MONTAGU, Hon. Sidney Wortley (1650-1727), of Wortley, Yorks. and Walcot, Northants.
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Family and Education
b. 28 July 1650, 2nd s. of Edward Montagu†, 1st Earl of Sandwich; bro. of Hon. Charles*, Edward† Visct. Hinchingbrooke, and Hon. Oliver Montagu†. educ. Twickenham (Dr Fuller) by 1660; Paris acad. (du Plessis) 1662–4; travelled abroad (Spain, Flanders, Germany, Italy, France) 1666–71. m. c.1676, Anne Newcomen, illegit. da. and h. of Sir Francis Wortley, 2nd Bt., of Wortley, 5s. (4 d.v.p.) 2da.1
Ensign, R. Ft. Gds. (later Grenadier Gds.) 1675.
Commr. for taking subscriptions to the land bank, 1696.2
Jt. high steward of Northallerton, Yorks. by 1713.3
Wortley Montagu’s wealth was based upon his marriage to the illegitimate daughter and sole heir of a prominent Yorkshire baronet. His extensive mining interests in Durham and Northumberland, allegedly based upon favourable leases of episcopal lands obtained from his kinsman Bishop Nathaniel Crew of Durham, led to his involvement in the coal cartel which controlled the north-east coal trade for most of the early 18th century. His political interest was, however, founded upon a combination of his family’s influence in the Midlands and his own lifelong Whiggery, his influence at Huntingdon elections stemming from his position as trustee for the estates of his nephew, Edward Montagu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich. A weak-willed man, described by Macky as being ‘of very ordinary parts’, Sandwich’s affairs were subject to a protracted struggle for control between Wortley Montagu and Sandwich’s wife, Elizabeth Wilmot, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Rochester, and though the conflict ebbed and flowed, Wortley Montagu was able to return at least one Member for Huntingdon at all but one of the elections between 1690 and 1715.4
Wortley Montagu was impeccably Whig, having supported Exclusion and been active during the Revolution, but though his parliamentary career spanned nearly half a century he was a very inactive Member. Returned for Huntingdon in 1690, he was classed as a Whig by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) and subsequently as a Court supporter. Making no further significant contribution to the 1690 Parliament, he stood down from his Huntingdon seat in 1695 to make way for the nominee of his kinsman the 4th Earl of Manchester, but his return to the Commons in 1696, at a by-election for Camelford, suggests that his negligible parliamentary activity was not matched by a desire to be out of the House. He abstained from the vote of 25 Nov. 1696 on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, though whether this was due to absence from London or principle is unclear. In 1698 he was returned for Peterborough on the Whig interest of Lord Fitzwilliam (William†), and in a comparison of the old and new Houses compiled in around September he was classed as a Court supporter. Some light is shed on his attitude to parliamentary service by his reaction to the proposed petition from the hundred of Peterborough concerning the land tax in the 1698–9 session. Wortley Montagu and his fellow Member for Peterborough, Francis St. John, were both consulted by their patron Fitzwilliam about a petition against ‘the laying of £200’, but both men took ‘little notice of it’, Wortley Montagu assuring Fitzwilliam that he did ‘not design to present the petition to Parliament’. Though inactive, Wortley Montagu’s Whiggery continued undimmed, and he was classed as a follower of the Junto in early 1700 and returned upon the Whig interest for Peterborough in both 1701 elections. His partisan loyalties also explain the conflict between his interest and that of the Tory Lady Sandwich for the second Huntingdon seat at the election of January 1701 (see HUNTINGDON, Hunts.).5
Returned unopposed for Peterborough in 1702, Wortley Montagu was then faced with an attempt to break his interest at Huntingdon. Lord Sandwich, probably at his wife’s instigation, had initiated a Chancery bill to force Wortley Montagu to present an account of the 2nd Earl of Sandwich’s estate, and on 10 Nov. 1705 petitioned the Commons to request that Wortley Montagu be denied the right to shelter behind parliamentary privilege in this case. Wortley Montagu was heard in his place, and the petition was referred to the privileges committee. When the matter was reported on the 21st, it was stated, the House concurring, that Wortley Montagu was not entitled to claim privilege, though he might do so if this recourse was chosen by the Earl. Wortley Montagu’s lack of activity in the remainder of this Parliament is again striking, but his Whiggery was demonstrated by his vote, on 13 Feb. 1703, for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments on extending the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and in the 1704–5 session when he was forecast as a likely opponent of the Tack. In the division on 28 Nov. he either voted against it or was absent. Again returned for Peterborough in 1705, an analysis of the new Parliament classed him as ‘Low Church’, and on 25 Oct. he voted for the Court candidate for Speaker. He was returned for Peterborough in 1708, and in an analysis of the returns was classed as a Whig. The 1708–9 session saw him support the bill guided through the Commons by his son Edward* to naturalize the Palatines, but his journey to London for the following session was delayed by ‘election business’ at Peterborough. Once at Westminster he was, as usual, inactive, though he was included in a black list as having supported the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.6
Despite his precautions the previous year, Wortley Montagu was defeated at Peterborough in 1710, and his petition against the return, presented to the Commons on 10 Dec., was not proceeded upon. His participation in the north-east coal cartel led him to petition the Commons on 13 Apr., in conjunction with his brother Hon. Charles Montagu and Sir Henry Liddell, 3rd Bt.†, against a bill to dissolve and prevent further combinations in the coal trade. The petition claimed that the bill would ‘put the proprietors of the collieries under insuperable difficulties in working of their collieries . . . and tend very much to the discouragement of the coal trade’. Through extensive lobbying, representatives of the cartel, who included Wortley Montagu’s son Edward*, were able to negate the bill’s effect upon their activities. Perhaps taking this episode as a salutary reminder of the value of a parliamentary seat in preserving his business interests, Wortley Montagu replaced his son in 1713 as Member for Huntingdon, his interest in the borough remaining strong despite the intrusion in this election of his great-nephew Lord Hinchingbrooke (Edward Richard Montagu*). He nevertheless remained an inactive Member, though his Whig loyalties were demonstrated on 18 Mar. 1714 in his vote against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and he was classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and on two comparisons of the 1713 and 1715 Parliaments. Returned for Huntingdon in 1715, Wortley Montagu remained loyal to the Whig ministries in the two Parliaments of George I. He died on 11 Nov. 1727 and was succeeded in his settled estates by his only surviving son, Edward, though his will took care to provide for his grandchildren by his deceased son John.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison
- 1. Northants. RO, Fitzwilliam (Milton) mss F(M) 1024, Fitzwilliam to Francis Guybon, 9 Dec. 1697; F. E. Harris, Life of Sandwich i. 77; ii. 51, 160, 234–5; Pepys Diary ed. Latham and Matthews, ii. 163; v. 185; ix. 552.
- 2. CJ, xii. 508.
- 3. T. Lawson-Tancred, Recs. of a Yorks. Manor, 257.
- 4. H. J. Habakkuk, Marriage, Debt and the Estates System, 160–1; J. M. Ellis, A Study of the Business Fortunes of William Cotesworth c.1668–1726, 115–16, 128, 134–5.
- 5. Fitzwilliam (Milton) mss F(M)C 1024, 1049, 1077, Fitzwilliam to Guybon, 9 Dec. 1697, 14 July 1698, 23 Mar. 1698–9.
- 6. Hull Univ. Lib. Bosville mss DDBM32/1, Wortley Montagu to Godfrey Bosville, 9 Nov. 1709.
- 7. Ellis, 121–3; PCC 281 Farrant.