Courten, William

, the son of a tailor at Menin, was one of many who experienced the oppression of Olivarez duke of Alva, who, being appointed by Philip II. governor of the seventeen provinces, endeavoured, with execrable policy, to establish over all the Netherlands an irreligious and horrible court of judicature, on the model of the Spanish inquisition. By consequence, in 1567, great numbers of industrious, thriving, and worthy people were imprisoned by the rigorous orders of this petty tyrant, and treated with great injustice and cruelty. Courten had the good fortune to escape from prison; and in the year following, 1568, arrived safe in London, with his wife Margaret Casiere, a daughter named Margaret, her husband, son of a mercantile broker at Antwerp of the name of Boudean, and as much property as they could hastily collect under such disadvantages. Soon after their arrival, they took a house in Abchurch-lane, where they lived together, following for some time the business of making what were commonly called French hoods, much worn in those days | and long after, which they vended in wholesale to the shopkeepers who sold them in retail. Encouraged by great success in this employment, they soon removed to a larger house in Pudding-lane or Love-lane, in the parish of St. Mary Hill, where they entered on a partnership trade, in silks, fine linens, and such articles as they had dealt in before when in Flanders. Michael Boudean, the daughter Margaret’s husband, died first, leaving behind him, unfortunately for the family, a son and only child, named Peter, after an uncle certainly not much older than himself. The widow married John Money, a merchant in London, who instantly became an inmate with the family, which was moreover increased by the parents themselves, with two sons, William, born in 1572, and Peter, born in 1581. The young men, being instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic, were early initiated in business, and soon after sent abroad as factors for the family: William to Haerlem, Peter to Cologne, and Peter Boudean the grandchild to Middleburg. At what time William Courten and Margaret Casiere died is at present uncertain most probably their deaths happened about the end of queen Elizabeth’s, or in the beginning of king James’s reign; but it seems certain, that they left their descendants not only in easy, but even in affluent circumstances. At the following aera of this little history it does not appear clearly, whether the old people were actually dead, or had only declined all farther active, responsible concern in business: but, in 1606, William and Peter Courtens entered into partnership with John Money, their sister Margaret’s second husband, to trade in silks and fine linen. Two parts, or the moiety of the joint stock, belonged to William Courten, and to each of the others, Peter Courten and John Money, a fourth share. As for Peter Boudean, the son of Margaret Courten by her first husband, he seems to have been employed to negotiate for the partnership at Middleburg on some stipulated or discretionary salary; for it does not appear that he had any certain or determinate share in the trade, which was carried on prosperously till 1631, with a return, it is said, one year with another, of 150,000l. During the course of this copartnership, there is nothing upon record unfavourable to the character of John Money. The characters too of William and Peter Courtens appear unexceptionable, fair, and illustrious. They prospered, it seems, remarkably in all their undertakings, for twenty | years and more; in the course of which time they were both dignified with the honours of knighthood.

The elder brother, sir William Courten, besides his capital concern in the original partnership above mentioned, traded very extensively on his own account to Guinea, Portugal, Spain, and the West Indies. He married first a Dutch woman of the name of Cromling, the daughter of Mr. Peter Cromling, an opulent merchant in Haerlem, who, though both deaf and dumb, was book-keeper to her father. By this marriage he got, it is said, 60,000l. of which he was enjoined to lay out 50,000l. in the purchase pf lands in England, to be settled upon his son by this lady, of whom she was delivered in London, and whose name was Peter. This son, who was all the offspring from this marriage, king James I. made one of the first rank of his baronets. He was afterwards married to lord Stanhope’s daughter, but died without issue, leaving the estate in lands to his father sir William, who settled that estate, and 3000l. more per annum, upon his only son and heir, by a second wife, the daughter of Mr. Moses Tryon. Sir Peter, the uncle to Peter just mentioned, and brother to sir William Courten, kept the books of the family partnership, and died unmarried in 1630 at Middleburgh. It is affirmed that he was worth at his death 100,000l. and that he left his nephew Peter Boudean, the son of his sister by her first husband, his sole heir and executor, who seems at this time to have taken the name of Courten, which he annexed to his own. This crafty man took immediate possession, not only of his uncle sir Peter’s property, which could not have been ascertained without balancing the accounts of the copartnership, but seized likewise the shipping and goods that belonged unquestionably to his other uncle sir William, and Mr. Money, amounting, as it is stated, to 100,000l. more; nor could he, to the very end of his life, which lasted above thirty years longer, be brought, by argument or law, to settle the accounts of the company.

Sir William Courten, after the death of his Dutch lady, married a second wife of the name of Tryon, by whom he had one son, named William, and three daughters. Sir William seems to have been possessed of a comprehensive mind, an enterprising spirit, abundance of wealth, and credit sufficient to enable him to launch out into any promising branch of trade and merchandize whatsoever. It is | stated, with apparent fairness, that he actually lent to king James I. and his son Charles I. at different times, of his own money, or from the company trade, 27,000l. and in another partnership wherein he was likewise concerned with sir Paul Pyndar, their joint claims on the crown amounted, it seerns, to 200,000l. Sir William employed, one way or other, for many years, between four and five thousand seamen; he built above twenty ships of burthen; was a great insurer, and besides that, a very considerable goldsmith, or banker, for so a banker was then called. It appears likewise, that he was very deeply engaged in a herring fishery, which was carried on at one time with great spirit and at great expence: but shortly after, much to his cost, it came to nothing, in consequence of the supervening dissensions, confusion, and misery, that accompanied the rebellion. Previous to this, however, about the year 1624, two of sir William Courten’s ships, in their return from Fernambuc, happened to discover an uninhabited island, now of considerable importance to Great Britain, to which sir William first gave the name of Barbadoes. On the 25th of February 1627, he obtained the king’s letters patent for the colonization of this island, sheltering himself, for whatever reasons, under the earl of Pembroke. On the faith of this grant, afterwards superseded by the influence of James then earl of Carlisle, though its validity was acknowledged by the first, and indeed by all the lawjers, sir William sent two ships with men, arms, ammunition, &c. which soon stored the island with inhabitants, English, Indians, &c. to the number of one thousand eight hundred and fifty; and one captain Powel received from sir William a commission to remain in the island as governor, in behalf of him and the earl of Pembroke. After sir William had expended 44,000l. on this business, and been in peaceable possession of the island about three years, James earl of Carlisle claiming on grants said to be prior, though dated July 2, 1627, and April 7, 1628; affirming too that he was lord of all the Caribbee islands lying between 10 and 20 degrees of latitude, under the name of Carliola, gave his commission to colonel Royden, Henry Hawley, and others, to act in his behalf. The commissioners of lord Carlisle arrived at Barbadoes with two ships in 1629, and having invited the governor captain Powel on board, they kept him prisoner, and proceeded to invade and plunder the island. They carried off the factors and | servants of sir William Courten and the earl of Pembroke, and established the earl of Carlisle’s authority in Barbadoes; which continued there under several governors, till 1646, when the government of it was vested by lease and contract in lord Willoughby of Parham. Sir William Courten, it is said, had likewise sustained a considerable loss several years before this blow in the West Indies, by the seizure of his merchandize, after the cruel massacre of his factors at Amboyna in the East Indies. But after all the losses above mentioned, he was still possessed, in the year 1633, of lands in various parts of this kingdom to the value of 6 500l. per annum, besides personal estates rated at 128,Ogo/. and very extensive credit. Such were his circumstances when he opened a trade to China, and, as if he had grown* young again, embarked still more deeply in mercantile expeditions to the East Indies, where he established sundry new forts and factories. In the course of this new trade he lost unfortunately two of his ships richly laden, the Dragon and the Katharine, which were never heard of more: and he himself did not long survive this loss, which involved him in great debt; for he died in the end of May or beginning of June 1636, in the 64th year of his age, and was buried in the church or church-yard of St. Andrew Hubbard, the ground of both which was after the fire of 1666 disposed of by the city for public uses, and partly laid into the street, the parish being annexed to St. Mary Hill. There is an abstract of sir William Courten’s will in the British Museum. 1


Biog. Brit.—Tatler, with notes, edit. 1786, 6 vols, and 1806, 4 vols. 8vo,