Blount, Mountjoy (DNB00)
|←Blount, Martha||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 05
BLOUNT, MOUNTJOY, Lord Mountjoy and Earl of Newport (1597?–1666), natural son of Charles Blount, earl of Devonshire [q. v.], by Penelope, Lady Rich, was born about 1597. His father left him a very plentiful revenue (Clarendon, Hist., 1849, i. 89), and the earliest contemporary notice of him states that in 1617 he was parting ‘with Wanstead to the king or Buckingham in order to be made a baron.’ As a young man he seems to have been a favourite at court, and was created Baron Mountjoy in the Irish peerage on 2 Jan. 1617–18. On 8 Jan. 1620–1 he acted in a masque before the king at Essex House, the residence of Viscount Doncaster, and in April 1622 the emperor's ambassador in London ‘ran at tilt in the prince (Charles) his company with the Lord Mountjoy.’ In the same year Mountjoy and Colonel Edward Cecil spent some time in the Low Countries, and a false report that they had been slain there reached home (Yonge's Diary, Camd. Soc. 64). On 10 Feb. 1622–3 Chamberlain wrote that the king had proposed Mountjoy as a husband for Mdlle. St. Luc, a niece of the French ambassador, to whom James had been showing many attentions, and had promised the lady, in case she accepted him, to advance Mountjoy to an earldom. On 21 Feb. 1622–3 Mountjoy accompanied the Earl of Carlisle on a visit to the French court to ask the king to excuse Prince Charles's journey through Paris, on his way to Spain, without the king's leave or kissing the king's hand. After performing this task Mountjoy rode on to Spain.
In November 1623 Mountjoy attended Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador in London. On 5 June 1627 Blount was created Baron Mountjoy of Thurveston, in the English peerage, with a clause of precedency over all barons created since 20 May. Lords Fauconberg and Lovelace brought the clause to the attention of the lords' committee of privileges, who reported (29 April 1628) that the grant of precedency was illegal. On 27 July of the same year Mountjoy was created earl of Newport in the Isle of Wight. Newport was nominated to a command in the expedition for the relief of Rochelle in August 1628, but the assassination of Buckingham delayed its departure till October, when Newport was appointed rear-admiral of the fleet and sailed in the St. Andrew. Throughout 1629 and 1630 Newport was petitioning for payment of his services; he complained that during his absence from England his property had wasted away, and that during his minority he had been deprived of Wanstead. A warrant of payment was issued to him on 12 May 1631. In June 1630 he was granted the reversion to the custodianship of Hyde Park, and on 31 Aug. 1634 he became master of the ordnance for life. Through the five following years Newport was actively engaged in the duties of the ordnance office, out of which he contrived to make large profits for his own purse. He accompanied the army to Scotland early in 1639 in close attendance on the king, and in September of the same year sold gunpowder at an unjustifiable price to Cardenas, the Spanish ambassador, for the Spanish fleet, under Oquendo, which was attacking the Dutch fleet in the Channel, and had weighed anchor in the Downs. In this transaction the king received 5,000l. and Newport 1,000l. above the value of the powder. Newport's boldness whenever money was to be made was further illustrated in the next month, when he bargained with Cardenas, though Charles I had ordered a strict neutrality to be observed in the quarrel between Spain and Holland, to convey Spanish soldiers from Oquendo's ships to Dunkirk at thirty shillings a head. On 29 April 1640 Newport voted with the minority in the lords in favour of the commons' resolution that redress of grievances should precede supply, and excused his conduct immediately afterwards to the king as a mistake made in the confusion of the moment. But in the Long parliament Newport formally joined the opposition in the Lords.
In December 1640 Newport appealed to the lords against one Faucet, who had charged him at York in 1639 with improperly performing his ordnance duties, and on 13 Jan. 1640–1 Faucet was ordered to pay Newport 500l. and to make a public submission, first in the house and afterwards at the next York sessions (Lords' Journals, iv. 118–138). Newport, on learning from George Goring of the plot to bring an army to the king's aid in 1641 during the trial of Strafford, straightway informed Bedford and Mandeville, who carried the intelligence to Pym (April 1641). As if to conciliate his enemies, Charles thereupon appointed Newport constable of the Tower. After the bill of attainder against Strafford had passed the House of Lords (7 May), and the king was hesitating whether or no to assent to it, Newport announced that he was ready to execute Strafford with or without the king's assent. In his ‘Diary’ Laud mentions Newport as a witness of the solemn farewell which he took of Strafford through his prison window, as his friend passed on his way to execution. In June the king ordered Newport to proceed to York ‘to look to the munition in the north,’ and on 25 June the lords petitioned Charles to allow Newport to receive meanwhile his pay as constable of the Tower. On 18 Aug. parliament directed Newport to take up his residence in the Tower and to see that it was safely guarded. On 9 Sept. Newport, with Warwick, Bedford, Mandeville, and two others, protested against the action of the majority of the lords in passing an order directing the performance of divine service in all churches according to former acts of parliament, and in refusing to communicate the order to the commons. While Charles was in Scotland in August 1641 Newport is reported to have said at a meeting of some peers in Kensington that the queen and her children in London were hostages for the king's good behaviour. He denied the expression when questioned by the king on his return, but the king declined to accept the denial. Newport brought the matter before the lords (27 Dec. 1641), and on the same day Sir Edward Hungerford and Hollis delivered messages from the commons suggesting the formation of a committee of both houses to petition the king and queen to announce the name of their informant on the subject. On 28 Dec. the petition was presented, and on 30 Dec. the king haughtily replied that he did not credit the rumour, and charged Newport with wilful misrepresentation. When Lunsford, Charles's creature, was appointed lieutenant of the Tower (23 Dec.), the commons repeated their request to Newport to take personal charge of the fortress, and Charles straightway dismissed Newport from the constableship.
Newport had no intention of taking up arms against the king, in spite of his marked hostility to the court. With Hamilton, Essex, and Holland he consented to accompany the king to the city in his search for the five members (5 Jan. 1641–2), and on 15 June 1642 he was one of the king's supporters at York who signed the paper declaring that the king desired the preservation of peace and the liberty of the kingdom. He soon afterwards fought with the king's forces in Yorkshire. In December 1642 he was the Duke of Newcastle's lieutenant-general, and was entrusted with an important part in the royalists' attack on Tadcaster; but ‘whether out of neglect or treachery,’ writes the Duchess of Newcastle, Newport did not follow out his instructions, and the attack failed (Life of Duke of Newcastle, 1872, pp. 26–8). Newport was also defeated in a slight skirmish by Sir Hugh Cholmley in the north riding (January 1642–3). In the following month he quarrelled with Newcastle because the latter wished him to employ catholics in his army. On 13 Feb. 1642–3 information reached the Marquis of Huntly that Newcastle had committed Newport to prison at Pomfret (Pontefract) (Spalding, Memorialls, ii. 234–5). On 11 March 1642–3 the lords remaining at Westminster sent for Newport as a delinquent. On 15 March it was reported that ‘he was stayed at Coventry,’ and the parliamentary committee there were directed to bring him to London, which they declined to do until they received the order of the House of Commons (21 March). On 28 March 1642–3 Newport surrendered himself and was committed to the custody of the gentleman usher of the House of Lords; on 4 April 1643 leave was granted him ‘to take the air’ with his custodian. Newport's saddle and horse-arms, and other property left in the Tower, when he occupied it as constable, were handed over to Sir Thomas Middleton by order of the commons, 11 June 1643, but the lords had allowed Lady Newport to remove some of the furniture earlier. In the following year Newport was released. He was present at the second battle of Newbury (27 Oct. 1644), and marched in the king's company with the royal regiment to Bath on the night following the battle (Symond's Diary, Camd. Soc. 146; Money's Newbury (1884), 249). At the end of 1645 he was with the king's forces in Devonshire. On 23 Jan. 1645–6, when Dartmouth was stormed and fell, Newport was taken prisoner. He was sent to London, and the lords committed him to the custody of the gentleman usher (26 Jan. 1645–6), but it was reported that Newport ‘was a means of delivering up [to the parliament] divers forts of great strength without forcing.’ On 11 Feb. Newport petitioned the lords to confine him in some private place where his maintenance would cost him less money. On 17 Feb. 1645–6 his recognisances in 1,000l. were accepted by the lords that he would not leave the parishes of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields and Covent Garden if freed from custody. On 23 March the bail was raised to 2,000l., and Newport was allowed ‘to take the air’ within five miles of London. On 22 July 1646 he was released from his bail. On 4 Oct. 1647 the lords recommended to the commons Newport's petition ‘for lessening of his compositions,’ in consideration of his loss of the office of master of the ordnance.
Little is heard of Newport after the capture and death of Charles I. On 16 Feb. 1653–4 Lord Lisle and Major-general Lambert were ordered in council to ‘accommodate the business’ of Newport and Lord Vaux, who had been apprehended on a warrant ‘touching a challenge.’ In June 1655 Newport and Lord Willoughby of Parham were committed to the Tower on suspicion of treason.
At the Restoration Newport recovered some of his importance, but age was telling upon him, and he took no active part in public affairs. In June 1660 he was formally suspended and discharged from the office of master of the ordnance. He was at court on the day before the coronation of Charles II, 22 March 1660–1, and carried the king's mantle (Evelyn's Diary, ed. Bray, i. 34). On 10 Nov. 1662 he was granted a pension of 1,000l. a year as gentleman of the bedchamber, which was renewed, 6 Jan. and 18 March 1662–3, with the proviso that it was to date from 24 June 1660. Newport died at Oxford, in St. Aldate's parish, 12 Feb. 1665–6, ‘to which place he before had retired to avoid the plague raging in London.’ He was buried in the south aisle adjoining the choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (Wood, Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 250).
Lord Newport married Anne, daughter of John, Baron Boteler, of Bramfield, Hertfordshire. Lady Newport is frequently mentioned in the State Papers as a prominent leader of London society, and in 1637 she was induced by her sister, the wife of Endymion Porter, to follow a prevailing fashion and declare herself a catholic. Her husband, angered by this step, begged Laud's assistance in punishing those who had influenced Lady Newport, and Laud's endeavour to carry out Newport's wish led him into a serious quarrel with the queen (cf. Laud's Works, iii. 229; Strafford's Letters, ii. 125). It is possible that Newport's temporary alliances with the leaders of the parliamentary opposition were a result of the irritation produced by his wife's conversion. There is little to prove that she was in much intercourse with her husband during the civil wars. Passes were granted her by the authorities to travel to France (23 Sept. 1642), to go to the west of England (11 Nov. 1642), and to leave the country on her giving security to do nothing prejudicial to the state (14 March 1652–3). In June 1657, when a plot against the Protector's life was on foot in London, a search after her with a view to her arrest was suggested (Thurloe, State Papers). Care must be taken to distinguish between the Earl of Newport (in the Isle of Wight) and his sons from Richard Newport [q. v.], created Baron Newport of High Ercall, Shropshire, 14 Oct. 1642, who died in 1650, and from Richard Newport's son and heir Francis [q. v.], created Viscount Newport of Bradford, Shropshire, 11 March 1674–5, and Earl of Bradford 11 May 1694, who died in 1708.
Newport had three sons and two daughters. His eldest son, George, who had been taken prisoner by Sir Thomas Middleton on the fall of Oswestry (3 July 1644), became the second earl of Newport, and died without issue in 1675–6. His second son, Charles, died in infancy, and was buried at St. Martin's-in-the-Fields (Stow's Survey, ed. Strype, bk. vi. p. 71); the third, Henry, succeeded his brother as earl of Newport (cf. Savile Correspondence, Camd. Soc. 40, 118). With his death in 1681 the peerage became extinct. The first earl's two daughters, Isabella and Anne, were allowed by the House of Lords to travel from London to their father's house at Fotheringay (13 July 1643). Isabella married Nicholas Knollys, who sat in parliament in 1660 as earl of Banbury, but his legitimacy was disputed.
Two portraits of Newport, the one (at an early age) by Martin Droeshout, and the other by Hollar, are mentioned by Granger (Biog. Hist. i. 399, ii. 135).[Sir A. Croke's Genealogical History of Croke Family, surnamed Le Blount, ii. 246; Cal. Dom. State Papers, 1617–39, 1649–58, 1660–5; Lords' Journals, iii. iv. v. vi. ix.; Commons' Journals, ii. iii. iv.; Gardiner's Hist. ix. x.; Clarendon's Hist.; Whitelocke's Memorials; Laud's Diary, vols. i. ii. iii.; Nichols's Progresses of James I.]