Richard Courtenay
Field: Priest
Location in the Abbey: Shrine
Type of memorial: Grave

The grave of Richard Courtenay, bishop of Norwich, was re-discovered in October 1953 in the chapel of St Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey. A small hole in the floor at the base of the northern turret of Henry V's Chantry was discovered with a cavity beneath and on excavation the skeleton of a man of six feet in height was found in a stone lined grave, with a crozier and a gold ring set with an oval ruby in the grave. The grave had been disturbed, probably when the Chantry was built. The body was left in situ with the crozier but the ring, hinged to hold a small relic within, is in the Abbey collection.

Richard was a son of Sir Philip Courtenay of Powderham Castle in Devon and his wife Anne. Sir Philip was a son of Hugh, Earl of Devon and Margaret de Bohun, a granddaughter of Edward I. Richard's uncle was Archbishop William Courtenay. He was ordained a priest in 1400, with a papal dispensation due to his youth. He was later Dean of Wells, Chancellor of Oxford university and bishop of Norwich. Henry V appointed him keeper of his jewels and treasurer of the chamber. He was a trusted counsellor and friend of the king. He went to France in 1415 and died of illness at the seige of Harfleur. The king had him buried in the Abbey. 

A photo of his small ruby ring can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

"Recollections of a Westminster Antiquary" by Lawrence Tanner, 1969, describes the discovery.

Powderham Castle is open to the public www.powderham.co.uk (see this website for the Courtenay Society)

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