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Mountagu, Edward, Cr. Earl of Sandwich 1660 (1625-72)


Sandwich belonged to that generation of country gentlemen which, if it had it not been for the Civil War, would have been content to live out their days as local notabilities. Throughout his life, Sandwich had the affability and fairmindedness that characterised the best sort of squire. But he and his family had to play their parts on a larger stage.

His father, who held court office as a Master of Requests, was a royaIist, but Sandwich, in common with his Mountagu relatives at Boughton and Kimbolton and his wife's family the Crews, joined the Parliamentary cause. In 1643 he raised a regiment of foot in the army of the Eastern Association commanded by his cousin the 2nd Earl of Manchester. He saw action in 1644-5 at Marston Moor and Naseby and in the last assault on Bristol, and won a reputation for bravery. He showed courage too in joining his friend and neighbour Oliver Cromwell in the movement to replace Manchester.
However he took no part in the Second Civil War, retiring to his family home at Hinchingbrooke, near Huntingdon, where, after his father's death in September 1644, he dealt with family affairs.He stayed at Hinchingbrooke during the troubled years leading to the King's execution and did not re-enter public life until April 1653 when he was chosen to serve in Barebone's Parliament

.

By now the course of revolution had carried events so far that Sandwich counted as a moderate, and it was as one of the most active of the moderates in that parliament and one likely to have the support of Cromwell and the army leaders that he was made President of the Council of State in November.

Cromwell introduced him to a naval career in Jan. 1656 by making him joint General-at-Sea in the fleet which sailed to the Mediterranean against Spain.

After the death of Cromwell and the fall of Richard, he was ripe for conversion to royalism. Samuel Pepys' diary tells the story of his bringing the King home from exile, after which he was rewarded with an earldom, the Garter, and court office as Master of the Great Wardrobe, and was marked out for further naval command by his appointment as Vice-Admiral of the kingdom and Admiral of the Narrow Seas.

His greatest achievement as commander was his part in the first great battle of the Second Dutch War off Lowestoft in June 1665. However, later in the year he brought scandal on himself by allowing the cargo of two captured ships to be rifled before being declared a prize.

In October he refused to take his fleet out in the autumn storms. He was sent off to Spain as ambassador (I666-8) where he did much to retrieve his reputation. He proved a shrewd and tactful negotiator mediating between Spain and Portugal to end their long war, and concluding with Spain a commercial treaty which was the foundation of a prosperous trade for over a century. But he came back an impoverished man, his pay and allowances badly in arrears.
Finance so often proved his undoing. It was his carelessness over money that had led to the prize-goods scandal, and it was his incapacity to tackle the difficult problems of the Wardrobe finances which bedevilled his regime as Master there.

On his return from Spain he was active in the House of Lords. It is doubtful if he made any serious attempt to rise to high office, though office of the right sort might well have been the answer to his financial problems. But he did not find politics greatly to his taste, and in any case Clarendon, his patron and ally, was now in exile. The best of his public work in his later years was done in 1669-71 for the Council for Foreign Plantations, of which he became President. He was interested in colonial and commerclal affairs, and the task of presiding over debates was one to which he was temperamentally well suited. He did not welcome the Dutch War in 1672 and in particular disapproved of the attack on the Dutch Smyrna fleet which provoked it, but he resumed his command and perished on his flagship the Royal James in the Opening battle in Sole Bay. The Battle is commemorated in a stained glass window in Hinchingbrooke House library (below).


Like Pepys, Sandwich was a man of varied gifts and tastes - interested in mathematics and astronomy, a good linguist, though not bookish, a musician capable of composing in three parts, and a gifted pen-and-ink artist. He kept a journal, but unlike Pepys's, it was a memorial of his public life.
By the time the diary ends, relations between Sandwich and Pepys were no longer close, and in the summer of 1669 Pepys was not called in to help him face the parliamentary enquiry into the prize-goods scandal.

In Sandwich's will (signed in Aug. 1669) Pepys, who might have expected to be an executor if not a trustee, was not even mentioned. Yet there is evidence that Pepys continued to hold Sandwich in high regard; in the 1680's he was thinking of writing a life of that 'noble and yet (I fear) unparalleled Lord'.

Besides his house at Hinchingbrooke he had an official residence in Whitehall Palace, from 1653 until his death, which included part (or probably all) of the gatehouse of the King St gate, and rooms adjacent to it on both sides of the street. He also had official lodgings (1660-8) at the Wardrobe, and from 1664 rented houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields and Hampstead.

The Battle of Sole Bay
Sole Bay is on the east coast of Suffolk, England, off the town of Southwold (of which Sole is a corruption). In the Third Dutch War Sole Bay was the main fleet anchorage. The points of Easton Ness and Dunwich were then a mile or more further out to sea than they are today and formed a bay and safe haven.
War had broken out between England and the Dutch Republic in March 1672 and because of a secret deal between Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France the French were allies of the English. The object of the war was to defeat the Dutch navy and to land troops in the Netherlands in support of Louis XIV's army.
James Duke of York commanded the Allied Fleet which consisted of 98 warships and 30 fireships carrying 6018 guns and 34,496 officers and men. Of these about one third were French. The Fleet was divided into three squadrons, one of which was commanded by the Earl of Sandwich.

At 3.30 am on May 28th the Allied ships engaged the Dutch, however through a misunderstanding, the French headed south and were separated from the battle. De Ruyter the Dutch admiral detached Admiral Banckers with 20 ships to follow the French and both groups avoided the main battle which now had a numerical advantage in favour of the Dutch.

Sandwich in the Royal James was heavily attacked and surrounded until set on fire by a Dutch fireship. It is believed he took to a boat to transfer his flag to another ship andn drowned when the boat sank under the weight of men. His body was picked up days later and identified by the star of the Garter which he was wearing. The Royal James burned down to the water line and sank.

The Battle continued all day with the Duke of York in charge, changing ships as his own were set on fire, with the Dutch gradually withdrawing until the French returned on the morning of May 29th and first fog then gale force winds prevented further fighting.

The battle was inconclusive - an honourable draw - though both sides lost many men. After the battle 800 wounded men were landed at Southwold and for many weeks bodies and limbs were washed up on the Suffolk coast. [based on a leaflet by David Shirreff, Southwold Museum 1994]

Edward Mountagu's Family.

In 1642 Sandwich married Jemima, the 17-year old daughter of John Crew of Stene, a leading parliamentarian of Northamptonshire.

The sweetness of her disposition and her unfailing kindness to Pepys make her one of the most attractive figures in the diary - 'so good and discreet a woman I know not in the world'. She died in I674.

They had seven sons and four daughters. The two eldest sons, Edward (1648-88) and Sidney (I650-I727), were sent to be schooled in France in 1661. Edward, who succeeded to the title, took little part in public life, because of ill-health (except for a short service as M.P. for Dover 1670-2 and later two inactive turns of local duty as Lord-Lieutenant), and died in France where he had lived in retirement for some years.

A few members of later generations of the family have become well known: Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu (d. 1762), the letter-writer; the 4th Earl (d. 1792), who is said to have invented the sandwich; and Mrs Montagu (d. 1800), the republican bluestocking who so enraged Dr Johnson, who was the wife of the 1st Earl's grandson Charles.

Luke Montagu is a businessman in film-related projects.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Montagu is how he managed successfully to be prominently on both sides of the Civil War - fighting with Cromwell, yet given his Earldom by Charles II for collecting him from France and returning him to England.

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