Courtenay, Australian footballer who has played for the Newcastle Jets since 2012
  • Bryce Courtenay AM (1933-2012), South African-born, Australian novelist, best known for his book The Power of One (1989)
  • Sir Thomas Daniel "Tom" Courtenay (b. 1937), English Academy Award nominated, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award winning actor, known for his roles in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963), and Dr. Zhivago (1965)


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.


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  1. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
  2. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  2. Elster, Robert J. International Who's Who. London: Europa/Routledge. Print.
  3. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  4. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  5. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  6. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  7. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  9. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  10. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  11. ...

The Courtenay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Courtenay Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 11 March 2016 at 18:33.

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