Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport

Mountjoy Blount,[1] 1st Earl of Newport (c. 1597–1666), created Baron Mountjoy in the Irish peerage (1617), Baron Mountjoy of Thurveston in the English peerage (1627) and Earl of Newport (1628) was appointed master of ordnance to Charles I of England (1634) and played an ambiguous part in the early years of the English Civil War.

Mountjoy Blount, 1st Earl of Newport
The Earl of Newport: detail from a double portrait with Baron Goring by Sir Anthony van Dyck.
Died1666

Life

Early career

Born around 1597, he was the natural son of Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire and his lover and future wife, Penelope Devereux, and was born while his parents were living together without benefit of marriage. After his mother obtained a divorce from her first husband Robert Rich, 1st Earl of Warwick, in 1605, his parents married and although they were unable to legitimise him, his father, who died shortly after the marriage, left him a large estate. His mother died the following year.

He became a member of James I's court, where he was something of a royal favourite, who played in a masque before the king mounted by James Hay, 1st Viscount Doncaster (later Earl of Carlisle) at Essex House, 8 January 1620/1621. [2] He was among the entourage of the Earl of Carlisle, who were employed to offer excuses at the court of Louis XIII, for the passage of Prince Charles through Paris incognito on his way to Spain at the time of negotiations towards the ill-starred "Spanish Match".

Earl of Newport

In July 1627 he was created Earl of Newport in the Isle of Wight; Newport, as he now was, took part in the Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré in 1627 but was captured at the battle of the pont du Feneau on 8 November. He was however released soon after.[3] He held a rear-admiral's command in the ineffective expedition to relieve La Rochelle in August 1628, for which he was petitioning for payment in the following years. His appointment as Master of Ordnance for his lifetime was granted 31 August 1634; as was expected in the seventeenth century, he derived a tidy fortune from the position. From his sale of gunpowder at exorbitant prices, through the Spanish ambassador, to supply the Spanish fleet attacking Dutch forces in September 1639, he pocketed £1000, and the King, £5000.[4]

By his own account he bargained with the ambassador to land soldiers from the Spanish fleet at Dunkirk, at thirty shillings a head, though public neutrality had been enjoined by Charles. His relatives, the Rich-Devereux clan, were identified with the Parliamentary opposition on the 1630s. Although at Christmas 1639, Newport participated with the King in the extravagant masque on the theme of Philogenes, royal "lover of the People",[5] with the return of the Long Parliament the next year, Newport by degrees joined the forces of opposition in the House of Lords.

The turning point came during the trial of Strafford in 1641, when Col. Lord Goring had revealed to Newport an amateurish plot of Royalist officers at Portsmouth to take London by surprise, seize the Tower and somehow rescue the king. Goring betrayed the plot to Newport, who passed on the information to John Pym, who brought it forward at the most dramatic and opportune moment, sealing Strafford's fate in the bill of attainder.

When the Civil War broke out, however, Newport served in the royalist army, and took part in the second battle of Newbury in 1644. In January 1646 he was taken prisoner and confined in London on parole. He played little part in public affairs thereafter. At the Restoration of Charles II he regained some of his old influence, but age and ill health were taking their toll.

Family

He had on 7 February 1626 married Anne Boteler, daughter of John Boteler, 1st Baron Boteler of Bramfield and Elizabeth Villiers, half-sister of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, by whom he had eight children:[6][7]

He died at Oxford, where he had gone to avoid the plague, leaving three surviving sons, all said to be "idiots" (i.e. mentally disabled).[8] They each inherited the title in turn, but earldom became extinct upon the death of the youngest, Henry, in 1679. Mountjoy Blount was interred in Christ Church.[9]

Notes

  1. The name is pronounced "Blunt".
  2. The masque, played before the King to celebrate the arrival of the French ambassador, has been rediscovered; see Timothy Raylor, "The Lost Essex House Masque (1621): A Manuscript Text Discovered,". English Manuscript Studies 1100–1700 7 (1998): 86–130, and "The Design and Authorship of The Essex House Masque (1621)", MRDE 10 (1998), p. 218.
  3. Histoire de la guerre des Huguenots faicte en France, sous le regne du Roy Louys XIII. Auec les plans des sieges des villes en taille douce (in French). T. du Bray. 1634.
  4. "Blount, Mountjoy" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. Woodward 1955:310; almost the last of the masques, its words were by Sir William Davenant, its sets and costumes by Inigo Jones.
  6. Waters, Robert Edmund Chester (1878). Genealogical memoirs of the extinct family of Chester of Chicheley v. 1. London, UK: Robson & Sons. pp. 151–152.
  7. Accounts of his sons in peerage references tend to be inconsistent in both names and dates. Waters quotes the most extensively from parish registers.
  8. Collectanea topographica et genealogica. v. 6. London, UK: John Bowyer Nichols and Son. 1840. pp. 84–85.
  9. Granger, J. (1824). A Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution ... Characters Disposed in Different Classes ... a Methodical Catalogue ... a Variety of Anecdotes ... with a Preface... by the Rev. J. Granger ... Vol. 1. [-6.!. London. p. 303.

References

Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Vere of Tilbury
Master-General of the Ordnance
1634–1661
Succeeded by
Sir William Compton
Peerage of England
New creation Earl of Newport
1628–1666
Succeeded by
Mountjoy Blount
Baron Mountjoy
1627–1666
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Mountjoy
1618–1666
Succeeded by
Mountjoy Blount

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