Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire

Is your surname Blount?

Research the Blount family

Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


About Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire

This unusual double portrait of the teenage sisters Dorothy (left) and Penelope Devereux (right) hangs at Longleat House, home of Lord Bath. Dorothy was to become Countess of Northumberland upon her marriage, and Penelope was to become Lady Penelope Rich on marrying Lord Robert Rich. For more information on this portrait and Penelope Rich, refer to Chapter Fifteen and the Author's Postscript to Shakespeare's Dark Lady.

a result of one of the merges showed the possible birth date of 07/07/1562 but given the fact that it's also the exact death date and the fact I couldn't find any source for this, I've removed it from the birth date field.

if anyone knows something about this please let us know


  • Penelope Rich, Lady Rich, later styled Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire (née Penelope Devereux, January 1563[1] – 7 July 1607) was an English noblewoman. She was the sister of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and is traditionally thought to be the inspiration for "Stella" of Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophel and Stella sonnet sequence (published posthumously in 1591).[2][3] She married Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich (later 1st Earl of Warwick) and had a public liaison with Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy, (later first Earl of Devonshire), whom she married in an unlicensed ceremony following her divorce from Rich. She died in 1607.
  • Born Penelope Devereux at Chartley Castle in Staffordshire, she was the elder daughter of Walter Devereux, 2nd Viscount Hereford, later 1st Earl of Essex and Lettice Knollys, daughter of Sir Francis Knollys and Catherine Carey, and sister of William Knollys, later 1st Earl of Banbury. Catherine Carey was the daughter of Lady Mary Boleyn by either her husband Sir William Carey, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, or her lover King Henry VIII.
  • Her father was created Earl of Essex in 1572. Penelope was a child of fourteen when Sir Philip Sidney accompanied her distant cousin Queen Elizabeth on a visit to Lady Essex in 1575, on her way from Kenilworth, and must have been frequently thrown into the society of Sidney, in consequence of the many ties between the two families. Essex died at Dublin in September 1576. He had sent a message to Philip Sidney from his death-bed expressing his desire that he should marry his daughter, and later his secretary wrote to the young man's father, Sir Henry Sidney, in words which seem to point to the existence of a very definite understanding.[3]
  • Penelope's brother, Robert, Viscount Hereford, inherited the Earldom of Essex on their father's death in 1576, and Penelope, her sister Dorothy, and younger brother Walter were entrusted to the guardianship of their kinsman Henry Hastings, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon.[4][5] In 1578[6] their widowed mother married the Queen's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Perhaps the marriage of Lady Essex with the earl of Leicester, which destroyed Philip Sidney's prospects as his uncle Leicester's heir,[7] had something to do with the breaking off of the proposed match with Penelope.[3] In January 1581 Penelope arrived at court accompanied by her guardian's wife Catherine, Countess of Huntingdon, who was Leicester's sister and Sidney's aunt.[4] In March 1581 Huntingdon as her guardian secured the queen's assent through Lord Burghley, Master of the Court of Wards, for her marriage with Robert Rich, 3rd Baron Rich (later 1st Earl of Warwick). Penelope is said to have protested in vain against the alliance with Rich.[3][8]
  • Penelope's children by Robert Rich were:
    • Robert Rich (1587–1658), later 2nd Earl of Warwick
    • Henry Rich (1590–1649), later 1st Earl of Holland
    • Sir Charles Rich (d. 1627), died unmarried and without issue
    • Lettice Rich (d. 1619), named after her maternal grandmother Lettice Knollys. Married firstly Sir George Carey and secondly Sir Arthur Lake
    • Penelope Rich, married Sir Gervase Clifton
    • Essex Rich, married Sir Thomas Cheek and had three sons and five daughters
    • Isabella Rich, married Sir John Smythe, son of Sir Thomas Smythe, first governor of the East India Company
  • Penelope's marriage to Rich was unhappy and by 1595, she had begun a secret affair with Charles Blount, Baron Mountjoy. Lord Rich took no action during the lifetime of Penelope's brother, the powerful Earl of Essex, who had become the aging Queen's favourite in the years after the death of Leicester in 1588.
  • But Penelope was tainted by association with her brother's plotting, and after Essex's execution for treason in 1601, Lord Rich had Penelope and her children by Mountjoy cast out. Lady Rich moved in with her lover, and the couple began a very public relationship. Mountjoy was created Earl of Devonshire on the accession of James I, and Lady Rich was in high favour at court,.[3] She was among the ladies who escorted Anne of Denmark on her entry to London in 1603 and served Anne as a Lady of the Bedchamber.[8][9] She danced as the nymph Ocyte in Ben Jonson's Masque of Blackness on Twelfth Night 1605.[8][15]
  • In 1605, Rich sued for a divorce, and Penelope wanted to marry Blount and legitimise their children. In the divorce proceedings, she publicly admitted to adultery. The divorce was granted, but the requests to remarry and legitimise her children were refused. She married Blount in a private ceremony conducted by his chaplain, William Laud, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, on 26 December 1605 at Wanstead House in London. This proceeding, carried out in defiance of canon law, was followed by the disgrace of both parties, who were banished from court by King James. The couple continued to live together as husband and wife with their children until his death a few months later. Blount died on 3 April 1606[3] and Penelope on 7 July 1607.
  • Penelope's illegitimate children acknowledged by Charles Blount were:
    • Mountjoy Blount (1597–1663), later 1st Earl of Newport
    • Elizabeth Blount
    • John Blount
  • From:,_Lady_Rich




view all 21

Penelope Blount, Countess of Devonshire's Timeline

January 1563
Chartley Castle, Staffordshire, England
- 1586
Age 13
June 5, 1587
Age 24
Age 25
Age 26
August 19, 1590
Age 27
Stratford-atte-Bow (within present London), Middlesex, England
Age 27
Age 30
Bidborough, Kent, England
- 1606
Age 32