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The Tudor Society

8 November – A true friend of scholars who had to give Catherine of Aragon bad news

On this day in Tudor history, 8th November 1534, courtier, scholar and literary patron, William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, died at Sutton on the Hill in Derbyshire.

He'd had a wonderful court career, helping organise the young Henry VIII's education, serving as Master of the Mint and chamberlain to Queen Catherine of Aragon, and he'd been close friends with the renowned humanist scholar, Erasmus. He'd wanted to be relieved of his position as chamberlain to the queen, though, after she'd been put aside and he'd had to break bad news to her.

Find out all about Lord Mountjoy, his career and life, in today's talk.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 8th November 1528, at Bridewell Palace, King Henry VIII made a rather strange public oration to explain his troubled conscience regarding the lawfulness of his marriage to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. In last year’s video, I shared an extract from the king's speech, in which he praises Catherine of Aragon to the hilt even though he'd proposed to another woman, Anne Boleyn. Find out all about this strange situation!:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1543 – Birth of Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, granddaughter of Mary Boleyn and wife of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex; Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester; and Sir Christopher Blount. Lettice was also mother to Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex; Penelope Rich, Lady Rich; and Dorothy Percy, Countess of Northumberland.
  • 1602 – The opening of the Bodleian Library (Bodley's Library), Oxford, to the public.
  • 1605 – Deaths of Gunpowder Plot conspirators Robert Catesby and Thomas Percy at Holbeche House on the Staffordshire border. It is thought that they were both shot by a single bullet fired from the gun of John Street of Worcester. Their heads were displayed on London Bridge.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 8th November 1534, courtier, scholar and literary patron, William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, died at Sutton on the Hill in Derbyshire.

Mountjoy had been a pupil of the great humanist scholar, Erasmus, and had served Henry VIII as Master of the Mint and Chamberlain to Catherine of Aragon, but let me tell you a bit more about this Tudor man…

• William Blount was born in around 1478 in Barton Blount and was the son of John Mountjoy, 3rd Baron Mountjoy, and his wife, Lora Berkeley.
• His father died in 1485 so his uncle, Sir James Blount, held custody of his lands and marriage until he came of age. His mother remarried twice more, first to Sir Thomas Montgomery and then to Thomas Butler, 7th Earl of Ormond, great-grandfather of Anne Boleyn and chamberlain to Elizabeth of York.
• In 1497, Mountjoy helped put down the Cornish Rebellion and in the same year he married Elizabeth Say. The couple had a daughter together, Gertrude, who would go on to marry Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, who was executed in 1539. Gertrude served Mary I as one of her ladies.
In 1497, Mountjoy also went to Paris, where he met Erasmus, a man who became his mentor and friend.
• He returned to England in 1499 and became socius studiorum, or a companion in studies, to Prince Henry, the future Henry VIII. Mountjoy helped organise the prince’s education and he arranged for Erasmus to visit the royal nursery and meet the eight-year-old Henry in 1499.
• Mountjoy acted as Erasmus’s patron for his visit to England in 1505 and 1506, and Erasmus declared of Mountjoy “the sun never shone on a truer friend of scholars”.
• As well as helping with Prince Henry’s education, Mountjoy also served on Henry VII’s royal council.
• In 1509, in the celebrations for King Henry VIII’s coronation, Mountjoy was made a Knight of the Bath and then he was appointed Master of the Mint. That summer, he also married Inez de Venegas, his first wife having died in 1506. Inez had come over from Spain with Catherine of Aragon in 1501.
• Mountjoy was overjoyed at Henry VIII’s accession, writing to Erasmus “Heaven smiles, earth rejoices; all is milk and honey and nectar. Tight-fistedness is well and truly banished. Generosity scatters wealth with unstinting hand.”
• The new king made him Lieutenant of Hammes Castle in October 1509.
• By May 1512, Mountjoy had been appointed as Queen Catherine of Aragon’s chamberlain, and in 1513 he served in Henry VIII’s campaign in France, being made lieutenant, bailiff, and then governor of the captured city of Tournai. He was replaced in the role in 1517, allowing him to return to England.
• By May 1515, he was married to Alice Keble, widow of William Brown, and the couple went on to have a son, Charles, who’d become 5th Baron Mountjoy and was also a patron of learning, and a daughter, Catherine. Mountjoy and Alice attended the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520.
• In 1519, Mountjoy’s cousin, Elizabeth or Bessie Blount, gave birth to the king’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
• In 1521, Mountjoy served on the commission that tried Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and in that same year his wife Alice died.
• He served in France again in 1523, accompanying the Duke of Suffolk there, and he also married his fourth wife, Dorothy, widow of Robert, Lord Willoughby, and daughter of Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset. He and Dorothy had a son, John, and two daughters, Dorothy and Mary.
• Mountjoy was elected as a Knight of the Garter in 1526 and in 1530, even though he was Catherine of Aragon’s chamberlain, he was one of the signatories of a letter to Pope Clement VII urging him to annul her marriage to Henry VIII. In July 1533, it was Mountjoy who had to tell Catherine of her demotion to Princess Dowager due to the annulment of her marriage and the validity of the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. Catherine would not accept her new title, and in autumn 1533 Mountjoy wrote to Thomas Cromwell saying “it is not my parte, nor for me this often to vex or unquiet her whom the kynges grace caused to be sworne unto and truly to serve her to my power”, and wanting to be replaced as her chamberlain. He was not replaced though.
• In July 1534, his last major service to the king was to serve on the commission trying William, Lord Dacre. Then, on this day in history, 8th November 1534, Mountjoy died at Sutton on the Hill, near Barton Blount, in Derbyshire. He was laid to rest at Barton Blount.

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8 November – A true friend of scholars who had to give Catherine of Aragon bad news