Blount, Christopher (DNB00)

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BLOUNT, Sir CHRISTOPHER (1565?–1601), soldier and friend of the Earl of Essex, was probably the third son of James, sixth lord Mountjoy, and thus younger brother of Charles, lord Mountjoy, earl of Devonshire [q. v.] He was for some years in attendance on the Earl of Leicester, and gentleman of the horse to Queen Elizabeth. He served under Lord Willoughby [see Bertie, Peregrine] in the Netherlands, in 1587–8, and was knighted there by his commander. From a letter addressed by Blount to Leicester (Cottonian MSS. D. iii. f. 213), dated June 1588, Blount would seem to have been at times at variance with Willoughby on tactical questions.

About 1589 Blount married Letitia or Lettice, eldest daughter of Sir Francis Knollys, K.G., whose first husband was Walter Devereux, first earl of Essex (d. 1576), and whose second was Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester (d. 1588). There was a great disparity of years between Blount and his wife, and the marriage placed him in the singular position of stepfather to the well-known Earl of Essex, who was of about his own age and very intimately acquainted with him. Among Lord Bagot's papers at Blithefield, Staffordshire, are letters from Essex to Bagot, 7 March 1591–2, directing Bagot to put Blount in possession of ‘Ulceter Moores,’ and an order (28 March 1596) directing that assistance be given Blount in his attempts to raise men for the country's defence (Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv. 330–1).

In 1596 Blount took part in the expedition to Cadiz under Essex, first as colonel of the land force and afterwards as camp-master. He appears to have lived in great state at Cadiz, and on his return home complaints were made that he had taken more than his share of the booty, but these were answered to the satisfaction of Lord Burghley. In 1597 he joined Essex, Lord Mountjoy, and Sir Walter Raleigh in their fruitless attempt to capture the Azores. In 1592 and 1597 he was returned to parliament as M.P. for Staffordshire.

It is stated that in 1598, when the success attending the insurrection of O'Neil, Earl of Tyrone, in Ireland was causing English statesmen to look askance at the office of Irish lord deputy, the post was offered (4 May) to Sir Christopher (Chamberlain's Letters, temp. Eliz., Camd. Soc. p. 7), and promptly declined by him. In March 1598–9 Essex accepted it [see Devereux, Robert, Earl of Essex, (1567–1601)], and Sir Christopher was invited to take part in the expedition placed under the new lord deputy's command. Essex requested the queen to nominate Blount a member of the Irish privy council, but the request was refused, much to Essex's annoyance, and Essex impetuously threatened to leave Blount behind. He asked him, however, to superintend the embarkation of the troops at Chester, and finally directed him to sail with him to Dublin, where he arrived 12 April 1599. Little of interest is known of Blount's movements during the tedious campaign, in which he acted as marshal of the army. In August he defeated the rebels with 1,000 men at Leix, near Dublin, and soon afterwards he appears to have been wounded, and to have become a Roman catholic. Blount and Lord Southampton were Essex's chief advisers in Ireland. When the queen complained of the armistice made by Essex with Tyrone after his repeated failures to crush the rebellion, Blount, who ‘lay hurt’ in Southampton's lodgings in Dublin Castle, strongly dissuaded Essex from returning to England with an army, but suggested to him ‘to draw forth of the army some 200 resolute gentlemen, and with those to come over, and so to make sure of the court, and so to make his own conditions.’ Blount's advice was accepted, and Blount himself seems to have arrived in London a few months after Essex. There is nothing to prove that he was in very frequent communication with Essex during the earl's long imprisonment from October 1599 to 26 Aug. 1600. On 27 July 1600 Blount wrote to Cuffe, Essex's secretary, to present his duty to his master, ‘though I offer no further service to your noble lord.’ According to Blount's subsequent confession, he was invited by Essex to pay him a visit in London on 20 Jan. 1600–1, and there a part was assigned him in the plot formed by Essex to seize the queen and her advisers, and to stir up the city of London against them. Three years before, at Wanstead, Blount afterwards asserted, and again in Dublin Castle, Essex had made similar suggestions to him. There is little independent evidence to support Essex's statement at his trial that Blount chiefly incited him to rebellion, but there can be no doubt that Blount, as an enthusiastic catholic convert, sympathised with an attack on the existing government. On Saturday, 7 Feb., Blount was at Essex House, with all Essex's fellow-conspirators. The exact duty assigned to him in the coming riot was to proceed to Whitehall and seize the outer gate. When the lord keeper Egerton visited Essex House on the Saturday, Blount was one of those who advised his detention, and throughout the following night his servants guarded the building. On the Sunday Blount accompanied Essex on his march through London, and was attacked by the queen's forces near Ludgate, where he was wounded and captured, and his page killed. On 18 Feb. 1600–1 he signed two confessions, exposing his own and Essex's guilt, and they helped greatly to secure Essex's conviction. On 5 March Blount, with Davers, Davis, Merrick, and Cuffe, was brought to trial at Westminster, and condemned to death. On 7 March he offered further testimony against himself, and on 18 March he was executed on Tower hill. In a speech from the scaffold he renewed his confession, and begged the forgiveness of Sir Walter Raleigh, who stood near him, and whose death he had especially aimed at. His widow survived him, dying 25 Dec. 1634, aged 94. Blount endeavoured to convert a fellow-prisoner, Sir John Davis, to Roman catholicism before his death. Bacon characterised Blount as ‘so enterprising and prodigal of his own life.’

[Sir A. Croke's Genealogy of the Croke Family, surnamed Le Blount, ii. 248–50; Devereux's Lives of the Earls of Essex, ii. passim; Spedding's Life and Letters of Bacon, ii.; Abbott's Bacon and Essex; Cal. Dom. State Papers, 1586–1601; Chamberlain's Letters, temp. Eliz. (Camd. Soc.), 7, 39, 49; Letters of Sir Robert Cecil (Camd. Soc.), 68–73; State Trials, i. 1346–7, 1410–51.]

S. L. L.