Edward Courtenay was born to Sir Hugh Courtenay and Margaret Carminow whose family were loyal to the Lancastrians and also the Tudors.
Edward Courtenay was one of Henry Tudor’s companions whilst he was in exile in France and he also fought alongside Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. During his time in France Courtenay acted as a courier between France and England in the 1480’s and sought patronage of Margaret Beaufort.
In 1471 at the Battle of Tewkesbury Edward’s cousin once removed, John Courtenay, 7th Earl of Devon was killed and the Earldom expired as John Courtenay had no children. With the Earldom was no longer bestowed on anyone the newly crowned King Henry VII created Edward the new Earl making him the 1st Earl of Devon on 26th October 1485. At King Henry’s coronation Edward was given the honour of carrying the second sword in the procession.
Courtenay married his distant cousin, Elizabeth Courtenay and they went on to have one son, William, whose son was beheaded in 1539 alongside Margaret Pole for allegedly plotting to place Reginald Pole upon the throne.
Edward had a fairly quiet life away from court. He fought at the Battle of Stoke in 1487 and led a retinue of 99 men in France. In 1494 Edward was inducted into the Knight of the Garter, a prestigious honour granted to few men.
Edward was an influential courtier and ruled much of Devon on behalf of the crown. The county remained loyal to the Tudors and gathered men from Devon and East Cornwall to try to stop the imposter Perkin Warbeck. Edward defended the city of Exeter from the rebels and although wounded the rebels eventually disbanded.
Edward made his will on the 27th May 1509 and it is believed that he died the following day on the 28th May. In his will he requested to be buried in Tiverton chapel next to his wife. Edward had left his son William in line for the Earldom but on the condition that William obtained the King’s pardon. William had been imprisoned since 1502 and was under attainder since 1504.