Charles BLOUNT

(1st E. Devonshire)

Born: 1563

Died: 3 Apr 1606

Notes: Knight of the Garter.

Father: James BLOUNT (6 B. Mountjoy)

Mother: Catherine LEIGH

Married: Penelope DEVEREUX (B. Rich)


1. Mountjoy BLOUNT (1 E. Newport)

2. Elizabeth BLOUNT

3. John BLOUNT

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Sir Charles Blount

A miniature by Hilliard

I want to thank "The Wild Geese Today", for the research they had done about Charles Blount

Charles Blount, 1st Earl of Devon and 8th Baron Mountjoy served as Lord Deputy and as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.

The grandson of William Blount, 4 B. Mountjoy, Charles became the most notable of the later holders of the dukedom. The favour which his youthful good looks procured for him from Queen Elizabeth I of England aroused the jealousy of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and led to a duel between the two courtiers, who later became close friends. Between 1586 and 1598 Blount spent a lot of time on the continent, serving in the Netherlands and in Brittany. He joined Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh in their expedition to the Azores in 1597, along with his distant cousin, Sir Christopher Blount (1565-1601), who married Essex's mother, the Countess of Essex, and was afterwards executed for complicity in Essex's treason. In 1600 Mountjoy went to Ireland as lord deputy in succession to Essex, where he succeeded in suppressing the rebellion of Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, whom Essex had failed to subdue.

In 1590 Lady Rich took as her lover the dashing Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, by whom she had six children. Her husband acquiesced in her adultery, being in awe of her brother, the Earl of Essex. After the latter's execution in 1601, Lord Rich cast his wife out. Meanwhile, Mountjoy had replaced Essex as commander in Ireland and was methodically destroying the rebellion that had cost Essex his reputation. 

In 1600 AD Charles Blount was sent to Ireland as the last viceroy of Queen Elizabeth. He joined a group of mercenaries, including Sir Arthur Chichester and Richard Wingfield, who had been fighting in the valley of the Blackwater. Thus he came to the place we now call Charlemont, where he established a bridge of wood and a fort to guard the bridge in 1602.

Prior to his founding of the fort the place had been called "Achad and Da Charadh" - the field of the two weirs - but it was renamed in his honour, using his Christian name and the French word for a hill or mountain - Mont - Charles Blount is better known in history as Lord Mountjoy. He put Sir Toby Caulfield in charge of the fort and the estates around it. The Caulfields took the family name Charlemont. The place where Mountjoy built his fort already had a village of long standing and this was surrounded by a flooded plain and bogland. In the first 100 years of it's history Charlemont changed hands many times, and by the end of the century it was in the possession of the Jacobites. It was still the one high spot in a large waterlogged area and was the last post in Ulster to hold out for King James.

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In Sep 1600, the Irish forces of Hugh O'Neill, whom the English had made Earl of Tyrone, were in rebellion against the crown. Two years earlier O'Neill and his principle ally "Red" Hugh O'Donnell had routed an English army under Sir Henry Bagenal at Yellow Ford, expelling the English completely from the lands of O'Neill. Now Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, was marching on Tyrone with 3,000 foot and 300 horse, a sizable army for those times in Ireland.

Irish armies of that time were usually made up of three principal types: gallowglass, kern and cavalrymen. Gallowglass were warriors who had first come to Ireland from Scotland and the Western Isles around the 13th century. They had family names such as MacDonnell, MacSweeny, MacCabe, MacDowell, and MacRory. They stayed in Ireland and mixed with the native population through the years but remained a warrior class, making up large parts of Irish armies until the Battle of Kinsale. By the end their preferred weaponry, the axe, was obsolete but if the armies came into close combat they were still a force feared by the English.

Kerns were lighter armed infantry than the gallowglass, often carrying javelins, swords or bows. They were usually the most numerous in the Irish armies of this time. The cavalry were often "bonnaghts" a term derived from the Irish for "billeted men", because the local population of the Irish lord was required to furnish them with food and lodging. There were a limited number of Scotch mercenaries in the army of Hugh O'Donnell around the time of Moyry; they were often referred to as "Redshanks" for their practice of going barelegged.

But the reason Hugh O'Neill could fight the English on more even terms than earlier Irish armies had was his widespread introduction of the most modern weapon, firearms, into his army. Englishmen of the time reported the Irish were good shots and Sir Walter Raleigh said the Irish had muskets, "good .... as England hath".

Forty miles to the south of the ford of the Blackwater river, the way to Dungannon, O'Neill headquarters in Tyrone, lay Moyry Pass. It had bogs which were impassable to the English army on either side and had been the scene of other military actions in the past; here O'Neill would try to stop the advance of Mountjoy's army. Mountjoy was a formidable opponent for O'Neill and would eventually defeat him at Kinsale at the end of 1601, but this fight would be on ground of O'Neill's choosing.

On 20 Sep Mountjoy's army reached the hill of Faughart, half a mile south of Moyry pass, and the scene of Edward Bruce of Scotlands defeat and death in 1318. A small advance was sent out by the English and discovered that O'Neill's army was not only in the pass, but that they had built formidable works across it. They obviously meant to stand and fight, rather than depend on their usual ambush tactics. Bad weather for much of the next ten days slowed the English preparations for attack and only light skirmishing was done until 2 Oct.

Finally, 2 Oct, the two armies came to serious blows. Mountjoy was at first successful, driving O'Neill's men from their first two lines of barricades. But Mountjoy could see that they would never force the third that day, and he would not divide his force to hold his gains, so the English retreated to where they had started.

The English suffered 160 casualties during the battle, many of them coming as the Irish harassed them during their retreat. They claimed that Irish casualties had been higher but, with the English being on the attack during the entire fight, that is unlikely.

Mountjoy had had enough of frontal assaults on the strong Irish defenses and next tried a flank attack. On the 5th he sent 3 regiments of foot and 100 horse to try the right flank of the Irish defenses. They had to scale some high ground to get at the Irish line but did so and drove them back some distance before the Irish counterattacked and stop their advance. All the English troops on the heights were soon back down. A simultaneous attack near the bottom of the heights had also failed.

The English had been in front of the pass for over two weeks now and were no closer to getting through it than they were on Sep 20th. On the 9th Mountjoy retreated south to Dundalk. On the 11th, O'Neill abandoned the pass and moved north. No one is sure why he did so; he may have feared being caught in a trap when Mountjoy sent Sir Samuel Bagenal's regiment toward Carlingford, a position from which he might move around to O'Neill's rear.

Mountjoy's men soon moved through the pass, getting a good look at the defensive works one said, "could not have been won without the great hazard of the whole army." Still, in spite of having gotten through the pass, Mountjoy found it was too late to mount an attack on O'Neill's stronghold in Tyrone. He built a fort at Mount Norris, between Newry and Armagh, and withdrew to Dundalk with the bulk of his army. O'Neill did not let him do so unscathed, however; attacking him with a small force near Carlinford Lough in the more usual ambushing manner of Irish armies, he inflicted serious casualties on Mountjoy again.

By holding of Moyry pass in a stand up fight and attacking Mountjoy again on his retreat, O'Neill had shown that the men of Ulster were still ready to resist all England had to bring against them, and he had retained full control of Tyrone for another year. But the end was on the horizon for The O'Neill, for "Red" Hugh, and the rest of the Earls. It was just over a year to The battle of Kinsale, and disaster, and only seven until the "Flight of the Earls".

Returning to England as a hero, Lord Mountjoy served as one of Sir Walter Raleigh's judges in 1603; and in the same year James made him master of the ordenance and created him Earl of Devonshire, also granting him extensive estates.

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The Somerset House Conference, 1604

(Juan De Velasco Frias; Juan De Tassis, Count of Villa Mediana; Alessandro Robida; Charles De Ligne, Count of Aremberg; Jean Richardot; Louis Vereyken; Thomas Sackville, Earl of Dorset; Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton; Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire and Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury)
Unknown artist
oil on canvas

Lady Rich moved in with him as his wife. Mountjoy and Lady Rich had both supported the cause of James, and he made them favored courtiers, promoting both, and seemingly indifferent to their blatant adultery. Mountjoy became Earl of Devonshire; Lady Rich, daughter of a junior Earl and wife of a junior baron, was given precedence of all barons' wives and almost all earls' daughters.

In 1605 Lord Rich sued for divorce, and Lady Rich confessed to committing adultery with a stranger. Lord Rich wanted a new wife, and Lady Rich and Devonshire wanted to marry and legitimize their children. Divorce was granted, but remarriage was forbidden, and legitimizing the children was out of the question. King James was infuriated by the divorce proceedings, banished Lady Rich from his court, and reprimanded Devonshire. The two lovers made an illegal marriage in 1605 in a ceremony conducted by his chaplain, William Laud, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury; and they continued to live as husband and wife until Devonshire died in Apr 1606. Lady Rich died in Jul 1607 and was buried in a London church without any marking on her grave. The register simply recorded the burial of "A Lady Devereux".

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Detail of The Somerset House Conference

Unknown artist
oil on canvas, 1604


Heath, Ian and Sque, David: The Irish Wars: 1485-1603 / Men at Arms Series - Osprey Publishing Ltd. - 1993

Hayes-McCoy, G. A.: Irish Battles: A Military History of Ireland - The Appletree Press, Ltd. - 1990

Foster, R. F.: Modern Ireland 1600-1972 - Penguin Books - 1989

Berleth, Richard: The Twilight Lords - Barnes and Noble Books - 1994

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