Best not to confuse two Tudor cousins both named Elizabeth Blount. One was Henry VIII’s mistress and mother of his son Henry Fitzroy, later Duke of Richmond. The other is immortalised in prayer in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze and was of an ‘unsullied repute and wholesome life,’ according to the same memorial.
This Elizabeth Blount was born c1540 the daughter of Sir Richard Blount and his wife Elizabeth Lister. But perhaps having a King’s mistress in the family wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Well it definitely wasn’t for Sir Richard who managed to secure a few good courtly positions off the back of it. As well as being a Gentleman of the Chamber to Henry VIII, Richard served as a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber during Edward VI’s reign. Catholic Queen Mary proved a bit of an obstacle on his career path, but with the accession of Elizabeth he was soon back in favour. Returned as MP for Steyning in 1553, Richard was Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire in 1559-61 and Lieutenant of the Tower from 1560 until his death in 1564.
Home was Mapledurham House, a medieval mansion house near Reading where Elizabeth and her sister and two brothers spent their early childhood. Following her marriage to Nicholas, Elizabeth made her home at Lydiard House where she gave birth to three sons and five daughters.
The richly decorated monument of Nicholas and Elizabeth at prayer is the oldest in the collection of spectacular St John memorials in St Mary’s Church, Lydiard Tregoze. Erected by the couple’s dutiful son Sir John it was moved to its present position when his son, John St John, first Baronet, remodelled the South Aisle in 1633. Apparently the achievement on the top was not part of the original design.
In 1886 the Bristol firm of Joseph Bell & Sons undertook a number of decorating jobs in the church, including the ‘renovation and decoration of Monuments of Lord Bolingbroke’s Family.’ This included the complete repainting of the memorial to Nicholas St John and his wife Elizabeth.
The monument measures 3.3 metres high; 1.5 metres wide; 1 metre deep and the kneeling figures of Nicholas and Elizabeth measure 1.1 metre high.
The Latin transcription translated reads:
Here lie (good reader) buried in the hope of the blessed resurrection the bodies of Nicholas St John armiger, and of his wife, Elizabeth: he was for the reigns of King Edward, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth of the number of the chosen retinue (commonly called pensioners) and died while holding that rank with the sovereign. Elizabeth his wife was the daughter of Richard Blunt, Knight, and by her had three sons and five daughters: john, Oliver, Richard, Elizabeth, Catherine, Eleanor, Dorothea, and Jane. John his eldest son took to wife the daughter of Walter Hungerford, Knight. Oliver and Richard are still alive, unmarried. Elizabeth his eldest daughter married St George of the County of Cambridge, Catherine [married] Webb, Eleanor [married] Cave of the County of Northampton, Dorothea [married] Egiocke [of the County] of Warwick, Jane [married] Nicholas of the County of Wiltshire. Nicholas St John himself departed this life on the eighth day of November, 1589, and Elizabeth his wife departed this life on the eleventh day of August in the year of our Lord 1587, leaving a noteworthy trophy to those who followed her of unsullied repute and wholesome life. John St John their son set up this monument out of affection to those good parents who had served him so well. In the year of our Lord, 1592.
In life and in death Christ is our riches
Thou who dost hope for the happy span of a long life, Thy hope deceives thee, we both bear witness.