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John Montagu, 1718-1792

Fourth Earl of Sandwich. First Lord of the Admiralty, rebuilt the English Navy, but America was lost `on his watch'.

Eton, entered Cambridge, 1735; left without degree; traveled in Europe, 1737; France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Malta, Portugal, Spain; collected coins and archeological remains, elected to Royal Society, 1739; House of Lords, 1739; lord commissioner of the admiralty (effectively the head of the navy, as his senior, the Duke of Bedford was often absent), 1744; numerous military appointments and travel (his military duties must have been `paper'), 1744-1745; desperate to get the navy efficient and `ship-shape', willing to make enemies to do so; represented England at Breda conference negotiations, 1747; at the conclusion of treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748; first lord of the admiralty (i.e., US `Secretary of the Navy'), 1747; instigated inspections of naval shipyards and written code of discipline, 1749; dismissed, 1751; joint vice-treasurer and receiver of revenues for Ireland, 1755; ambassador extraordinary to Madrid, 1763; first lord on the admiralty (again), 1765; a principal secretary of state, 1765; first lord of the admiralty (yet again), 1771; innumerable petty politics; war with France, 1778; Spain allied with France, 1779; hard pressed; dispatched Lord Rodney to West Indies, 1780; outfitted and dispatched Captain Cook on around-the-world research voyage, 1778;

His mistress, the popular singer Martha Ray, was murdered by "an unbalanced clergyman" who wanted to marry her. He was deeply effected by her murder, although he never married her, he acknowledged their children; 2 of their sons rose to great prominence; Basil as a laywer responsible for much of the foundations of modern English bankruptcy law, and Rodger as an Admiral (see below for more detail).

A vast amount of material has been written on Sandwich. The definitive biography is probably The Insatiable Earl: A Life of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich by N.A.M. Rodger.

The DMB reports that no public man in the 1700's was the mark of such bitter, violent invective, but that he was esteemed and loved by his subordinates in the admiralty.

He was involved in a bawdy scandal over juvenile writing: Essay on Woman

He initiated an attempt to reach the north pole , and Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) in the Pacific after him.

The modern sandwich [1] [2] (meat between 2 slices of bread) is named after him.

Rodger, Sandwich's biographer, describes the circumstances behind the invention of the sandwich:
`It remains to consider the circumstances of the invention of the sandwich, which modern works suppose to have been designed to sustain its creator through long nights at the gaming table. The origin of this story seems to be a passage in Grosley's Tour to London:
A minister of state passed four and twenty hours at a public gaming-table, so absorpt in play that, during the whole time, he had no subsistence but a bit of beef, between two slices of toasted bread, which he eat without ever quitting the game. This new dish grew highly in vogue, during my residence in London: it was called by the name of the minister who invented it.
Grosley's book is a piece of travel literature... There is no supporting evidence for this piece of gossip, and it does not seem very likely that it has any foundation, especially as it refers to 1765, when Sandwich was a Cabinet minister and very busy. There is no doubt, however, that he was the real author of the sandwich, in its original form using salt beef, of which he was very fond. The alternative explanation is that he invented it to sustain himself at his desk, which seems plausible since we have ample evidence of the long hours he worked from an early start, in an age when dinner was the only substantial meal of the day, and the fashionable hour to dine was four o'clock.' (Rodger, p. 79)

A small section in Corrections and Additions to the Dictionary of National Biography, University of London, implies a particularly interesting role to John:

"... Sandwich's activities at Breda and Aix-la-Chapelle requires amplification... Sandwich had been sent to Breda as the special agent of the war party in the British cabinet, and his private correspondence with Newcastle, which was seen by the King...

As minister at The Hague, Sandwich entered into relations with the Dutch Orangist Party... By this means and by obstructing the peace negotiations at Breda, Sandwich had a great deal to do with the Orangist restoration in May 1747. The duke of Newcastle wrote to Sandwich on that occasion: `I most heartily congratulate you upon the happy and quiet conclusion of the great affair in Holland, an event that must ever be advantageous to England and make your Lordship's ministry in Holland ever remembered with gratitude and respect.'" (Corrections and Additions to the DNB, 1966)

The Australian government has a series of his letters stored online as images: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

John was a principal member of the Hell Fire Club, also known as the Monks of Medmenham.

John had a tragic family life that was very much in the public eye. The female lead character of "My Fair Lady" may be based on his mistress Martha Ray. The following brief description I have based largely on N.A.M Rodgers book:

By 1755 Sandwich and Dorthy, his first wife, separated, with Lady Sandwich living in an apartment in Windsor Castle. She was apparently having progressive mental problems. By 1764 she was unable to handle her own affairs, by 1766 the doctors decided she was hopeless, and in 1767 she was declared by the Court of Chancery a ward of court for being insane for over two years. Sandwich was apparently much depressed by her insanity.

Martha Ray became Sandwich's mistress around 1762, when she was 17 years old. She was a milliner's apprentice with a fine voice, and apparently Sandwich's "excuse" for bringing her into the household was to sing opera at his estate (Hinchingbrooke). He had her trained under the best teachers in England, and she apparently sang constantly and well.

They lived together discretely but publicly for 17 years as man-and-wife. Divorce was not possible for Sandwich, and his wife's severe insanity was a source of constant depression; Martha Ray apparently provided him with a happy and secure "London family".

Sandwich was very affectionate with his children by Martha Ray, but apparently his relations with his children by his first family were somewhat strained in later years.

Without marriage, Martha was worried about the future of her children, especially if they were "at the mercy" of Lord Hinchingbrooke, the eldest son by the first marriage. Sandwich, who actually had never really had any money, did not make her a financial settlement, and she apparently took matters into her own hands. She was young and popular enough to make a successful living on stage. At this time she may have "led on" the attentions of James Hackman, a young army officer. He left the army, and entered the clergy, apparently with the intent of marrying her and living as a vicar. In any event, Martha and Sandwich apparently came to some arrangement, and their life returned to "normal". By all accounts, they were apparently usually quite happy together.

Sandwich was unfortunate to have risen and succeeded on merit at a time when government figures "paid their own way". Although Sandwich was from an old line of Montagus (a direct descendent of the Edward Montagu who had much responsibility for the Restoration) he had never had money and apparently was often supported by numerous loans from highly-placed persons (such as the Prince of Wales). He may have convinced one such friend, Rear-Admiral Molyneux (Lord) Shuldham, to agree to support Martha Ray's children in his will (in any event, Basil Montagu, like his father, was to constantly struggle to reconcile dedication to a professional career (the law) with an apparent complete lack of funds).

The exact nature of Martha's relationship to Hackman has never been established. On 7-April-1779, Hackman approached her after the Opera while she was entering her carriage (and while Sandwich was working late). Hackman shot her in the head with one of his two pistols, killing her, and then "missed" himself with the other. He was convicted of murder and executed. Most accounts describe Hackman as "mentally unbalanced". Sandwich was apparently deeply wounded and retreated ever more into work.

Sandwich played a large role in the musical world of his day, especially via his club the Concert of Ancient Music, which was largely responsible for re-popularizing the music of Handel. Rogers:

"... He never set out to do anything revolutionary... ... Arguably he made the old system work better than it had ever done before, and inadvertently showed that without radical reform it was incapable of working as well as necessary. That restless urge to take the watch apart to see if it was working which has marked British naval administrators for nearly two centuries was quite foreign to him, and yet in a way he started it.

It was the same in his musical life. Like the men of the Renaissance, he set out to revive the lost glories of a classical era, and succeeded in founding a new tradition. It is certainly his most enduring monument. ... The great fleets which he laboured to create and preserve have vanished... But the Handelian tradition remains thoroughly alive. Through Sandwich's connection with it is forgotten, it preserves into our own century a lively image of his life and his world. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth', the air that Martha Ray excelled in, is as close a link as we shall ever have to Sandwich and his lifetime, and the best, because it has not lost the power to move." (Rodger)

Other Resources:

An annotated extract of Captain Cook's Journal, with an explanation of the naming of Hinchenbrook Island:

The Insatiable Earl, N.A.M. Rodger.
Corrections and Additions to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1966.

Family Research and History Section Maintained by Bruce R. Montague:
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