I love all the connections and random chances of history. This was one of those little after-stories you find if you look into what happens *after* your line wanders off somewhere less interesting. I was reading up on the Courtenay Earls of Devon, who were part of my mom’s heritage, when I followed my curiosity to the next page of the book and found this bit about the eventual fate of their estate, Boconnoc, after the line had died out (“for the compound name, “Bo-connoc”, it is taken from the barton and manor of land still extant there, with reference to the beasts that depastured thereon; and signifies prosperous, successful, thriving cows, kine, or cattle.” – “The Parochial History of Cornwall”, edited by Davies Gilbert).
I was following the line of Sir Hugh (“Boconnoc”) Courtenay of Haccombe. He was my 16th great-grandfather, and had a strong and thriving descent; but eventually the lands and title went out of the family. This seems to have been when Henry Courtenay, Marquess of Exeter and husband of Gertrude Blount (listed in the book as “Elizabeth Blount”, but I believe this is in error; more about Gertrude here) was executed for treason by Henry VIII in 1538. (Henry Courtenay and Gertrude Blount had one child, the 18th Earl of Devon, who died without issue in Padua on the 4th Oct. 1556. Well, if you’ve got to go, Padua seems like a nice place for it.) In any case, the estate left the family (the author isn’t quite certain whether it was purchased from the Crown or disposed of in some other way), and passed through several hands before coming to rest in possession of a certain Reginald Mohun (incidentally. my 14th great grandfather in the Speccot line) in 1566.
Now, Reginald Mohun was the son or grandson of a William Moune, who married Isabel Courtenay, sister of Edward Courtenay, 16th Earl of Devon. So it was rather nice that the estate had come back into the hands of a branch of the family. Reginald duly married and got heirs, and 6 generations later – no longer in my line – they come to the last of their descendants: Charles, Lord Mohun.
Whew. Is your head spinning yet? Because mine is. But wait — there’s more. Charles, Lord Mohun, married twice. The first wife was Charlotte, daughter of _______ Mainwaring, Esq., and the author doesn’t seem to think much of her:
Meow. Apparently, the duel that killed Charles was an argument over an estate left to Charlotte (that baggage). Wow. Chuck, with wives like that, who needs enemies? But I digress.
Here’s the little sexypants himself.
Charles had a second wife, with whom he had no children; and after his death by duel, she sold all the Cornish and Devonshire estates in 1717 for fifty-four thousand pounds (a pittance) to Mr. Thomas Pitt, also known as Governor Pitt. When I read that name, it rang a bell, so I forged ahead.
Interestingly, this is the Mr. Pitt who came back from India with the Regent Diamond (more about that here). The Regent Diamond was a 141 carat diamond that was set into the crowns of Louis the XV and XVI, and Marie Antoinette wore it as a wee sparkly on her hat… as who would not? (Answer: anybody who didn’t want a headache from wearing around a bloody great diamond, that’s who.) The stone was stolen, found in the timbers of an attic in Paris, adorned Napoleon’s sword, and is now in the Empress Eugenie’s crown in the French Royal Treasury at the Louvre (where it was probably seen by my niece when she was on her recent honeymoon in Paris, or at least I hope so).
Empress Eugenie’s crown, featuring the Regent Diamond
So when Governor Pitt purchased the Boconnoc estate from Charles Mohun’s second wife, he did so with the money from the French purchase of the Regent Diamond.
I’m not sure if anyone else would have followed this rabbit hole quite so far, but… I do love jewelry so. It makes me happy to put together all these little pieces and come up DIAMOND. 😀
(Oh. And William Makepeace Thackeray fictionalised Mohun’s duels in his novel “The History of Henry Esmond”. So there’s that too, for you literature lovers.)
And now I need to unpretzel my brain.
—For more about Boconnoc and the adventures of the estate, “The Parochial History of Cornwall” is here.