Back to Robert & the Earl of Devon, 1392  

The Liveried Personnel of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, 1384-5

by Martin Cherry

Devon & Cornwall Notes & Queries [Extracts]

In 1384-5 Edward Courtenay, earl of Devon, distributed his livery to 135 men and women of varying social rank (138 if the earl himself and his two sons are included). The wearing of a nobleman's livery was a public and symbolic demonstration that served to advertise a special bond between a 'good lord' and his 'well willers' or clients, and it gave members of the lord's affinity (or circle of supporters) some sense of corporate identity. Livery--or rather its abuse by 'men of small means'--was seen by many contemporaries as lying at the root of much of the violent disturbance in the countryside in the late-fourteenth century, and parliamentary pressure led to the ordinance of 1390 (followed by various restrictive statutes passed between 1399 and 1401) which confined the distribution of livery to men of the rank of banneret or above, and its receipt to household menials and estate officials. It is perhaps surprising that only two livery rolls survive from the period prior to these restrictions taking effect: one is from Elizabeth de Burgh's administration (dated 1343-4) and the other one from Edward Courtenay's (dated 1384-5). Both documents are similar in format and it is clear that a well-established procedure was followed when allocating livery within large noble households. Courtenay's livery roll is divided into eight sections, each one denoting a particular status or functional group within the affinity. The arrangement is as follows: (1) eight knights, (2) forty-one esquires, (3) eight clergymen (three 'damoysels' are also included in this section), (4) fourteen lawyers, (5) thirty-three valets, (6) eighteen household servants (some of whom were responsible for dealing out livery to inferiors), (7) four minstrels, and (8) six pages. The biographical notes that follow are concerned with members of the first four groups rather than with the menials, household and minor administrative servants. The knights, esquires, lawyers and clergymen would not necessarily have been in constant attendance upon the earl. Many were men of substance and influence, and together they formed a significant section of the political community in late-fourteenth century Devon.

The mid-1380s marked the highpoint of Edward Courtenay's political fortunes. His two uncles, Sir Peter and Sir Philip Courtenay, held positions of considerable influence as knights of the king's chamber, and another uncle, William Courtenay, was archbishop of Canterbury. Edward himself enjoyed the good will of Richard II's uncles: the powerful John of Gaunt appointed him his lieutenant in Devon, and Thomas of Woodstock knighted him in 1380. In 1385, the government expressed its confidence in him by appointing him marshal of England. By virtue of his being both a kinsman of the king and the richest layman in Devon, the earl naturally occupied a central place in west-country political life. As has been noticed elsewhere, members of his affinity filled many of the important local offices and were regularly returned to represent the counties of Devon, Somerset and Dorset, as well as many of the local boroughs, in the various parliaments of Richard II and Henry IV. Indeed, the earl's affinity formed the single most significant source of recruitment to positions such as these in the last decades of the fourteenth, and the first twenty years or so of the fifteenth centuries. Men were attracted to his 'good lordship' because it guaranteed them protection in times of distress or threat, afforded a means of promotion for themselves and their dependants, and helped enhance their standing in their neighborhoods. In return, the earl gained much from members of his affinity: their good counsel, their safeguarding of his local interests, and their attendance in his household on those occasions when it was necessary to maintain a respectable or prestigious court, on feastdays and on progress around his estates, or on journeys to London to attend parliament, or--as in 1385--to assume the largely formal and ceremonial duties of marshal of England.

The relationship between a great lord and his affinity was a reciprocal one born out of shared interests and a broad consensus of political objectives. Although subsequent events, stemming mainly from Richard II's growing hostility towards Edward, damaged the bonds between Courtenay and his circle, they did not destroy them. This can be explained in part by the fact that both the earl and the west-country gentry felt threatened by a royal policy that seemed bent on undermining their local authority. But two further factors help account for the resilience of the Courtenay affinity. One was the complexity of the web of inter-connections and mutual dependencies that had been built up within the affinity over more than a generation, and the other was the traditional nature of the ties of loyalty to the earls based on deference and a sense of patriarchal propriety.

The earl's knights and esquires formed a diverse group of men in terms both of wealth and political influence. Some are known to us solely through their connection with the Courtenays whilst others were men of honour and considerable independence with an impressive record of local government and parliamentary service. In some cases this record of service extended back well into the middle decades of the fourteenth century, and several were well established as leaders of the gentry community long before Edward entered the political scene. Some had acted as associates and councilors of Edward's grandfather and predecessor, Earl Hugh (d. 1377), and it is worth noting the element of continuity of service to the earl's family which in some cases lasted from the early-fourteenth century to the mid-fifteenth, and even beyond. This reflects a deeply rooted respect for the traditional authority of a lineage that had combined the Honours of Plympton and Okehampton with the title of earl of Devon. But this should not lead us to see the major knights and esquires, at least, as compliant or subservient: a man like Sir William Bonville, who sat in parliament on twenty or more occasions, was made of sterner stuff, as was a lawyer like Sir William Hankeford who rose to become a respected chief justice of the Common Pleas. These gentlemen formed in many ways an independently-minded group who, although imbued with a patriarchal view of society that tended to make for stability and order, would only attach themselves to a magnate if they felt it would serve their own interests. The presence of so many of the earl's men on the bench of JPs and serving as sheriffs and commissioners, and the existence of an apparent Courtenay 'interest' in certain parliaments, reflects less a Courtenay dominance than a local political elite that basically shared the same attitudes and assumptions and ideals.

The following entries which, for convenience, are placed in alphabetical order, give biographical details of those designated in the livery roll as knight, esquire, lawyer, canon, prebendary or parson. The status that appears beside their names in the manuscript in many cases was to change later on in their careers: for example, Richard Courtenay, who was to become bishop of Norwich was known in 1384-5 as esquire. With obvious exceptions, all places noted in the text are in Devon, unless otherwise stated.

  • John Barneburgh, esquire
  • Walter Bolger, esquire
  • William Bonville, knight (d. 1407). One of the leaders of west-country society in the late-fourteenth century, Sir William Bonville was the son of Nicholas Bonville (d. 1354), and inherited a large body of estates lying for the most part in Somerset and south-east Devon. His two marriages (to Margaret Damarel and Alice Carminow), along with that of his son, who pre-deceased him (to Elizabeth Fitzroger), combined with various purchases made over a period of twenty years or more, ensured that his heir, William, later Lord Bonville, inherited one of the most valuable estates in the south west. They formed the power base from which Lord Bonville was to challenge the traditional ascendancy of the Courtenay earls of Devon in the west country, a development that led to one of the most notorious private wars of the mid-fifteenth century. As a result partly of his landed position and influence, and partly his connection with the earl of Devon, Sir William built up an extensive affinity which included many leading landowners and neighbours in south-east Devon. Another indication of his eminent position within the local political community was his return to parliament to represent Devon or Somerset and Dorset on over twenty occasions between 1376 and 1402. He was also sheriff of Somerset and Dorset in 1381 and of Devon in 1389-90, frequently served as JP and was busy on dozens of west-country commissions throughout a long public career. His will survives: it includes the normal pious and charitable bequests, including sums of money to tenants of his various properties and funds to establish almshouses in Combe Street, Exeter; he left his widow 100 marks together with the contents of his house at Shute and many other valuables; other sums are assigned as marriage portions for his grandchildren and there are numerous other family and personal bequests.
  • Thomas Boteler (Butler), esquire
  • Hugh Bridham, canon (d. 1392)
  • John Brightelegh, esquire (d. 1406)
  • Hugh Camoys, esquire
  • Thomas Camoys, knight (d. 1421). His family connections and career are the subject of entries in Complete Peerage and the Dictionary of National Biography . He saw military service in Castile under John of Gaunt, appears to have been favoured at the Court of Richard II from whence he was removed by the Lords Appellant in 1388, and was heavily involved in the military affairs of both Henry IV and Henry V, being present at Agincourt. He appears to have had little connection with Devon matters--his major area of landed interest being Sussex--but was Earl Edward's father-in-law. Countess Matilda Courtenay was the daughter of Sir Thomas Camoys by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of William Louches: 50 s . was paid to Elizabeth Camoys out of the issues of the earl's manor of Waddesdon (Bucks.) in 1382-3.
  • Ralph Chalons, esquire
  • Robert Chalons, esquire (d. 1438)
  • John Champernon, esquire
  • William Chartey, esquire
  • John Chiselden, esquire
  • Richard Chiselden, esquire
  • Peter Clifford, esquire (d. 1385)
  • Walter Clopton, lawyer (d. 1411)
  • John Cole, esquire (d. c . 1428). An important member of the political community in Devon, especially under Henry IV, Cole was a second-generation familiar of Earl Edward, his father, Sir Adam Cole, having been steward of the earl's household in 1381-2. Edward's patronage extended to other members of the Cole family, for Henry Cole, John Cole and Nicholas Cole all received livings in the earl's gift. John Cole, esquire, was the cousin of Henry IV's retainer, Sir Thomas Pomeroy. Together they pursued what were often quite dubious claims against another cousin, Edward Pomeroy, who was forcibly ejected by way of the windows from his house at Berry Pomeroy in 1428. Cole was sheriff of Devon in 1405-6, and served abroad in 1415 (under Gloucester) and in 1417 (under Sir Thomas Carew). His standing in county society--he was a grand juror in 1414 resulted from his connections with such as the earl and Pomeroy, and from his extensive possessions. His first wife, Blanche (whose family origins remain obscure) brought with her estates in Cornwall; and a transaction dated 1391 indicates the extent of Cole's lands which included the Cornish manor of Resparva (in St. Enoder and Probus) along with many other properties in that county, and the Devon manors of Uptamar, Hittisleigh and Nethway as well as various other places there. He married, secondly, Alice, widow of John Sandeford. He was one of the co-heirs (along with Sir Thomas Pomeroy) of Sir John Pomeroy (d. 1416). His daughter and heiress, Margaret, married Thomas Hody to whose family Nethway (Cole's main seat) passed.
  • William Corby, esquire (d. c . 1408)
  • Robert Cornu (Cornch, Cornish), knight (d. 1393)
  • Hugh Courtenay, esquire (d. 1425)
  • Peter Courtenay, knight (d. 1405)
  • Richard Courtenay, esquire (d. 1415)
  • Thomas Credy, esquire (d. between 1394 and 1406)
  • William Cullompton, parson
  • John Damarel, knight (d. 1392) Son of Sir John Damarel (d. 1339) and Alice, the daughter and heiress of Sir William Prous of Gidleigh and the widow of Sir Roger Moeles (or Mules). She brought with her to the Damarels an extensive estate which included the manors of Gidleigh (with its castle), Throwleigh, and one-third of Holberton. John Damarel was a minor on the death of his father in 1339. According to Vivian he married firstly Joan, daughter of Sir John Cheverston which, if correct, made him a second cousin of Earl Edward. He married again, this time to Isobel, the widow of Thomas Tremayn of Carwithinack (Cornwall), probably in about 1380 when his entire estate was granted to feoffees. It consisted of the manors of Aveton Gifford, Flete Damarel, Gidleigh, Lustleigh, Mary Tavy, North Huish, Stodbury and Sydenham. When Isobel died in 1407 she held a large estate, partly in dower as widow of Damarel and partly as widow of Tremayn. Sir John Damarel had himself died without direct heirs: part of his widow's estate passed, as a result of an enfeoffment in favour of John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, to Sir John Cornwall (who married Holand's widow), but most passed to Isobel's heir, Nicholas Tremayn, and this included much of the Damarel patrimony. Consequently there were protracted disputes with others who claimed to be heirs of Damarel, in particular John Derneford and his wife Joan, a granddaughter of Sir John's elder sister. Damarel was active in various public capacities in Devon from the early-1380s: a collector of a subsidy in 1371, a commissioner of array in 1371, 1377, 1385 and 1392, a JP from 1380 to 1384, sheriff in 1373 and 1377, and county M.P. in 1380. He acted as a feoffee for Sir Philip Courtenay, Sir Richard Champernon and Martin Ferrers (q.v.) --all connected with the earl. An inventory of his personal possessions has recently been published.
  • Roger Damarel, parson
  • John Deneys, esquire
  • John Durburgh, esquire
  • Martin Ferrers, esquire (d. between 1402 and 1412)
  • John Fouke, esquire
  • William Glynn, esquire
  • Graunford, esquire
  • John Grey, esquire
  • Thomas Gyldespin, esquire
  • William Hankeford, lawyer (d. 1424)
  • John Hauley, esquire (d. 1408)
  • John Hille (Hulle), lawyer (d. c . 1404)
  • Robert Hille, senior, lawyer (d. 1425)
  • Robert Hille, junior, lawyer
  • John Hogge, parson
  • John Isaak, esquire
  • Richard Kendale, esquire (d. c . 1391)
  • Nicholas Kirkham, esquire (d. 1391)
  • John Lymington, lawyer
  • Baldwin Malet, knight
  • Alexander Merle, esquire
  • Thomas Molby, esquire
  • Henry Norton, esquire (d. c . 1396)
  • William Pouton, canon (d. 1389)
  • John Prestecote, lawyer (d. 1412)
  • John Prideaux, knight (d. 1403)
  • John Redeclyf, parson (d. 1407)
  • Nicholas Reed, esquire
  • Thomas Reymond, lawyer (d. 1418)
  • Ralph Sachville, esquire (d. 1396)
  • John Sampson, esquire (d. c. 1414)
  • Robert Scobhull, esquire
  • John Sloo, esquire
  • John Strecche, knight (d. 1390) Strecche's father had been one of Edward III's valets and was granted the bailiwick of the king's hundreds in Dorset in 1334. His mother brought with her to the Strecche family the estate of Sir John Arundel which included the Somerset manors of Sampford Arundel and Athelardeston, and the Devon manor of Littlehempston. His own marriage to Matilda, the daughter and heiress of Sir John Molton, brought with it the manor of Pinhoe. He died in possession of an extensive estate that was officially valued at over £97 per annum . He first appears in the records as a youth of sixteen in 1357 when he was pardoned for the killing of William Horsewell as it was accepted as having been done in self defense. He came of age in 1362 and appeared on various west-country commissions after 1367. He represented Devon in parliaments of 1385, 1386 and September, 1388. [This was the first Parliament that Sir John Grenville sat in] His son and presumptive heir, another John, died before him: he had married Katherine, daughter of John Beaumont of Sherwell who re-married Sir Hugh Luttrell of Dunster. His own daughters married into prominent local families: Elizabeth's husband was Thomas Beauchamp of Lillesdon and Cecelia married twice, to Thomas Bonville and then Sir William Cheyne. These marriages were of considerable political importance.
  • Richard Sydenham, lawyer (d. 1396)
  • John Tregorrek, esquire
  • John Wadham, lawyer (d. 1412)
  • William Walrond, esquire
  • John Webber, esquire (d. 1409)
  • Robert Wilford, esquire (d. 1395)
  • Patrick atte Wode, prebendary (d. 1413)
  • John Wyke, lawyer (d. 1410)
  • Robert Yeo, esquire . A long-standing and valued servant of the earl of Devon whom he served as receiver in 1405-6. It was Earl Edward's determination to protect Yeo (and Yeo's servant John Langford, who was indicted of the murder of William Wyke in 1391) that led to Devon's arrest and trial before the king and council in that year. Yeo had numerous connections with other members of the Courtenay affinity: he and Robert Hille, junior, together stood security for John Cornwall in 1394, and he mainperned one of the earl's lawyers, Thomas Norreys, in 1397.His son, who died before him in 1409, married Joan, daughter and heiress of William Pyne. His own heir was his grandson John Yeo, who married one of the daughters and co-heiresses of William Jewe of Cotley.


  • The best summary of recent literature on this and related matters is to be found in G.L. Hariss's introduction to his edition of K.B. McFarlane, Fifteenth Century England (1982).
  • Elizabeth de Burgh's livery roll is in the Public Record Office (hereafter abbreviated as PRO), E101/92/23, and the earl of Devon's is in the British Library (BL), Additional Charter (Add.Ch.), 64,320.
  • See M. Cherry, 'The Courtenay Earls of Devon: the formation and disintegration of a late-medieval aristocratic affinity', Southern History , I (1979), 72-97.
  • See M. Cherry, 'The Struggle for Power in Mid-Fifteenth Century Devonshire' in Ralph A. Griffiths (ed.), Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Gloucester, 1981), ch.6.
  • This is illustrated in dozens of deeds in Devon Record Office (DRO), the Petre MSS.
  • R.D. Hingeston Randolph (ed.), Episcopal Register of Edmund Stafford, 1395-1419 (Stafford Register) , (1886), pp. 391-3.BL., Add.Ch., 64,318.
  • CFR ., 1391-9 , pp. 113,241.

My thanks to Brad Verity for sending me this very useful article, written by Martin Cherry, also acknowledgments to Martin Cherry for this superb document which includes so many of the early Devon Families associated with the Yeos.

(Back to top)

  © 2003-6 Sheila Yeo | For more information on the Yeo family and the research contained in this site email sheila@yeosociety.com or call me on +44 (0)1626 360978