Courtney, Nicholas (Piers) 1944-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

COURTNEY, Nicholas (Piers) 1944-

(Davina Hanmer)

PERSONAL:

Born December 20, 1944, in Berkshire, England; son of Frederick Harold Deming and Sybil (an artist; maiden name, Leigh-Pemberton) Courtney; married Vanessa Sylvia Hardwicke (a television assistant producer), October 30, 1980. Education: Attended Nautical College (Berkshire, England); Royal Agricultural College, ARICS, 1966. Religion: Church of England.

ADDRESSES:

Home—9 Kempson Rd., London SW6 4PX, England.

CAREER:

Estate manager to Col. C. G. Lancaster, Kelmarsh Hall, Northampton, England, 1966-69; Island of Mustique, St. Vincent, West Indies, general manager, 1970-77; writer, 1980—. Military service: British Territorial Army, Glosters, 1964-66; became second lieutenant.

MEMBER:

International PEN, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (associate member).

WRITINGS:

The Self-Catering Holiday Guide to Shopping and Cooking in Europe, Hutchinson (London, England), 1980.

The Tiger: Symbol of Freedom, Quartet Books (London, England), 1981.

Diana, Princess of Wales, Rainbird Publishing Group (London, England), 1982.

Royal Children, Dent, 1982.

Sporting Royals, Hutchinson (London, England), 1983.

Prince Andrew, Macdonald & Co. (London, England), 1983.

The Very Best of British, Collins (London, England), 1984.

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, St. Michael (London, England), 1984.

(Under pseudonym Davina Hanmer) Diana, the Princess of Fashion, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (New York, NY), 1984.

Princess Anne, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1986.

In Society: The Brideshead Years, Pavilion Books (London, England), 1986.

The Luxury Shopping Guide to London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1987.

Sisters-in-Law: How Princess Diana and Sarah Ferguson Changed the Face of Royalty, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1988.

The Stratford Kingshall, Bachman & Turner (London, England), 1989.

The Mall, Bachman & Turner (London, England), 1989.

The Windsor Castle Kingshall, Bachman & Turner (London, England), 1989.

Gale Force 10: The Life and Legacy of Admiral Beaufort, 1774-1857, Review (London, England), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS:

Nicholas Courtney once told CA: "I feel that, with a drawerful of unpublishable manuscripts and even more synopses, I was an overnight success after five years. The first book is always the most rewarding. The Self-Catering Holiday Guide to Shopping and Cooking in Europe, a primer to what you find in the shops and markets of Europe—how to buy and how to cook it—was a great indulgence of travel and research. Passionately keen about the tiger and what it stands for, I then wrote The Tiger: Symbol of Freedom. This unique work coordinated many areas of research and presented a whole new, and after a recent fossil find, a now-accepted theory on the evolution of the tiger.

"It is too easy to become typecast in all of the arts. When an author becomes typecast, in my case with writing about the Royal Family, the financial rewards may be great but the originality and challenge are gone. Social history and biography are now replacing the Royal Family for my future works."

With Gale Force 10: The Life and Legacy of Admiral Beaufort, 1774-1857, Courtney does indeed provide a very different kind of biography, turning from royalty to the son of a provincial clergyman who rose to become one of the most important figures in nineteenth-century British science. Best known for the Beaufort scale for calibrating wind force, from 0 to 13, Francis Beaufort was a naval hero, respected scientist, and, through his position as hydrographer to the Royal Navy, a key figure in the history of science, who helped launch the careers of Charles Darwin, astronomer Sir John Herschel, and botanist Sir William Hooker. Courtney's "meticulously researched and highly readable biography," in the words of Geographical reviewer Robin Hanbury-Tenison, describes Beaufort's early career with the East India Company, his meeting with Admiral Lord Nelson, and his subsequent career as an officer in the Royal Navy, at a time when that institution was at the forefront of both imperial and scientific expansion. Beaufort's contributions in hydrography, cartography, and marine science are impressive enough, but his work also gave him an influential role in nearly every major branch of science at a time of enormous innovation and dramatic discoveries. "You sense that there is behind this engaging book a great mass of material which a lazier biographer would have dumped, undigested, onto us. In Courtney's hands, though, it becomes a considerate, considered and fascinating account of a man whose cheerful curiousity about the world around him is both a tonic and a lesson," noted Spectator reviewer Alan Judd. Times Literary Supplement reviewer James Kelly concluded, "Gale Force 10 is a meticulously researched, beautifully written, biography of a great man which will be of interest to historians and general readers alike."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Geographical, August, 2002, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, "Scaling the Seas," p. 58.

Spectator, June 8, 2002, Alan Judd, "An Admirable Admiral," p. 44.

Times Literary Supplement, January 3, 2002, James Kelly, "Master of Winds," p. 32.*