MONTAGU, William (1652-91), of Baynards, Ewhurst, Surr.
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Family and Education
Commr. for assessment, Surr. 1673-80, Northants. 1677-9, Lincs. 1689; j.p. Northants. 1689-?d.2
Montagu married at the age of 17 a Surrey heiress, the niece of the diarist Evelyn, who brought him an estate of £500 p.a. Nothing further is heard of him till 1681, when he replaced his wife’s first cousin, John Lewknor II, at Midhurst. He took no known part in the Oxford Parliament, but presumably supported exclusion. He improved his interest in the borough by securing a confirmation of their ancient privileges, though his real object may have been to forward an adulterous intrigue with Lewknor’s wife. On James II’s accession he determined to stand again ‘only if it be to disturb my destroyer’. An amorous letter to Jane Lewknor was intercepted, and Montagu was forced to sign an apology; but on 3 Mar. a warrant was issued for his arrest on the unlikely ground that the letter implied a threat to Lewknor’s life. Meanwhile Lord Montagu, the lord of the borough, had refused his support, and on 13 Mar. Lewknor was elected with his step-father Sir William Morley. On 18 June Montagu signed a bond, with his father as surety, under which he was to forfeit £1,500 if he met or wrote to Lewknor’s wife. Nevertheless the lovers met regularly in London, and in December they eloped, taking with them a casket of valuables.3
After the Revolution Montagu was made a j.p. in Northamptonshire, where perhaps his escapades were unknown, though Evelyn wrote that he ‘had lived dissolutely and scandalously with another woman, and his dishonesty made publicly notorious’. Lewknor put his bond into suit, and Montagu attempted to regain parliamentary privilege at a by-election for the notoriously venal borough of Stockbridge. He was returned to the Convention, but his opponent William Strode II petitioned, and he probably never took his seat. The election was declared void for corruption on 15 Nov. 1689, and Montagu was disabled from standing for the same constituency again for the duration of the Convention. Lewknor was given leave on 20 Jan. 1690 to introduce a bill to illegitimize any children that might be born to his wife during her elopement, but the prorogation prevented further progress. Four days later, however, Montagu was sentenced in the King’s bench to pay £6,500 damages. He was in prison for the debt when he regained his seat at Stockbridge in the following month. But he died on 2 Apr. 1691 before any decision had been reached on his renewed claim to privilege.4