Sunday, September 09, 2018

Question from Jodi - Elizabeth Courtenay (b. 1539)

Have you found records of Elizabeth Courtenay born 1539 and died 1570? She is to have been Henry Courtenay and Gertrude Blount's daughter. She married Devid Ashels and they had a daugher, Mary Ashels in 1570. I would apprecipate references. Thank you.

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

I am wondering where you might have already searched yourself? Have you tried searching the National Archives database, especially their Discovery tool? The British Library's Manuscripts database? British History Online? The online catalogue of the county archive for the county in which the subject spent most of her life? You might need to try each of the relative names (i.e., Elizabeth Courtenay/Courteney/de Courtenay, Elizabeth Ashel, David [or Devid] Ashel, etc).

The unfortunate reality is that women are exceptionally poorly documented in the Tudor period, since they did not participate in public affairs, were legally subsumed under their husband's documentary identity, and were usually illiterate themselves and thus not producers of letters, etc. of their own. When you add to that the claim that, if Elizabeth Courtenay Ashel existed at all, she was the daughter of a person executed for treason even before she was herself born, the odds are well and truly against their being much, if any, surviving documentation. But from what I can tell from a cursory check of the readily-available information, it seems highly probable that no Elizabeth Courtenay, daughter of Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter ever existed. Consider, for example, that her supposed mother, Gertrude Blount Courtenay, was almost 40 years old when Elizabeth was supposedly conceived. That would have been highly unusual in the Tudor period. Equally and perhaps more importantly, there is a gap of more than 10 years between Gertrude's previous known children and Elizabeth. This too would have been extremely unusual. My own conclusion is that Elizabeth Courtenay never existed, but is instead the product of confusion with some other woman of similar name or of myth-making.