BLOUNT, Sir Christopher (d.1601), of Kidderminster, Worcs; later of Drayton Bassett, Staffs.
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Family and Education
Yr. s. of Thomas Blount of Kidderminster by Margery, da. of William Poley of Badley, Suff. educ. by William (later Cardinal) Allen at Louvain. m. July 1589, Lettice, da. of Sir Francis Knollys, wid. of Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex and of Sir Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, s.p. Kntd. 1588.
Capt. of horse in Netherlands to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 1586; col. of ft. at Cadiz 1596; capt. of levies, Warws., Herefs., Glos. 1597; on Azores expedition 1597; in Ireland 1599.
J.p.q. Warws. from 1594; j.p. Staffs. from 1594, q. by 1596.
No doubt it was Blount’s mother, a Catholic, who arranged for him to be sent abroad for his early education. Blount’s sister married a son of George Cotton of Warblington, Hampshire, the only recusant in that county to pay his £260 a year in fines from the date of his conviction until his death.1
There were other grounds for doubting Blount’s loyalty. On 30 Oct. 1577 Sir Amias Paulet wrote from Paris to Leicester and Walsingham warning them that Blount, who made ‘open profession of popery’, had returned from France to England with an accomplice of Thomas Morgan, a servant of Mary Queen of Scots. Paulet said that earlier he had advised Blount, whatever his religion, to ‘eschew the company’ of notoriously dissident papists, and that he had agreed to do so. During the next eight years hardly anything is known of Blount’s activities, but in July 1585 he sent a message to Morgan, then in a Paris prison, expressing his devotion to Mary Stuart and offering his service in her cause. The offer was accepted and it seems that Blount, whom Morgan later described in a letter intended for his mistress as ‘discreet and valiant withal’ and of ‘good affection’ towards her, was to be used to establish a link with her son in Scotland. Morgan certainly trusted him, writing to Mary on 30 Apr. 1586: ‘I know Blount’s mind, and confidence he hath in me, more than in most men living, having been his friend in his greatest prosperity and in his greatest distress’. However, the correspondence was delivered, through the means of one Poley (whether a maternal relative of Blount has not been ascertained), not to Mary but to the authorities in England, and is now in the Hatfield collection. Poley is known to have been an agent of Walsingham, and almost certainly Blount was another. Much later, Blount asked that the Queen be reminded of his services to her in assisting Leicester and Walsingham to uncover Mary’s plots.2
In the Netherlands campaign Blount served with distinction, returning to England in or soon after July 1586, perhaps to carry out more work for Walsingham, as the unsuspecting Morgan then wrote to his mistress recommending him as the bearer of the letter. This must have delighted Walsingham, who, in June 1588, wrote to Blount, by then back in the Netherlands, as ‘good Sir Christopher’, reassuring him against ‘the envy and malice of detractors’. ‘Assure yourself’, he added, ‘I will not fail to defend you when your credit shall be called in question’. Blount replied from Utrecht, a significant passage reading: ‘God hath altered me for my opinion in religion, and I not altered it to please any man but to save my soul’.3
After Leicester’s recall from the Netherlands Blount failed to agree with his successor, Lord Willoughby, and was among those recalled in March 1589 to prepare for another military expedition. In July he married, at the age of 33, Leicester’s widow Lettice, then about 49. The Countess estimated that, at the time of their marriage, she had jointures from her two previous husbands amounting to £3,000 a year and £6,000 worth of plate and household goods, while Blount had but £160 a year. She maintained that he induced her to sell lands worth some £5,700, and to part with others to her son, the Earl of Essex, to whom she conveyed Drayton Bassett, Staffordshire, formerly Leicester’s seat and later Blount’s own. It was Blount’s connexion with the Earl of Essex that twice secured him a county seat in Parliament. In January 1593 Essex wrote to his local agent Richard Bagot, the deputy lieutenant of Staffordshire, asking him to secure Blount’s election, and in 1597 it was to Essex that Blount’s wife wrote complaining that the sheriff had wronged her husband in returning him as the junior instead of the senior county Member. In the 1593 Parliament Blount was named as ‘Mr. Christopher Blount’ to the subsidy committee (26 Feb.) and as ‘Sir Christopher’ to the conference with the Lords to discuss the subsidy and the defence of the realm (1 Mar.). As a knight of the shire he would have been entitled to attend a legal committee (9 Mar.) in 1593, and in 1597 committees concerned with enclosures (5 Nov.), poor law (5, 22 Nov.), armour and weapons (8 Nov.), penal laws (8 Nov.), monopolies (10 Nov.) and the subsidy (15 Nov.) In Staffordshire he was not an active local official, though a muster master for the county in 1595, and in March 1596 a commissioner to raise troops in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Shropshire for a projected expedition under Essex and the lord admiral.4
That summer, Blount took part in the sack of Cadiz, first as colonel of a foot regiment and later as camp master. On his return to England, there were the usual complaints—all answered to Burghley’s satisfaction—that he had taken more than his fair share of the booty. In May of the following year he was appointed a captain of troops to be levied in Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire for defence against invasion, and in July was with Essex and the other commanders at Plymouth preparing for the Azores expedition from which he took his share of the spoils. After a visit to Dieppe in company with Sir Robert Cecil in February 1598, in connexion with France’s prospective armistice with Spain, he became involved in Irish affairs. According to the letter-writer John Chamberlain, he was among those who refused an offer of the deputy lieutenantship early in 1598, but in March 1599, when Essex accepted it, he was invited to take part with him in the projected campaign. Blount’s appointment by his stepson as marshal of Ireland was accepted by the Queen, though she had intended the position for Sir Henry Brouncker. She would not, however, grant Essex’s request that Blount should be named to the Irish Privy Council, and it was only when the Earl failed to move her by threatening to leave Blount behind, that he acknowledged defeat. The two sailed for Dublin together, arriving in April 1599.5
Little is known of Blount’s part in the Irish war beyond his victory at Leix, near Dublin, in August. Soon afterwards he ‘lay hurt’ in the Earl of Southampton’s lodgings in Dublin Castle. It was probably there that he was reconciled to Catholicism. At this time he and Southampton were Essex’s chief advisers in Ireland, using, as they later contended, all their influence to dissuade him from returning to England at the head of an army to overawe the Queen. Instead, they suggested that Essex should go with some 200 resolute gentlemen, ‘and so to make sure of the court’. The advice was accepted and Blount probably returned to England at about the same time. He had left Ireland by 23 Oct.6
There is no evidence that Blount was in frequent communication with Essex during the Earl’s imprisonment from October 1599 to August 1600, although in July 1600 he wrote to Essex’s secretary, presenting his duty to the Earl though he could offer him no further service. According to Blount’s subsequent confession, he was invited by Essex in January 1601 to visit him in London, where a part was assigned to him in the projected uprising. He supped with Essex the night before the revolt, and when the lord keeper and others came to Essex House in person, he was among those who counselled their detention. He took a leading part in the fighting in the city on 8 Feb., a witness describing him as ‘a tall, black man’ who ‘ran through the streets of London’, uttering strange cries and ‘charging his enemies with sword and target’. When at last he fell, wounded in the head, the rebellion was over. He was carried into the premises of a tailor who, with two yeomen of the guard to keep watch, cared for him until his trial, to which he was carried in a litter. In consideration of his public services, the traitor’s sentence was commuted to beheading. Before his death on Tower Hill, 18 Mar. 1601, he made a long speech, explaining his conduct, asking forgiveness of his enemies, particularly Sir Walter Ralegh, and declaring that he died a Catholic.
Ref Volumes: 1558-1603
- 1. J. E. Paul, ‘Hants Recusants in the Reign of Elizabeth I’ (Southampton Univ. PhD thesis, 1958), ch. xi. and App. xi.
- 2. Cotton, Caligula, e, 7, f. 6v; Sir Amias Paulet’s Letter Book ed. Ogle (Roxburghe Club 1866), 163; C. Falls, Mountjoy: Elizabethan General, 26 seq. HMC Hatfield, iii. 101, 135, 136-7, 151; xi. 49.
- 3. HMC Hatfield, iii. 151, 457; vi. 570; HMC Ancaster, 154; CSP For. 1588, pp. 451-2; R. C. Strong and J. A. Van Dorsten, Leicester’s Triumph, 110.
- 4. HMC Ancaster, 233 et passim; APC, xvii. 116; CSP Dom. 1601-3, pp. 22-3; HMC 9th Rep. pt. 2, p. 422; Erdeswick’s Surv. Staffs. 419; Neale, Commons, 31, 60-2, 237, 240; D’Ewes, 474, 481, 496, 552, 553, 555, 557, 561, 565; HMC Hatfield, v. 524; vi. 117, 118, 125, 126.
- 5. HMC Hatfield, vi. 361; CSP Dom. 1595-7, pp. 191, 249, 280, 286, 451-2; 1598-1601, pp. 29, 46, 136, 151, 169; Lansd. 81, f. 174; APC, xxvii. 105.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, pp. 575, 596 et passim; HMC Hatfield, xi. 72 et passim; ix. 375.