Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, 1625-72

The youngest colonel in the New Model Army, he supported Cromwell's Protectorate as an admiral and diplomat, then played a leading role in the Restoration of Charles II.

Portrait of Edward MontaguEdward Montagu (also spelt "Mountagu") was the eldest surviving son of Sir Sydney Montagu (c.1571-1644) of Hinchingbrooke, Huntingdonshire, a courtier to King James I and MP for Huntingdonshire. His mother was Paulina Pepys (d.1638), daughter of John Pepys and a great-aunt of Samuel Pepys.

Montagu was educated at Huntingdon Grammar School and was registered for the Middle Temple, but apparently never studied there. In November 1642, Montagu married Jemima Crew (1625-74) at St Margaret's Church, Westminster.

Civil War Career

Although his father was a Royalist, Montagu supported Parliament when the English Civil War broke out in 1642. When his cousin the Earl of Manchester (also named Edward Montagu) took command of the Eastern Association army in the summer of 1643, Montagu was commissioned to raise a regiment of foot and became its colonel at the age of eighteen. Montagu's regiment took part in the storming of Hillesden House in March 1644 and the capture of Lincoln in May then marched north with the main body of the Eastern Association to participate in the siege of York. After fighting at Marston Moor and second Newbury, Montagu was one of the officers who supported Oliver Cromwell in his denunciation of Manchester's leadership. Despite his family connection, Montagu gave evidence against Manchester before a parliamentary committee in November 1644.

In 1645, Montagu's regiment was incorporated into the New Model Army. Montagu himself commanded a brigade comprising his own regiment and those of Colonel Pickering and Colonel Hammond. At the battle of Naseby in June 1645, Montagu's regiment was one of those that broke as the Royalist infantry advanced in the centre. On the New Model's subsequent campaign in the West, he was promoted to acting major-general in place of the wounded Philip Skippon. At the storming of Bristol in September, Montagu led the attack through the breach at Lawford's Gate and on Bristol Castle itself. After the battle, he was sent to London with Colonel Hammond to report the capture of Bristol to Parliament.

Montagu's army career came to an end in October 1645 under the terms of the Self-Denying Ordinance when he was elected MP for Huntingdonshire. He supported the Independent faction, but was generally inactive in the House of Commons and withdrew entirely from Parliament after Pride's Purge in December 1648.

Loyal Cromwellian

Following a period of retirement at Hinchingbrooke, which he inherited on the death of his father in 1644, Montagu returned to public life as a member of the short-lived Nominated Assembly (Barebones Parliament) in July 1653. When the Assembly surrendered its powers to Cromwell in December, Montagu fully supported the subsequent establishment of Cromwell's Protectorate and was elected to the Protector's first Council of State. He emerged as a leading member of the Protectorate régime, acting as a spokesman for the government in Parliamentary debates and taking on important diplomatic roles.

In January 1656, Montagu was appointed joint General-at-Sea with Robert Blake for an expedition against Spain. Montagu had no previous naval experience. His appointment was partly political and a snub to the radical vice-admiral John Lawson, who was suspected of plotting against the Protectorate. The fleet sailed in March 1656 with orders to intercept the Spanish plate fleet returning from the Americas. Montagu's main task was to negotiate the ratification of a treaty with Portugal and to extract £50,000 compensation for Portugal's sheltering of Prince Rupert in 1649. Coerced by the presence of the fleet, King John IV of Portugal agreed to the English demands. In September 1656, Vice-Admiral Stayner captured two treasure ships of the Spanish plate fleet as it made a dash for Cadiz. Montagu, whose relations with Blake were strained, returned to England with the captured treasure in October. Despite having played no part in the capture of the Spanish ships, he accepted the thanks of Parliament on 4 November 1656.

As one of Cromwell's most loyal supporters, Montagu was a member of the faction that offered him the crown in 1657. After Cromwell's second refusal, Montagu was appointed to the controversial Upper House constituted under the terms of the Humble Petition and Advice and was made a member of the Protector's privy council. He also continued to play an active role as a general-at-sea, commanding the fleets that supported the joint Anglo-French attacks on Mardyke and Dunkirk in 1657-8. After the capture of Dunkirk in June 1658, Montagu was presented to King Louis XIV and entertained Cardinal Mazarin aboard his flagship the Naseby.

After Oliver's death in September 1658, Montagu remained a member of the Protector's council and pledged his personal loyalty and that of the fleet to Richard Cromwell, who commissioned him colonel of a cavalry regiment in order to strengthen support for the Protectorate among the military members of the council. Montagu's loyalty provoked strong hostility from other officers on the council, notably Major-General Disbrowe who alleged that Montagu had plotted to have him kidnapped and perhaps murdered, but was unable to support the accusation.

In March 1659, Montagu commanded a fleet sent to the Baltic to defend England's commercial interests and to counteract a Dutch attempt to intervene in the war between Sweden and Denmark, but his diplomatic efforts were interrupted by the fall of the Protectorate and the return to power of the Rump Parliament in May 1659. Republicans mistrusted Montagu and suspected that he was in contact with Royalists, particularly as his return to England coincided with Booth's Uprising and a series of planned Royalist insurrections around the country. Montagu protested his loyalty before Parliament. Although no evidence could be found against him, his commission was revoked and he retired once again to Hinchingbrooke.

The Restoration

In February 1660, General Monck occupied London and restored the MPs who had been expelled from Parliament in 1648. In the changed political climate, Montagu was recalled to the Council of State and made joint general-at-sea with Monck. Realising that the restoration of the monarchy was inevitable, Montagu co-operated with Monck and proceeded to purge the fleet of republican and radical officers. He entered into correspondence with Charles II and was elected to the pro-Royalist Convention Parliament in April 1660 as MP for Dover. His flagship was renamed the Royal Charles, and on 14 May, Montagu's fleet sailed to Scheveningen in the Netherlands to convey Charles II back to England. The royal party landed at Dover on 25 May.

Montagu was richly rewarded for his role in the Restoration. Amongst other honours, he was made a Knight of the Garter and created first Earl of Sandwich. He went on to lead a distinguished career as a diplomat, naval administrator and fighting admiral under Charles II. He was killed in action at the battle of Solebay in May 1672 during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, going down with his flagship the Royal James which, according to some accounts, he refused to abandon. Sandwich's posthumous reputation was enhanced by his portrayal in the famous diary of his client and kinsman Samuel Pepys, in which he appears as a generous and sophisticated patron.

Montagu's marriage to Jemima Crew produced six sons and three daughters. He was succeeded as second Earl of Sandwich by his eldest son, also named Edward Montagu (1644-89).


Bernard Capp, Cromwell's Navy, the Fleet and the English Revolution (Oxford 1989)

J. D. Davies, Edward Montagu, first earl of Sandwich, Oxford DNB, 2004


History of Montagu's regiment of foot