Courten. I. William, an English manufacturer and merchant, born in London about 1570, died there in May, 1636. His father had been a tailor at Menin in the Netherlands, and in 1568 fled to London from the persecution of the duke of Alva. He manufactured French hoods, then much in fashion. In 1606 William entered into partnership with his brother Peter, and greatly enlarged the business. They built more than 20 ships, and employed fully 1,000 sailors. Their income reached £150,000, and they lent £200,000 to James I. and Charles I. They were both knighted in 1631. In 1627 William obtained letters patent for a colony on the island of Barbadoes; but this possession was subsequently wrested from him by Lord Carlisle. After this loss, the Dutch murdered his agents at Amboyna, and destroyed all his property there. Engaging in the Chinese trade, the loss of two richly laden ships completed his disasters, reducing him to poverty a short time before his death. II. William, last male descendant of the Courten family of merchants, born in London in 1642, died at Kensington Gravelpits in 1702. Educated by his wealthy relatives, he began early to travel and to display a love of natural history. He resided and studied at Montpellier, and when of age returned to England to claim the shattered fortune of his family.
After a long lawsuit he changed his name for that of William Charleton, and retired to Montpellier, where he lived for 25 years, enjoying the society of Tourne-fort and Sir Hans Sloane. He then returned again to England, and took chambers in the Temple, where he lived during the last 14 years of his life. Locke was one of his intimate friends. He made a large collection of coins, precious stones, and various curiosities in medallic and antiquarian history; and his industry is proved by his catalogue, which embraces 46 volumes. His antiquarian collection, which he left to Sir Hans Slonne, now belongs to the British museum.