Royal Harlem resident Lord Viscount Courtenay (aka William “Kitty” Courtenay), 9th Earl of Devon, c. 1768 – 26 May 1835.
He lived in his Harlem residence at the fabulous Claremont Inn & Restaurant at “…the Manhattan Forests,” from 1807-1813.
Lord Viscount Courtenay was the only son of William Courtenay, de jure 8th Earl of Devon, 2nd Viscount Courtenay and his wife Frances Clack – was a piece of work.
Courtenay was the fourth of 14 children (his siblings all being girls) and was known as “Kitty” to family and friends. On his father’s death, he became The 3rd Viscount Courtenay of Powderham.
With his new title and wealth, the young Lord Courtenay led an excessive lifestyle.
He was responsible for the addition of a new Music Room at Powderham Castle, designed by James Wyatt, which included a carpet made by the newly formed Axminster Carpet Company.
As a youth, ‘Kitty’ Courtenay was sometimes named by contemporaries as “the most beautiful boy in England”.
It was rumored that he was “gay” and became infamous for his affair with art collector William Beckford from boyhood was ten, but Beckford, only 8 years his senior, was already a wealthy art collector and sugar plantation owner when it was discovered and publicized by his uncle.
From October 1788 until 1831, his official title was The Rt. Hon. The 3rd Viscount Courtenay of Powderham.
In the autumn of 1784, a house guest overheard an argument between the then 18-year-old Hon. (his title at that time) William Courtenay and Beckford over a note of Courtenay’s.
There is no record of what the note said.
Beckford was subsequently hounded out of polite British society when his letters to Courtenay were intercepted by Courtenay’s uncle, Lord Loughborough, who then publicized the affair in the newspapers.
In 1811, Courtenay was forced to live abroad, he moved to his new home turned restaurant where the world’s “glitterati” hung out at the Claremont Inn in northern Harlem. At the time called the “the country” before moving to his home on the Hudson River.
The Inn was furnished right royalty and filled with works of art. It was party time when the likes of Louis Phillipe and Talleyrand, Joseph Bonaparte, Prince William, Duke of Clarence, King William IV, and many more lived in this incredible house.
It all began with Michael Hogan, who made his fortune in shipping and was once the British Consul in Havana.
Hogan bought up all of the land west of Bloomingdale Road (where Broadway is today) from 121st to 127th Streets and in 1804 built a house on his parcel of land near the site of The Battle of Harlem Heights.
It’s said that Courtenay from its vantage point in the Claremont Inn overlooking the river, watched the trial run of Fulton’s Steamship, the Clermont, and other grand events. Courtenay
“…lived in the (Claremont Inn) house and from its vantage point overlooking the river, he watched the trial run of Fulton’s Steamship, the Clermont and other grand events.”
Also, he owned a property on the Hudson River in New York, and later in France, in Paris, and in Draveil where he owned a castle.
It’s said that:
“Courtenay decamped from the (Claremont Inn) house not long afterwards, apparently “disturbed by events preceding the War of 1812.”
In 1831, as The 3rd Viscount Courtenay, he successfully petitioned to revive the title of Earl of Devon for the head of the Courtenay family, that title has been dormant since 1556, and so became the 9th Earl.
He died on 26 May 1835 at age 66 in Paris due to natural causes, was unmarried, and “fathered no known children.”
He was loved by his tenants, who insisted that he be buried in a stately fashion. He was buried on 12 June 1835 in Powderham in Devon England.