Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, 1602-71

Commander of Parliament's Eastern Association army whose generalship was fiercely criticised by Oliver Cromwell; later became a Presbyterian leader and active in bringing about the Restoration

Portrait of the Earl of ManchesterEdward Montagu was the eldest son of Henry Montagu (c.1564-1642), a magistrate and government official who became first Earl of Manchester in 1626, and his wife Catherine, daughter of Sir William Spencer of Yarnton in Oxfordshire.

Edward was educated at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. In February 1623, he married Susanna Hill, a cousin of the powerful Duke of Buckingham, then accompanied Buckingham and Prince Charles (later King Charles I) to Madrid on their unsuccessful expedition to secure a marriage between Charles and the Spanish Infanta.

Montagu sat as MP for Huntingdon in the Parliaments of 1624-6 and was knighted at King Charles' coronation in February 1626. Through Buckingham's influence, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Montagu of Kimbolton in May 1626, and was known by the courtesy title Viscount Mandeville when his father was created first Earl of Manchester.

Opposition Politics

After the death of his first wife in 1625, Mandeville married Anne Rich, daughter of the Earl of Warwick. Through Warwick, he was drawn into the circle of Puritan peers who opposed the King's policies during the 1630s, which led to a loss of favour at court. His father threatened to disinherit him if he joined Lord Saye and Lord Brooke in their refusal to fight in the Bishops' Wars against the Scots (1639-40). Although he remained critical of the King's policies, Mandeville was appointed a commissioner at the treaty negotiations at Ripon after the defeat of the English in the Second Bishops' War.

Mandeville actively supported John Pym in the Long Parliament and was the only member of the House of Lords to be named with the Five Members, who were threatened with impeachment for treason in January 1642.

When Mandeville's second wife died in February 1642, he married her second cousin Essex (d.1658), thus reinforcing his connection with the Rich family. He succeeded to his father's title as second Earl of Manchester in November 1642.

The Eastern Association

On the outbreak of the English Civil War, Manchester took command of a regiment of foot in the army of the Earl of Essex. He fought at Edgehill, but his regiment broke and fled during the battle, after which it was disbanded. Manchester returned to London and served in various offices and committees until August 1643 when he took over command of Parliament's Eastern Association army, which was made up of forces from the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridge and Hertford. Through firm discipline, able administration and adherence to strict religious principles, Manchester welded the Eastern Association into the most effective of Parliament's regional armies.

During 1643, Manchester secured East Anglia and, in co-operation with the Yorkshire Parliamentarians, contained the threat to London from the Marquis of Newcastle's northern Royalists. Early in 1644, Parliament granted Manchester authority over the Eastern Association's finances and released him from the military authority of the Earl of Essex. He was also given powers to dismiss scandalous ministers from the region and to purge the University of Cambridge of ungodly lecturers.

When the Scottish Covenanters entered the war on Parliament's side, Manchester was appointed to the Committee for Both Kingdoms, which was responsible for directing military strategy. In June 1644, Manchester led the Eastern Association north to join forces with the Covenanters and Lord Fairfax at the siege of York. At the subsequent battle of Marston Moor, Manchester distinguished himself as the only one of the three senior allied generals not to flee from the battlefield.

Manchester's attitude to the war changed immediately after Marston Moor. He began disobeying or ignoring orders from London, failed to take advantage of military opportunities, and lapsed into general inactivity. This may have been the result of a visit to the army by Sir Henry Vane just before the battle, during which the possibility of deposing King Charles was openly discussed for the first time. Manchester was also dismayed at the continuing carnage and came to believe that a negotiated settlement with the King was preferable to war.

Manchester's reluctance to join forces with the Earl of Essex and his poor generalship at the second battle of Newbury (October 1644) drew fierce criticism from Oliver Cromwell, lieutenant-general of horse in the Eastern Association. Cromwell denounced Manchester's attitude and leadership in a speech before the House of Commons in November 1644.

Retirement and Restoration

Like the Earl of Essex, Manchester resisted the Self-Denying Ordinance and the creation of the New Model Army, but he was finally obliged to resign his commission in April 1645. He remained active in the House of Lords and on the Committee for Both Kingdoms, and played a leading role in attempts to reach a negotiated settlement with King Charles. Manchester strongly opposed the King's trial in 1649, saying that to call the King a traitor contradicted the fundamental principles of the law. After declining to take the Engagement—the oath of loyalty to the Commonwealth—he was deprived of all his offices in 1650 and retired from public life. In December 1657, Cromwell offered him a seat in his Upper House, but Manchester refused it.

After the death of his third wife in September 1658, Manchester married Eleanor (d.1667), the widow of his former colleague and mentor the Earl of Warwick.

With the collapse of the Protectorate in 1659, Manchester became active in bringing about the Restoration. He was associated with the "Presbyterian Knot", a group of Presbyterian politicians that tried to impose constitutional limitations on the monarchy. Manchester was appointed Speaker of the House of Lords in the Convention Parliament of April 1660. His attempt to limit attendance of the Lords to peers sympathetic to the aims of the Presbyterian Knot was unsuccessful. However, he officially welcomed King Charles II into London on 29 May 1660 and was appointed lord chamberlain and a privy councillor. In October 1660, Manchester sat as one of the judges at the trials of the regicides, where he was more inclined towards leniency than most of his fellow judges.

As lord chamberlain, Manchester carried the sword of state at Charles II's coronation in April 1661 at which he was invested as a Knight of the Garter. He became a joint commissioner for the office of earl marshal in May 1662 and was given command of a regiment during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in 1667. He was a member of the Royal Society from 1667 until his death. Manchester's fifth marriage, in 1668, was to Margaret, widow of the Earl of Carlisle and daughter of the Earl of Bedford. Highly regarded for his modesty and piety, Manchester remained a pillar of the Restoration government until his sudden death in 1671.

During his five marriages, Manchester was father to seven sons and four daughters. His eldest son Robert Montagu (1634–83) succeeded him as the third Earl of Manchester; his grandson Charles Montagu (1662-1722) was created first Duke of Manchester in 1719.


Ian J. Gentles, Edward Montagu, second earl of Manchester, Oxford DNB, 2004

Ronald Hutton, The Restoration, a political and religious history of England and Wales 1658-1667, (Oxford 1985)

Bertha Porter, Edward Montagu, second earl of Manchester, DNB, 1894


The Earl of Manchester's Regiment of Foote English Civil War re-enactment group