COURTNEY (COURTENAY), Nicholas (c.1630-1722), of the Inner Temple and St. Breock, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1630, 4th s. of William Courtney (d.1642) of Tremeer, nr. Camelford by Jane, da. of James Bassett of Tehidy, Illorgan; bro. of Hugh Courtney. educ. I Temple 1660. m. 28 Apr. 1656, Jane, da. of Sir George Granville of Penheale, wid. of John Tregagle of Trevorder, St. Breock, s.p.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Cornw. 1665-80, 1689, Mdx. 1677-9, Westminster 1679-80; steward of Helston manor by 1669-?d., East Greenwich 1714-?d.; j.p. Devon and Cornw. 1673-98; attorney-gen. duchy of Cornw. 1673-98; commr. for recusants, Cornw. 1675; bencher, I. Temple 1677, treas. 1694-5; recorder, Saltash 1677-83; freeman, Saltash 1683, Plymouth 1684, Bodmin and Liskeard 1685-Sept. 1688; asst. Camelford to Sept. 1688.2


Courtney, a lawyer ‘of a true Cavalier suffering family once steady to the crown’, was an uncle of Humphrey Courtney. He signed the Cornish declaration for a free Parliament in December 1659. At the Restoration he secured the release of his radical brother, who had represented Wales in Barebones’s Parliament. A kinsman of the Earl of Bath through his wife, Courtney successfully petitioned for the office of attorney-general of the duchy of Cornwall in 1673 with an annual fee of £20, raised to £50 in the following year. In 1675 he was granted £100 as the King’s free gift and in 1677 he was chosen recorder of Saltash on the special recommendation of the King at the time of the renewal of the borough’s charter.3

Courtney successfully contested Saltash at the first general election of 1679. Classed as ‘base’ by Shaftesbury, he duly voted against the exclusion bill. An inactive Member of the first Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges, and those to inspect the poor laws, and to inquire into the causes of the decay of the leather trade. He also acted as a teller in favour of a motion for adjournment during the hearing of the Leicester election case. He was defeated in September and no action was taken on his petition. In 1685 he was given the freedom of Liskeard and Bodmin under their new charters. Returned to James II’s Parliament for Camelford as a Tory, he was moderately active, being appointed to two committees on private bills and that to estimate the yield of the proposed tax on new buildings. He was one of the Templars who were reported to have concurred with the King’s religious policy ‘under the lord chancellor’s examination’, and in 1688 he was recommended as court candidate for Camelford. But in September he was removed from office in all his boroughs, and he did not stand again. Under William III he was constrained to surrender his duchy office ‘to prevent the same being taken from him’, presumably as a non-juror. In 1702 he petitioned

before he leaves the stage (being above three score and twelve years old) that his long and steady service to the Crown and Government may be honoured in such preferment as your lordship shall think fit.

In 1709 and 1710 he petitioned unsuccessfully for a reversionary lease of the duty of 4d. per cwt. upon all tin coined in the stannaries, but in 1714 his request for the stewardship of East Greenwich was granted. His anxiety to obtain an office was doubtless increased by his financial difficulties. As early as 1691 the scientist Robert Boyle remitted a debt of £150 and interest which Courtney could not pay. He died on 26 Oct. 1722 and was buried in the Temple Church.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 115; B. Spooner, John Tregagle, 18-19.
  • 2. Cal Treas. Bks. iii. 289; iv. 39, 68; xiii. 69; CSP Dom. 1677-8, pp. 182-3, 513; 1685, p. 66; J. Wallis, Bodmin Reg. 169; Cal. Plymouth Mun. Recs. ed. Worth, 8; PC2/72/735.
  • 3. Vivian, 105-18; PCC 107 Nabbs; PC2/55/256; Cal. Wills Cornw. (Index Lib. lvi), 75; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 315, 321, 599, 765; CSP Dom. 1677-8, pp. 182-3, 578.
  • 4. Cal. I. Temple Recs. 206, 215; 80, 86; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiii. 440; xxiv. 30; xxvii. 407, 419; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1708-14, p. 405; W. P. Courtney, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 151; PCC 3 Fane.