The Life of Edward Monatagu

Learn more about the life of Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich

Posted on February 22, 2022

Birth and Early years

In 1618 Sir Sydney Montagu married Paula Pepys and moved into the house at Barnwell, Northamptonshire.

On the 13th June 1620 Elizabeth Montagu was born at Barnwell.  Edward was born at Barnwell on the 27th July 1625.  This was three months after his older brother Henry had drowned in a pond at 3 years old.  As a result, Edward, although he was not the firstborn son, was the eldest son.

In 1627 Sir Sydney's brother the 1st Earl of Manchester bought Hinchingbrooke Housefrom Sir Oliver Cromwell.  Sir Oliver was Oliver Cromwell's uncle.  The 1st Earl gave this house to Sir Sydney who also still retained the house at Barnwell.  In 1634 the King: Charles I and Henrietta Maria stayed at Hinchingbrooke House for two nights.

Edward's early schooling was at the same grammar school in Huntingdon that Oliver Cromwell had gone to.  This building is now the Cromwell Museum.  Edward is reported to have been proficient in Mathematics and Astronomy.  On the 4th May 1635 Edward was admitted to study law in the Middle Temple in London.

On the 17th February 1638 Edward's Mother, Paula, Lady Montagu died.  On the 15th May Elizabeth married Sir Giblet Pickering and moved to Tichmarsh near Thrapston, Northamptonshire.

On the 27th March 1639 Charles I again visited Hinchingbrooke House when he was on his way north to fight the Scots in the 1st Bishops' War.  Another close friend of Sir Sydney was Oliver Cromwell.

The Civil War Years

On the 7th November 1642 Edward married Jemima Crewe, daughter of the great Presbyterian magnate John Crewe.  They were married at St. Margaret's in Westminster.  Jemima was 10 days older than Edward.  In early 1643 Sir Sydney, a Royalist, retired to the house at Barnwell, leaving Hinchingbrooke to Edward.

At the first meeting of the Eastern Association counties on the 9th February Edward took down the “Articles of Association” and the names of the committee members.  In March Parliament made Edward ‘Deputy Lieutenant of the Eastern Association’. Much of this was certainly due to his mentor - Oliver Cromwell.

Edward was only 18 years old when he commenced raising his foot regiment!  He was clearly the youngest Parliamentarian Colonel and, later, Major General.  For the next two years his regiment was always brigaded with Colonel John Pickering's.  Edward's sister had married John Pickering's elder brother.

On the 7th January 1644 Sir Sydney married Anne Pey.  In early August Edward received information that his father was very ill and Sir Sydney died on the 25th September.

On the 13th October 1645 Edward took his seat in Parliament as Member of Parliament for Huntingdon.  In 1646 the King surrendered himself to the Scots around Newark, Nottinghamshire.  The King was handed over to the English in January 1647 who imprisoned him in Holdenby House, Northamptonshire.  On the 3rd June 1647 Cornet Joyce and other Parliamentarian troops abducted the King from Holdenby House.  Whilst on their way to a rendezvous with the rest of the army at Newmarket they stayed briefly at Hinchingbrooke House.  Jemima was present but it is not known if Edward was there.  Sir Thomas Herbert, one of the King’s advisors, stated that "..... the King was nobly treated here ..... with much honour and affection, as were also the lords and other commissioners....."

The second Civil War started in 1647.  Various forces rose in support of the Royalist cause.  None however co-ordinated with each other and were subsequently dealt with very easily.  On the 6th July 1648 Edward was present as a 'gentleman volunteer' with the parliamentarian troops under Gibbons who defeated the Royalists at St. Neot's under the Earl of Holland.

The Commonwealth

There is much evidence to indicate that Edward was not a 'politician' like his mentor Cromwell and instead preferred 'executive' duties within the parliaments of the next 4 - 5 years.

In 1656 Edward was made joint General-at-Sea with Robert Blake.  By this time he had employed in his service a distant cousin - Samuel Pepys.  Edward continued as a General-at-Sea/Admiral until 1665.  Edward helped Pepys in his earlier career in Naval administration.  Pepys is recognised as the 'father' of the Royal Navy.

The Restoration

Edward was instrumental in bringing Charles II back into England in 1660  although why he chose to do this is not certain.  Richard Ollard in his book on Montagu entitled 'Cromwell's Earl' suggests that this was done in order to prevent anarchy.  Edward was made the Earl of Sandwich by Charles II.  The ship which brought Charles II back, Edward's flagship, was renamed from Naseby to Royal Charles.

Edward continued as the only non royal Admiral after the Restoration - the other two admirals were Prince Rupert and the Duke of York, the future James II.

Death of Edward Montagu

Edward died at the battle of Solebay (Southwold Bay) in May 1672 - this was part of the 3rd Anglo-Dutch war.  His flagship, the Royal James, of 100 guns was set on fire by Dutch fireships and eventually sank.  Edward, according to various sources, refused to jump into the sea and was last seen stood on the quarter-deck.  His body was washed ashore two weeks later.

There are other excellent articles on Edward Montagu and his life can be found on the website of his former home at Hinchingbrooke House own website.  They also have a biography of Edward and his achievements.