Sir Thomas Blount


IN DECEMBER 1399 Henry IV was planning to spend his first Christmas as king in style at Windsor Castle, with celebrations culminating in a tournament at Twelfth Night. Just a few weeks earlier he had been acclaimed monarch in a Parliament summoned in the name of his predecessor Richard II. With the deposed King Richard sent to prison in Pontefract, Henry could begin to relax. Yet Richard's former courtiers sought to restore him and on December 17th at the Abbot of Westminster's house a group of them plotted to seize Henry and his four sons at Windsor during the preparations for the tournament. The ringleaders included the earls of Huntingdon, Rutland and Kent, elevated to dukedoms by Richard, but now demoted and demeaned by Henry. Among the conspirators of lower rank was a former MP, Sir Thomas Blount.

Blount's actions were not born of impetuous youth, for he was a man of about fifty. The son and heir-apparent of an elderly namesake with manorial estates at Compton Valence in Dorset and Kingston Blount in Oxfordshire, he had been knighted in the final years of Edward III's reign, and after doing Richard military service in expeditions to Scotland and Ireland, he had become close enough to the young king to be one of the favourites expelled from court by the Lords Appellant in 1388. Subsequently entrusted with Richard's personal messages for Charles VI of France, he became a beneficiary of royal patronage, including a handsome annuity of 40 [pounds sterling]. Blount's status had been enhanced by his first marriage, to the widow of a former treasurer of England, Sir Hugh Segrave, and as a knight of the King's chamber he moved easily in court circles. In the autumn of 1397, when Richard, intending to put an end to his enemies, had need of supporters in Parliament, Blount got himself returned for Wiltshire in the company of Sir Henry Green (with Bussy and Bagot the third of the infamous trio of Richard's 'evil councillors'). Although both men held land in the county in the right of their wives, neither had shown any interest in Wiltshire affairs previously and there can be little doubt that their elections to Parliament were fixed by the sheriff, himself a royal retainer. The Parliament, held in a temporary open-sided structure in the palace yard at Westminster while Westminster Hall was being reconstructed, was overawed by a force of Cheshire archers, the King's opponents were brought down in show trials and his closest allies were elevated to dukedoms.

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