Sir Charles Blount

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Blount, Sir Charles, Lord Mountjoy, and Earl of Devonshire, second son of the 6th Lord Mountjoy, was born in England in 1563. He studied at the Middle Temple, and when about twenty, was introduced at court, and gained Elizabeth's favour. He entered Parliament, served with Sir Philip Sidney in the Low Countries, and was knighted. Advanced from one honour to another, he aroused the animosity of Essex, and a duel ensued between them, in which Essex was badly wounded. From this date, strange to say, they became fast friends.

In 1594, on the death of his elder brother, he succeeded to the title of Mountjoy, and an inheritance of under £100 a-year, on which we are told "he lived plentifully, and in a fine way and garb." In 1599, after the failure of the Earl of Essex, and in opposition to his own wishes, the Queen insisted upon his assuming the government of Ireland. On his arrival, 24th February 1599-1600, the Anglo-Irish power was at a low ebb. He immediately took the field with 2,102 foot and 279 horse, and soon reduced the country to a state of comparative peace, chiefly through the abilities of Sir George Carew, President of Munster. For these successes he received several flattering letters from the Queen.

In 1601 Lord Essex was committed to the Tower on a charge of high treason. Mountjoy was certainly implicated in his plans; however the Queen could not afford to quarrel with him, and he escaped the storm that overwhelmed Essex, although he was refused leave to return to England. If he had obtained it, "he meant nothing else," according to his secretary, Fynes Moryson, "but rather . . was purposed with his friends to sail into France, they having privately fitted themselves with money and necessaries thereunto." In the Autumn of 1601, Don John d'Aguila landed at Kinsale with 4,000 Spaniards, to co-operate with O'Neill. Mountjoy and Carew immediately invested Kinsale. The weather was miserable, and the sufferings of the troops were intense. O'Neill and O'Donnell, with the Spaniards of Castlehaven, concentrated for the relief of d'Aguila. A battle ensued on the night of the 23rd December, in which Mountjoy not only defeated the Irish princes with heavy loss, but compelled d'Aguila immediately to capitulate.

O'Neill retired into Ulster, and in the spring of 1602 Mountjoy organized a final expedition against him. The country was in the most miserable condition from constant warfare: the roads are said to have been strewn with thousands of the bodies of those who had perished by famine. Yet the war lingered on for another year, and it was not until 30th March 1603, that terms were arranged at Mellifont between O'Neill and Mountjoy. It is probable that O'Neill would not then have submitted had he known, what Mountjoy knew, that Queen Elizabeth was dead. Returning to England, Mountjoy was received at court with favour, by James I., sworn one of the Privy Council, created Earl of Devonshire, and granted about £400 a-year, besides extensive estates in Ireland.

He died 3rd April 1605, aged about 42, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. He is thus described by Moryson: "He was of stature tall, and of very comely proportion, his skin faire, with little haire on his body, which haire was of colour blackish (or inclining to blacke) and thinne on his head, where he wore it short, except a locke under his left eare, which he nourished the time of this [Irish] warre, and being woven up, hid it in his necke, under his ruffe. . . His forehead was broad and high, his eyes great, black, and lovely, . . and his countenance cheerful. . . He was undoubtedly valiant and wise."

Sources

247. Moryson, Fynes: Itinerary. London, 1617.

39. Biographical Dictionary, Imperial: Edited by John F. Waller. 3 vols. London, N.D.

93. Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland: John P. Prendergast. London, 1870.

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