BLOUNT, Thomas II (c.1383-1456), of Barton Blount, Derbys.
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Family and Education
b.c. 1383, 3rd s. and event. h. of Sir Walter Blount*. m. (1) Margaret, da. of Sir Thomas Gresley*, 2s. Walter† and Thomas†, 3da.; (2) by Jan. 1436, Elizabeth (d.c.1466), wid. of Sir John Wilcotes (d.c.1429), 2nd s. and event. h. of William Wilcotes*. Kntd. between July 1423 and July 1424.1
Commr. of array, Derbys. Mar. 1419; to raise a royal loan, Leics. July 1426, May 1428, Derbys. Feb. 1436, Mar. 1439, Nov. 1440, Mar. 1442, Sept. 1449; treat for the payment of a subsidy Feb. 1441; of gaol delivery, Worcester castle Feb. 1450.
Collector of a tax, Derbys. Nov. 1419, Aug. 1450; assessor of a tax Jan. 1436.
J.p. Derbys. 12 Feb. 1422-June 1431, Apr. 1439-d.
Treasurer of Normandy by 23 Mar. 1429-bef. 22 Apr. 1433.2
Dep. steward of the duchy of Lancaster lordship of Tutbury to Humphrey, earl of Stafford, 11 Feb. 1438-25 May 1443.3
Sheriff, Staffs. 6 Nov. 1444-4 Nov. 1445, 4 Nov. 1446-9 Nov. 1447.
As a younger son of one of John of Gaunt’s most influential retainers, Thomas Blount could look forward to a promising career in the Church; and he was, indeed, barely 14 when his father secured for him a papal dispensation to hold any benefice with cure of souls. He was evidently still in minor orders in June 1413, as a settlement of the widespread estates then held for life by his widowed mother specifically excluded him from succession in the event of his being fully ordained. Four years later he and his elder brother, Sir John, acted as trustees for Thomas Brown of Halton who was about to embark on Henry V’s second invasion of Normandy. Sir John also distinguished himself on this campaign, but fell in 1418 at the siege of Rouen, his death being followed almost immediately by that of his mother. These two events led Thomas to abandon the Church so that he might inherit an extensive patrimony comprising land in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Rutland and Leicestershire. This was further enlarged in the following year, when he succeeded to the reversion of the manor of Hampton Lovett and its appurtenances in Worcestershire, although, like his father before him, he made his principal residence the manor of Barton Blount. As a leading member of the Derbyshire gentry he attended the county elections to the Parliament of 1419; and later in the year he was summoned to perform military service in England for the defence of the realm against the French. By then he had become involved in a dispute with Richard Lane* and other Staffordshire landowners over a debt of 100 marks which he claimed they owed him. His relations with Lane cannot have deteriorated too badly, since in September 1421 the two men were together arraigned on an assize of novel disseisin at Derby by the prior of Repton, who recovered from them the manor of Potlock, together with damages of £10. Meanwhile, in 1420, Blount was himself returned to the House of Commons, sitting with Henry Booth, another of the defendants in the suit for the ownership of Potlock, and a co-feoffee with him of the Derbyshire manor of Findern.4
Although he obtained a seat on the Derbyshire bench not long afterwards, Blount does not appear to have represented the county again in Parliament. This was partly due, no doubt, to his protracted absences in France, where he was actively involved in the consolidation and extension of the conquests made by Henry V. In May 1423 he obtained letters of attorney pending his departure overseas, appointing William Kelham to supervise his affairs at home. One of Kelham’s first tasks was to present to the living of Barton Blount, although Sir Thomas himself appointed all the subsequent incumbents. He remained in France throughout 1425, and was prominent among the English commanders involved in the annexation of Maine. The following year saw his brief return to England, but new letters of attorney and protection were issued to him in the autumn as a member of the retinue of John, duke of Bedford. The rigours of campaigning life then led him to obtain a papal indult permitting the celebration of mass before daybreak. He was still serving under Bedford in October 1427, when his letters of protection were once again renewed. At some point before March 1429, Bedford appointed him to the important post of treasurer of Normandy, which he occupied for about four years. His duties were demanding and difficult, not least because they entailed the financing of the English army of occupation at a time when the government at home was short of money and the native, largely hostile, population was reluctant to pay its taxes.5
Sir Thomas made a brief visit to Derbyshire in November 1432 to convey some of his property there to trustees, but, as a list of the captains retained by the duke of Bedford three years later shows, it was not until the latter’s death in September 1435 that he left France for good. He probably then contracted his second marriage, to Elizabeth, the widow of Sir John Wilcotes, who had died in France shortly before June 1429. Elizabeth retained a life interest in her late husband’s manors of Alscot in Gloucestershire and Headington in Oxfordshire, as well as occupying the manor of Epwell in the latter county. Her title to Epwell was challenged in 1440 by John Danvers* of Colthorp, who is said (somewhat implausibly) to have been her father, but who may well have been a kinsman. The dispute was eventually settled out of court, with the award of an annuity of £5 to Elizabeth from the contested property. The outcome of a second lawsuit, whereby Sir Robert Harcourt, sometime ward of Sir John Wilcotes, brought an action of waste against Elizabeth, as the latter’s executrix, is not recorded, although it is unlikely that Harcourt’s claim for 1,000 marks in damages was upheld. Sir Thomas was now not only one of the most powerful but also one of the richest men in Derbyshire, for, according to the tax assessments of 1436, his landed income alone stood at £266 p.a., above whatever additional revenues came his way from the profits of war. In the summer of 1439 he settled a sizeable jointure upon his wife, although another arrangement made three years later ensured that his elder son, Walter, would succeed to the rest of the family estates untroubled by any further demands on his stepmother’s part. During this period, Sir Thomas became a feoffee-to-uses for his nephew, John Sutton (later Lord Dudley); and also, in 1439, was with his wife made an executor of the will of the widow of one of his former comrades-in-arms, William, Lord Moleyns. Other legal business, such as an eventually unsuccessful attempt to recover debts of £40 from three Staffordshire yeomen, and a prosecution for robbery with menaces brought against the Londoner, Thomas Tille, also commanded his attention.6
The death of his first wife, Margaret Gresley, had had little, if any, effect on the good relations which existed between Sir Thomas and her family. He and the Gresleys of Drakelow continued to appear together as the witnesses to local property transactions, their alliance being further strengthened by a mutual attachment to Humphrey, earl of Stafford (later duke of Buckingham). Sir Thomas’s connexion with the earl probably began in Normandy, and by 1438 it had sufficiently developed to result in his appointment as Stafford’s deputy in the stewardship of Tutbury. That he was generally regarded as one of the latter’s leading adherents is clear from his membership of an ad hoc commission, under the seal of the duchy of Lancaster, specially chosen in December 1444 to investigate (and terminate) the imprisonment of certain tenants of the earl’s henchman, John Harper*. Walter Blount, who was already by then a figure of some consequence in his own right as a result of the handsome grants of property made to him by Sir Thomas over the years, did not share this allegiance, but chose instead to throw in his lot with Richard, duke of York, and the earl of Warwick. He represented Derbyshire in at least four Parliaments during his father’s lifetime and later, in 1460, sat with his younger brother, Thomas, who had previously been returned through the family interest for the borough of Derby. The two brothers’ suspicions regarding Buckingham’s ability to offer the kind of help and protection which a retainer could rightly expect of his lord were amply borne out in 1454, when a bitter and violent feud broke out between various members of the Derbyshire gentry. How far the Blounts initially fell victim to unwarranted aggression on the part of Sir Nicholas Longford and his friends, the Vernons, we shall never know, but before long a particularly brutal vendetta had developed, in which their manor of Elvaston (recently acquired by Sir Thomas and given to his elder son) was sacked and Thomas Blount the younger badly wounded. Because he was afraid of antagonizing the Vernons, whose local support he was assiduously trying to cultivate, Buckingham did nothing to prevent or punish these depredations, thus alienating and isolating Sir Thomas as well as his sons. The duke may, indeed, have actually encouraged such divisions within Derbyshire society, since his own rapidly worsening relations with Warwick meant that little love was lost between him and the younger generation of the Blount family, who had already allied themselves with his rival. By then well over 70 years old and thus expendable to Buckingham, Blount can have played little part in the actual fighting, although he deemed it expedient to sue out royal letters of pardon in the following year.7
Sir Thomas Blount died in 1456, letters of administration being accorded to his two sons and their kinsman, Sir Thomas Gresley. His widow, Elizabeth, lived on for another ten years, although in 1459 she made a formal release to Walter Blount of his immediate inheritance. The latter’s subsequent career advanced spectacularly after the victory of the Yorkists in 1461: within the following decade he was not only elevated to the peerage, as Lord Mountjoy, but was also, somewhat ironically in view of his earlier history, granted the hand in marriage of Anne Neville, the widow of Humphrey, duke of Bucking