Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich

Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, Portrait of Edward Montagu by Peter Lely, ca. 1660-65.

Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, KG, FRS (27 July 1625 28 May 1672) was an English Infantry officer who later became a naval officer and a politician who sat in the House of Commons at various times between 1645 and 1660. He served Oliver Cromwell loyally in the 1650s, but went on to play a considerable part in the Restoration of Charles II, and was rewarded with several Court offices. He served as the English Ambassador to Portugal 1661-1662, and Ambassador to Spain 1666-1668. He became an Admiral, serving in the two Anglo-Dutch Wars in the reign of Charles II, and was killed at the Battle of Solebay. Our best picture of him is contained in the diary of Samuel Pepys, who was his cousin and protégé.

Early life

Montagu was the only surviving son of Sir Sidney Montagu, by his wife Paulina Pepys of Cottenham (great-aunt of Samuel Pepys) and was brought up at Hinchingbrooke House.

He served the Cause of Parliament by raising a regiment of infantry in June 1643. In 1645, he was elected Member of Parliament for Huntingdonshire as a recruiter to the Long Parliament.[1] He was nominated MP for Huntingdonshire in 1653 for the Barebones Parliament and was elected MP for Huntingdonshire in 1654 for the First Protectorate Parliament. He continued to serve in the army for the Commonwealth of England and, in 1656 he became a General at Sea, serving jointly with General at sea Robert Blake (admiral) in the Mediterranean, Portugal and Spain. Later, as the principal General at Sea, he blockaded Dunkirk before the Battle of the Dunes. Montagu enjoyed the trust and confidence of Cromwell, who appointed him to his Council of State. Montagu, on his side, never lost his admiration and respect for Cromwell, and was prepared to defend his record even after the Restoration. In 1656 he was re-elected MP for Huntingdonshire in the Second Protectorate Parliament; in 1658 he served in Cromwell's short lived Upper House.[1]

Sir Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, 16251672 by Sir Peter Lely, painted 1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series.

He was a member of the influential group, known to their opponents as "the Kinglings" who strongly, but without success, urged Cromwell to proclaim himself King. Montagu was prepared to support a Cromwell dynasty, and in the confusion which followed Oliver's death remained loyal to his son Richard Cromwell during his brief and disastrous rule as Lord Protector.[2]


In 1660 Montagu was elected MP for Dover and Weymouth and Melcombe Regis and chose to sit for Dover in the Convention Parliament.[1] Despite his record of loyal service to Oliver Cromwell, he was among the first men of influence to decide that, given the chaos which had followed Cromwell's death, the return of the Stuart dynasty was inevitable. He was accordingly one of the first to make contact with the exiled King, although he was discreet enough to conceal this even from close associates like Samuel Pepys. At the Restoration he served Charles II as Admiral, commanding the fleet that brought him back from exile in May 1660. Two months later, on 12 July 1660, he was created Baron Montagu of St Neots, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, and Earl of Sandwich. King Charles also made him a Knight of the Garter and appointed him Master of the Great Wardrobe, Admiral of the narrow seas (the English Channel), and Lieutenant Admiral to The Duke of York, Lord High Admiral of England. He carried St. Edward's staff at Charles' subsequent coronation. Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, who liked and admired Montagu, wrote that the conferring of these honours caused much resentment among those Royalists who had gone into exile with their King, and regarded Montagu as a "diehard" Cromwellian; yet his charm of manner made it almost impossible to dislike him.

He was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to Portugal in 1661, and strongly favoured the Portuguese marriage, through which England obtained Mumbai and Tangier. Montagu, like others, saw a great future for Tangier as an international trade centre, and he commanded the fleet which took possession of the city in January 1662, purchasing a house there. Returning to England, in his capacity as Ambassador, he escorted the new Queen, Catherine of Braganza, from Lisbon.[3]

The Prize Goods Scandal

In the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665 to 1667 he fought at the Battle of Lowestoft, an English victory, but defeat at the Battle of Vågen led to him being removed from active service. His reputation suffered another serious blow when he failed to prevent his sailors from plundering a number of prize ships which he had brought in. By long standing custom the sailors could take any goods they found between the decks, but they were strictly forbidden to "break the bulk" i.e. ransack the ship's hold; yet this is just what Montagu, an easy-going man with a notoriously poor understanding of money matters, permitted. When this became widely known, the rumour spread that Montagu had unlawfully helped himself to a fortune, (in fact he seems to have taken less than he was entitled to) and the public, who were still enduring the horrors of the Great Plague of London, reacted with such unexpected fury that a minor mishap became a national affair: "the Prize Goods Scandal". Although Clarendon wrote that Montagu was too likeable to have any personal enemies, he did have political opponents, including his own superior at the Admiralty, James, Duke of York, and James' influential secretary Sir William Coventry, who were happy to exploit the scandal. He felt obliged to obtain a royal pardon: the King, mindful of his good services at the Restoration, willingly granted it.[4]

Ambassador to Spain

During his absence from battle Edward Montagu served as England's ambassador to Spain. This is further evidence that despite his unpopularity, he retained the King's confidence, although his political fortunes, like those of his friend and patron Clarendon, were in decline. Montagu himself had told Pepys the previous year not to put too much reliance on the friendship of any "great man". After the Great Fire of London Montagu downplayed the damage to the Spanish King, claiming that London's slums were the only thing in ashes. This slant on the events was also practiced by England's ambassadors throughout Europe.[5]

As Ambassador his most notable achievement was the Anglo-Spanish Commercial Treaty of 1667, which laid the foundations for a prosperous trading relationship between the two countries which lasted for over a century. [6] He also acted as mediator in the peace negotiations between Spain and Portugal which resulted in the Treaty of Lisbon. Like all Ambassadors of the era he found the cost of running the embassy ruinous (he had never had a good head for business) and on his return to England in the autumn of 1668 one of his first actions was to borrow money from his cousin Samuel Pepys.[7] On his way back from Spain, he again visited Tangier to report on the condition of the garrison there.

In 1670 he escorted the King's sister Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans, from France to England to negotiate the Secret Treaty of Dover between her brother and Louis XIV. Of the existence of the Treaty's secret clauses, notably that by which Charles II pledged to convert to the Roman Catholic faith, Montagu, like the general public, was quite unaware.[8] In the same year he was appointed President of the Privy Council Committee on Foreign Plantations; he had always had a keen interest in international trade, despite his notorious inability to keep his own finances in order.

Last campaign and death

He was subsequently reappointed to a naval command, and by 1672 at the start of the Third Anglo-Dutch War he was Vice-Admiral of the Blue with the Royal James as his flagship. At the Battle of Solebay his ship was attacked by a group of fire ships and was destroyed with the loss of many lives, including Sandwich himself, whose charred body was found washed ashore and only recognizable from the remains of his clothing. Montagu, who had strongly opposed the War, and was increasingly prone to moods of melancholy, is said to have predicted his own death. Certainly he told his friend John Evelyn, just before he sailed, that "he would see him no more".[9]

On Wednesday 3 July 1672 he was buried in Westminster Abbey after a state funeral that started with a procession along the River Thames of five decorated barges from Deptford. The body was landed at Westminster at about 5 pm and carried to the Abbey in a grand procession. [10]


On 7 November 1642, Montagu married Jemima Crew, daughter of John Crew, 1st Baron Crew, whom Pepys in his Diary refers to with great affection as "My Lady". Edward and Jemima had ten children:[11]

Paulina's death in February 1669, aged only twenty, was a great source of grief to her father: Samuel Pepys, who disliked her ("a peevish lady"), called to pay his condolences but found Montagu "shut away for sorrow". Montagu himself wrote: "it pleased God to take unto himself my dear sweet daughter Paulina". [13] This is an interesting glimpse not only of Montagu as a family man, but of his religious beliefs, and seems to contradict Pepys well-known remark that Montagu was "wholly sceptical in religion". Montagu was a loving and careful father to all his children: although the marriages he arranged for young Edward (Ned) and Jemima were clearly not love affairs, both seem to have been fairly happy.[14]

Montagu and Samuel Pepys

Montagu on his mother's side was the first cousin of John Pepys, the father of Samuel Pepys. Pepys started his career as a minor member of the Montagu household and owed his appointments first to the Wardrobe and then as Clerk of the Acts to the Navy Board to Montagu's influence. Pepys' diary provides a detailed primary source for Montagu's career in the 1660s.

They had a serious quarrel in 1663, when Pepys reprimanded Montagu for living openly with his mistress, Elizabeth Becke, at her "mean house" in Chelsea.[15] Pepys was concerned at the damage to their family's reputation, Montagu's neglect of his official duties (risking the loss of any remaining influence he had at Court) and also at the insult to Montagu's wife, to whom Pepys was deeply attached. Following a brief estrangement, friendly relations were resumed, although the two men were probably never as close again as they had been (Pepys, for example, is not mentioned in Montagu's last will). For Pepys to raise the issue at all took considerable courage, considering how much he owed to his patron, and his Diary shows that he was strongly tempted to let the matter lie.

In 1668 Pepys was somewhat perturbed when his wife Elizabeth, during one of the violent quarrels which followed the discovery of his affair with her companion Deb Willet, told him that Montagu had asked her to be his mistress.[16] Since Pepys was in no doubt that she had refused, he decided to treat the matter as being closed, and friendly relations continued: Montagu dined at their house for the first time a few months later.[17] Pepys, on reflection, may have thought it possible that Elizabeth out of anger had invented the story to upset him, (as she undoubtedly invented the story that she was attending Roman Catholic services). Whatever their differences, Pepys in later life always remembered Montagu, whom he called "that noble and unparalleled Lord", and his wife (who died in 1674) with affection and gratitude.


  1. 1 2 3 History of Parliament Online - Montagu, Edward
  2. Ollard p.62
  3. Ollard p.109
  4. Ollard pp.140-2
  5. Adrian Tinniswood (2003). By permission of heaven: the story of the Great Fire of London. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 978-0-224-06226-8.
  6. Latham, Robert and Matthews, Charles Diary of Samuel Pepys 1983 Vol. X Companion p.254
  7. Bryant, Arthur Samuel Pepys- the man in the making Reprint Society edition 1949 p.267
  8. Ollard pp.253-4
  9. Ollard p.256
  10. Ollard pp.262-3
  11. Pepys' Diary Vol. X Companion p.255
  12. Edward Montagu (1692–1776) was a son by Sarah Rogers.
  13. Ollard p.248
  14. Ollard p.248
  15. Ollard pp.116-7
  16. Diary of Samuel Pepys 10 November 1668
  17. Diary 23 January 1669


London Gazette #691 Monday 1 July, to Thursday 4 July 1672

Court offices
English Interregnum Master of the Great Wardrobe
Succeeded by
Sir Ralph Montagu
Honorary titles
English Interregnum Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire
jointly with The 2nd Earl of Manchester 16601671
The 3rd Earl of Manchester 16711672
Succeeded by
The 3rd Earl of Manchester
Custos Rotulorum of Huntingdonshire
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sir Richard Fanshawe, 1st Baronet
English Ambassador to Spain
Succeeded by
Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland
Peerage of England
New title Earl of Sandwich
Succeeded by
Edward Montagu
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