Mountjoy: An Elizabethan Man of Principle

J.B. James relates how, during the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign, Mountjoy played a leading role as courtier, soldier and faithful lover of Essex’s sister, Penelope Rich.

He was twenty when, in 1583, he first visited the Court of Elizabeth I, a tall, brown-haired, dark-eyed man in the correct personable mould for a favourite. The Queen was aging then, in years if not in heart; and old loves and faithful servants were becoming tired. Elizabeth noticed the dark young man at once.

Having asked his name, and discovered that he was Charles Blount, soon to be the eighth Lord Mountjoy, she scrutinised him “as she was wont to do, and to daunt young men she knew not”, until he blushed. His embarrassment was attributed to a natural modesty, “a kind of backwardness” which, it was thought, was likely to impede his career.

Although it did not prejudice his chances at Court, he retained a reticence that prevented him from becoming over-ambitious or ostentatious. He was of a rather sober outlook, enjoying the solitary pleasures of reading and fishing; and his friends were few but close. He was, however, one of the Queen’s more difficult young men. Elizabeth wished to keep her favourites beside her; but he showed an irritating tendency to prefer a life of military adventure.

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