MONTAGU, Sidney (c.1572-1644), of Hemington, Northants. and the Middle Temple, London; later of Hinchingbrooke House, Hunts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1572,1 7th but 6th surv. s. of Sir Edward Montagu† (d.1602) of Boughton, Northants. and Elizabeth, da. of Sir James Harington† of Exton and Burley-on-the-Hill, Rutlan; bro. of Sir Edward*, Sir Walter*, Sir Henry* and Sir Charles*.2 educ. privately (Christopher Green); Christ’s, Camb. 1588; M. Temple 1593, called 1601.3 m. (1) lic. 21 Aug. 1619, Pauline (d.1638), da. of John Pepys, yeoman, of Cottenham, Cambs. 2s. (1 d.v.p.), 1da.;4 (2) aft. Sept. 1642, Anne (d.1676), da. of Gregory Isham of Barby, Northants., wid. of John Pay of Westminster, Mdx. s.p.5 kntd. 20 July 1616.6 d. 25 Sept. 1644.7 sig. Sydney Mountagu.
J.p. Hunts. 1621-d.;11 commr. subsidy, Hunts. 1621-2, 1624, 1641, Northants. 1624, Forced Loan, Hunts. 1626,12 gaol delivery, Newgate, London 1622, oyer and terminer, London 1622, Norf. circ. 1629-d.;13 collector knighthood fines, Hunts. 1630-4;14 commr. Poll Tax, Hunts. 1641, assessment and Irish aid 1642.15
Montagu was presumably named after his great-uncle, Sir Henry Sidney†, and, like his elder brother Sir Henry Montagu, he was educated at Christ’s, Cambridge and the Middle Temple, where he was called to the bar in 1601.16 In one of his earliest surviving letters, he recalled that his uncle Roger, a London merchant and silkman to the royal Household, had likened the family to ‘a bundle of arrows, which being sundered were easily broke, and though we cannot all pleasure one another alike, yet if we hold together we shall be the stronger in ourselves and against others’.17 In keeping with this philosophy, from which he was to benefit considerably, he was active on his family’s behalf from early in his career. In 1599 he asked Thomas Cecil†, 2nd Lord Burghley for a grant of the keepership of two woods in Rockingham Forest for his brother (Sir) Edward; in 1601 he received several payments from the Exchequer for the coat and conduct money his father had spent on recruits for the army in Ireland; and in 1603 he was lobbying at Court a few days before the queen’s death.18
Montagu inherited some independent means on his father’s death in 1602, when he was bequeathed £200 in cash, lands in Little Stukeley, Huntingdonshire worth about £75 a year, and a lease of the rectory of Brigstock, Northamptonshire.19 However, he presumably gained much of his income from legal practice during the years 1602-17, when he shared chambers at the Middle Temple with Edmund Doubleday*.20 He did some work for Sidney Sussex College, of which his brother James had been master, and served as manorial steward at Kimbolton, Huntingdonshire, both before and presumably after his cousin James Wingfield sold the manor to his brother Sir Henry.21 He also acted as an intermediary for Sir Edward Montagu in the purchase of various Crown lands in Northamptonshire, and served his brother James in a financial transaction in 1611.22 By 1609 he possessed sufficient capital to invest in James Montagu’s Mendip lead mining ventures, and in 1612 he loaned money to Sir Henry Clinton, who had married one of his Harington cousins, on a mortgage.23
Montagu sought a place at Court from December 1603, when James Montagu was appointed dean of the Chapel Royal.24 Six months later, he offered Secretary Cecil (Sir Robert Cecil†) his lease of Brigstock rectory in return for a position in Prince Henry’s Household.25 Nothing came of this, but in September 1605 he aspired to a post in the court of Wards, as his brother James advised him that Cecil, who was also master of the Wards, ‘sayeth he will remember you when time serveth, and Sir Walter Cope* sayeth he shall not want calling upon’.26 There was a further flurry of excitement in June 1606 over an extraordinary mastership in the court of Requests, vacated by Sir Daniel Dunne’s* promotion to a mastership in ordinary. James Montagu again made overtures, but was informed
it is a matter he [?Dunne] hath not, but was only put into it to hinder you, and it may not be spoken of. I have dealt earnestly with Sir Walter Cope, he promised to make it in his suit both to the king and my lord of Salisbury [Robert Cecil] for a place extraordinary with a fee. And if that will not be, yet I have promise from Sir Roger Wilbrome [Wilbraham*] if he leave his place [as master of Requests], as he purposeth, to be his man before any. So I hope it will succeed either one way or other.27
However, Wilbraham remained in place, and the extraordinary mastership was left vacant. The need for cash to purchase office probably explains why Montagu put Little Stukeley on the market for £1,500 in the autumn of 1605: his willingness to conclude a sale appears to have fluctuated in line with his chances of obtaining office, and his repudiation of the deal in the autumn of 1606 provoked an awkward lawsuit with the prospective purchaser.28
Although he had sat in two of the last three Elizabethan parliaments, Montagu was not returned to the Commons in 1604. However, in the summer of 1606 he secured possession of the writ for the Thetford by-election occasioned by the death of Sir Bassingbourne Gawdy*, and used Sir Henry and James Montagu to negotiate with the deceased MP’s brother, Sir Philip Gawdy*, for the nomination to the seat. Although he professed himself agreeable to the idea, Gawdy declined to pledge his interest until he had spoken to Montagu in person. This may have been a delaying tactic, as the borough’s patron, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, nominated Sir William Twysden* a few days later.29
While Northampton was understandably annoyed about Montagu’s attempted interference at Thetford, he had a more general reason to obstruct the rise of the Montagu family because of their connection with William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, one of his leading opponents at Court, through the earl’s wife, a Sidney.30 Montagu’s appointment as master of Requests in the summer of 1606 was clearly blocked by powerful interests, and the Howard faction may have played on the king’s apprehension that Sir Edward Montagu ‘smelt a little of puritanism’.31 Montagu clearly took his religion seriously: he debated theological issues with the master of Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, and was the dedicatee of a book published in 1604 by the puritan William Perkins, who may have been his tutor at Christ’s.32 All of this was perfectly innocent, but one damaging allegation which could have been made against him was that, when not keeping term in London, he lived with his mother at Hemington, Northamptonshire, where Henry Bridger was deprived of his vicarage in the autumn of 1605 for opposing the 1604 Canons. Bridger was clearly on friendly terms with the family, as Lady Montagu left him 20s. in her will in 1616.33
Montagu’s quest for preferment was sustained during the following years by his brother James, who was appointed bishop of Bath and Wells in 1608. Prince Henry’s secretary was approached about a post in his master’s Household at its expansion in 1610, and Bishop Montagu kept in touch with Wilbraham, probably the man reported to be ‘not very willing to part with the Requests’ in December 1612. Nine months later, the bishop, who was lobbying the queen to sponsor the promotion of Sir Henry Montagu, then recorder of London, to the chief justiceship, fancifully remarked to Sir Sidney that if the scheme succeeded ‘there could be a recorder’s place for you’.34 While prone to overestimate his influence at Court, Bishop Montagu was on more secure ground in promising his brother a seat at Wells, one of his cathedral cities, at the 1614 general election. Thomas Southworth, returned for the borough’s senior seat, warned Montagu ‘that they of Wells stood upon some terms of your being present with them’, but one of the bishop’s servants correctly surmised that ‘those doubts will be easily removed after they shall receive my lord’s letters’.35
Montagu made his most significant parliamentary speech on 14 Apr., just before a conference with the Lords over the succession rights of the Elector Palatine’s children, when he moved ‘for a committee to consider of the substance of the conference’. This motion may have been planted by attorney-general Sir Francis Bacon, who answered the point Montagu raised by assuring the House that there was ‘no thought but [that] the issue female of a male should inherit the Crown’.36 Montagu was named to the committee for the bill to prevent lawsuits over small debts being referred to the Westminster courts (11 May), and supported the bill when it was reported on 19 May; it is possible that his stance was motivated by the fact that Sir Richard Williamson*, recently appointed a master of Requests, opposed the measure.37 These speeches apart, Montagu hardly figured in the records of the session. He may have been the ‘Sir Sidney Montagu’ named to the committee for the bill to ease the sale of the Huntingdonshire manor of Fletton, although this was more likely to have been his brother Sir Edward, a trustee of the estate and thus one of the bill’s sponsors.38 His final committee nomination was for a bill to allow the executors of Sir Robert Wroth II* to break the entail on Wroth’s estate (25 May).39
Montagu’s interest in the Wroth bill stemmed from a family connection, as the latter’s widow, a Sidney, was his second cousin. Although heavily encumbered with debt, the estate was substantial and the heir only a few months old, and Montagu hoped for a match with Lady Wroth, who was probably the unnamed widow Bishop Montagu considered ‘worth having, though nothing so rich as she is reported’. The bishop also stated that she had gone to spend Christmas with the Huntingdonshire widower Sir Robert Bevill*, whom he claimed would ‘have the bestowing of her’.40 The issue was still unsettled in March 1616, when one ‘Mr. Bedles’ (probably Francis Bedell of Kimbolton, an under-clerk in Chancery) was sent to put Montagu’s case: he reported that Lady Wroth had another offer from a widower worth £2,000 a year, but that she would prefer an ‘honest bachelor’.41 Talks continued inconclusively until Lady Wroth’s son died and the bulk of the estate passed to a distant relative.42
Montagu finally secured the long-awaited mastership of Requests, albeit an extraordinary one, in February 1616.43 The timing of his promotion may have owed something to Court politics, as it came at a point when the Pembroke faction was in the ascendant as a result of their support for the new favourite, Sir George Villiers.44 Furthermore, it was Pembroke’s brother the earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert*) who successfully recommended Montagu for a knighthood four months later.45 Within days of his promotion, Montagu was appointed associate bencher at the Middle Temple, but though he retained chambers there for the rest of his life, he did not play a significant part in its affairs, and declined to take his turn as reader in the summer of 1620.46
Montagu’s ambitions were not sated by this preferment. When the surveyorship of liveries in the court of Wards fell vacant on Wilbraham’s death in the summer of 1616 Bishop Montagu approached the favourite on his brother’s behalf, but Villiers secured the appointment for a relative, (Sir) Robert Naunton*.47 Naunton’s promotion to secretary of state a year later created a fresh vacancy, when Montagu, John Packer* and (Sir) Humphrey May* were said to be contesting the appointment ‘with might and main’. Bishop Montagu secured assurances from Villiers, now marquess of Buckingham, that his brother would ‘not be put by your turn when it shall come’, but the post went to May.48 However, a few weeks later, a sudden glut of vacancies in the Requests allowed the favourite to redeem his promise to the bishop, by promoting Montagu to an ordinary mastership at the same time as three other contenders, Sir Christopher Parkins*, Sir Ralph Freeman* and Sir Lionel Cranfield*. The last two were new to the Requests, and as a sop to his pride, Montagu was awarded seniority from the date of his appointment in 1616.49
With hindsight, Montagu’s career prospects faded after death of Bishop Montagu in July 1618.50 At the time he probably anticipated the much-touted promotion of Sir Henry Montagu to the treasurership,51 which may explain why he forsook the surest route to preferment, marriage with a minor member of the Villiers family. Instead, he chose an inauspicious match with Paulina Pepys, his mother’s maidservant, who is unlikely to have brought him much beyond the £50 she was bequeathed by Lady Montagu.52 Sir Henry eventually secured the treasurership and the title of Viscount Mandeville in December 1620, but the hopes of both men were shattered ten months later, when Mandeville surrendered his position to Cranfield in return for the presidency of the Privy Council, ‘a place long out of use and of no great necessity’.53
Montagu’s problems at Court coincided with an escalating quarrel with his eldest brother over the inheritance of some of the family’s estates, an issue about which Sir Edward was peculiarly sensitive, as the reversion lay with his brothers until his second wife produced a son in 1616. Shortly before the birth, Sir Edward had been outraged by the decision of his brother Sir Walter to bequeath the manor of Hanging Houghton, the reversion of which he considered his by right, to the next brother, Sir Henry. On this occasion, the three youngest brothers had assumed a right of arbitration, and forced Sir Edward to accept the transfer as valid.54 This ill-feeling was exacerbated by Bishop Montagu’s arrangements concerning the manor of Coppingford, Huntingdonshire: Sir Sidney Montagu claimed a 31-year lease of part of this manor, worth £100 a year; but his brother Sir Charles claimed that Bishop Montagu had granted him a life interest in this lease shortly before his death, in compensation for his costs as executor.55 Montagu was threatened with prosecution, but Sir Lewis Watson* brokered a deal whereby Sir Charles bought out Montagu’s lease at a price to be agreed by their uncle William Montagu, whose favour was assiduously courted by both his nephews during the summer of 1619.56 The brothers’ efforts were wasted, as their uncle died on 28 Sept. without making a ruling on the dispute, while his death sparked further controversy over the reversion of some copyhold lands in Brigstock, Northamptonshire.57 Montagu claimed these lands under the terms of his grandfather’s entail, and also an arcane local custom which was recognized by the Brigstock manorial court in the spring of 1620. Lord Chancellor Bacon and Sir Francis Fane* attempted an arbitration over the summer, but litigation followed in the Exchequer, while Sir Edward and Sir Charles responded by bringing their long-threatened suit over Coppingford manor into Chancery.58
Under these circumstances, Montagu did not look to his eldest brother for a seat at the general election of December 1620. Instead, with the support of Sir Henry Montagu, he fought Sir Robert Payne* and Sir Robert Bevill for the county seats in Huntingdonshire. He was presumably also backed by Sir Edward’s brother-in-law Sir Robert Cotton*, who had been defeated by Payne at the 1614 election, and was doubtless happy to see his erstwhile opponent worsted.59 Sir Charles charitably procured his brother a letter to the gentry from Lord Chancellor Bacon ‘that they shall certify what they have done’, but these preparations failed to avert Montagu’s defeat.60 He is unlikely to have stood for the shire again during the decade, as Mandeville subsequently nominated his eldest son, Edward Montagu*.
The Coppingford dispute was apparently settled out of court in 1624, but the quarrel over Brigstock continued until 1629, when Sir Edward complained that ‘the king, my daughter’s marriage and my brother Sidney have had very near £5,000 of me out of purse’. Montagu finally made overtures for a settlement in April 1627,61 only three months before he joined Mandeville, now earl of Manchester, in purchasing Hinchingbrooke from Sir Oliver Cromwell*. Manchester, being content with his seat at Kimbolton, allowed Montagu to take the house and lands worth £283 a year.62 This was Montagu’s first major land purchase within the county, but he quickly acquired the manors of St. Neots in 1631 and Eynesbury Ferrers in 1639.63 Montagu’s land purchases suggest that his earnings from the Court of Requests were substantial. Modern scholarship estimates the official and unofficial yield of the office at under £1,000 a year, but after Manchester’s appointment as lord privy seal in 1628 the number of cases before the court trebled, which presumably led to a commensurate rise in fees.64
Rumours of Montagu’s great wealth presumably explain why, in the spring of 1640, he was called upon to contribute £4,000 to the Scottish war effort. This demand was later halved, but he refused to pay, and was removed from office shortly after the dissolution of the Short Parliament.65 His sacking provided both the motive and the popular support to secure his return to the Long Parliament for Huntingdonshire,66 but he appears to have been a passive royalist at the outbreak of the Civil War. Brought before the Commons on 3 Dec. 1642, he justified himself by reference to the Proclamation of 9 Aug. 1642, which declared Lord General Essex and his adherents traitors. The Commons responded by pronouncing it ‘a great crime that any Member should be guided by declarations from abroad’, removed him from his seat and sent him to the Tower.67 He submitted himself to the House’s mercy two weeks later, and was released after undertaking to lend £1,000 to the parliamentary cause, although he ultimately paid only £200.68
Montagu spent the remainder of his life at Hinchingbrooke, although he was assessed for taxation at Westminster, where his new wife had a house.69 In his will of 18 Mar. 1644, he described her as ‘a religious, virtuous woman, as loving and contenting to me as my heart can desire’, and left her well provided for; his son-in-law, Sir Gilbert Pickering†, proved the will in January 1645.70 Montagu died on 25 Sept. 1644.71 His estates and, in the following year, his parliamentary seat for Huntingdonshire passed to his only surviving son, Colonel Edward Montagu, a celebrated naval commander under Cromwell and earl of Sandwich at the Restoration. Hinchingbrooke remained in the family until 1964.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. Aged over 71 in Dec. 1642: Bodl. Carte 74, f. 349.
- 2. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 37.
- 3. W.J. Sheils, Puritans in Dioc. of Peterborough, 115; Al. Cant.; MT Admiss.; MTR, 413.
- 4. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 141; W.C. Pepys, Gen. Pepys Fam. ped. 6; J. Bridges, Hist. and Antiqs. Northants. ii. 216.
- 5. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 141; PROB 11/190, ff. 200-1.
- 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 159.
- 7. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 141.
- 8. Harl. 7002, f. 65.
- 9. MTR, 602.
- 10. APC, 1615-16, pp. 388, 400; 1618-19, p. 18; HEHL, EL7839; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, vi. 290.
- 11. C231/4, p. 119.
- 12. C212/22/20-23; SR, v. 62, 84; T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144.
- 13. C181/3, ff. 74v, 76, 257.
- 14. E178/5348; 178/7154, f. 101C; E198/4/32, f. 1.
- 15. SR, v. 107, 141, 152.
- 16. Al. Cant.; MTR, 333, 413.
- 17. HMC Buccleuch, i. 236.
- 18. Ibid. i. 234, 236; APC, 1600-1, pp. 139, 439; 1601-4, p. 317.
- 19. PROB 11/99, f. 1v; C3/281/6; HMC Buccleuch, i. 236.
- 20. MTR, 428, 623.
- 21. Bodl. Tanner 74, f. 14; Harl. 7002, f. 65.
- 22. HMC Buccleuch, i. 240, 242; Northants. RO, Montagu 3/144, 6/165.
- 23. Bodl. Carte 74, ff. 335, 400; P.M. Hembry, Bps. of Bath and Wells, 187-92, 214; C2/Jas.I/M10/21, 65, 67.
- 24. K. Fincham, Prelate as Pastor, 37-9.
- 25. HMC Hatfield, xvi. 99-100.
- 26. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 379.
- 27. Ibid. ff. 361, 377.
- 28. C3/281/6.
- 29. Bodl. Carte 74, ff. 390, 417; THETFORD.
- 30. L.L. Peck, Northampton, 35-6.
- 31. Fincham, 37-9; HMC Buccleuch, i. 255.
- 32. Bodl. Tanner 74, f. 41; W.R. Prest, Rise of the Barristers, 380.
- 33. Sheils, 81; Fincham, 326; PROB 11/131, f. 426.
- 34. Bodl. Carte 74, ff. 337, 383, 400.
- 35. Ibid. f. 357.
- 36. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 81.
- 37. Ibid. 206, 290-1; APC, 1613-14, p. 444.
- 38. Ibid. 289; C142/313/72.
- 39. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 338, 347.
- 40. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 369.
- 41. Ibid. 223, f. 141. For Bedell, see STAC 8/285/20.
- 42. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 386.
- 43. APC, 1615-16, pp. 388, 400.
- 44. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 15-24.
- 45. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 339; Shaw, ii. 159.
- 46. MTR, 602, 641, 653.
- 47. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 402; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, ii. 230; HMC Buccleuch, i. 250; SO3/6, unfol. (Oct. 1616). R.E. Schreiber, Pol. Career of Sir Robert Naunton, 9 wrongly claims that Montagu temporarily filled the post.
- 48. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 124; Bodl. Carte 74, f. 324.
- 49. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 99, 105, 131; APC, 1618-19, p. 18; Northants. RO, Montagu 3/139.
- 50. HMC Buccleuch, i. 253.
- 51. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 197, 202-3, 325-6.
- 52. PROB 11/131, f. 426.
- 53. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 399.
- 54. HMC Buccleuch, i. 247; iii. 192; Northants. RO, Montagu 3/138; SIR WALTER MONTAGU.
- 55. C2/Jas.I/M15/3, 2/Jas.I/M81/122.
- 56. HMC Buccleuch, iii. 214; HMC Montagu, 95-6; Northants. RO, Montagu 3/113-16, 145; 6/183, 187-91, 195.
- 57. C142/685/51.
- 58. E112/111/295; HMC Buccleuch, i. 255; iii. 219, 221; HMC Montagu, 104; Northants. RO, Montagu 6/184-5, 193, 197.