The COURTENAYS, one of the most illustrious races amongst the English nobility, deduce their paternal descent from ATHON DE COURTENAY, who sprang himself from PHARAMOND, founder of the French monarchy in 1420, and common patriarch of all the Kings of France.
This ATHON having fortified, during the reign of ROBERT the Wise, the town of COURTENAY, in the Île-de-France, thence assumed his surname.
RENAUD or REGINALD DE COURTENAY, in the reign of HENRY II, had issue, a son,
ROBERT, Baron of Oakhampton (d 1242), who wedded Mary, youngest daughter of William de Redvers, Earl of Devon.
Of this family there have been fifteen Barons of Oakhampton, twelve Earls of Devonshire, and two Marquesses of Exeter.
The present family's immediate ancestor was
SIR PHILIP COURTENAY, of Powderham Castle, 6th son of Hugh Courtenay, 2nd Earl of Devon, from whom descended
SIR WILIAM COURTENAY, of Powderham Castle, who became the chief representative of this illustrious house, 1556, on the death of Edward, 1st Earl of Devon [5th creation] and 2nd Marquess of Exeter.
SIR WILLIAM COURTENAY (1628-1702), 5th Earl of Devon.
In 1644, a baronetcy was conferred upon him.
IN THE late 16th century, the vast estates of the Earl of Desmond were forfeited by the Crown.
The Castle, Newcastle West, County Limerick, and a large amount of surrounding land, was granted to Sir William Courtenay, de jure 3rd Earl of Devon, of Powderham, Devon, in 1591.
The Courtenays, Earls of Devon, still live at Powderham Castle in Kent.Sir William was a staunch Roman Catholic and suffered persecution for his beliefs. His son George might even have practised his faith in secret.
Their home was reputed to have had a room in which priests were hidden.
Courtenay was denounced in the House of Commons as a "papist recusant" in 1624.
In December, 1641, disturbances broke out in Newcastle West and the castle was burned down. It is unlikely that anybody lived in the castle after that time.
The old castle house, which was adjacent to the castle, and where the agents for the Courtenays lived, was probably built around 1700. This house was burned down during the Irish civil war in 1922.
In time the Courtenays were to become the largest landlords in County Limerick, owning up to 85,000 acres in the south-west of the county; the remaining lands of Newcastle West and the surrounding countryside were known as the Devon Estate until the first years of the 20th century.In 1908, under the 1903 Land Act, practically all the lands of the Devon Estate were sold. The town of Newcastle West itself was sold in 1910.
The last agents on the Courtenays in Newcastle West were the Curling family. They were agents from 1848 until the decimation and sale of the Estate.
After the break up of the estate, they bought the castle building and some of the surrounding land from Lord Devon.
The last Curling, Richard, died in 1943. In 1944 his house house and the castle grounds were sold.
It is believed that the Castle, known as the Desmond Banqueting Hall and Castle, is now state-owned.
First published in May, 2011.