WORTLEY MONTAGU, Edward, jun. (1713-76), of Boreham Wood, Herts.
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Family and Education
b. 16 May 1713, o.s. of Edward Wortley Montagu. educ. Westminster 1718?; Leyden. m. 1730, Sally (d.1776), s.p. legit.
Cornet 7 Drag. Gds. 1743; capt.-lt. 1 Ft. 1745, capt. 1747, ret. 1748.
Sec. at congress of Aix-la-Chapelle 1748.
Edward Wortley was sent abroad in 1730 for contracting a marriage to a woman reputed to be a laundress or washer-woman, who was immediately pensioned off but remained his lawful wife till shortly before his death. At the same time his father took legal steps to break the entail on the Wortley estates, thus making it possible to disinherit him.1 After thirteen years as a remittance man on the continent, he entered the army, serving in Flanders till 1746, when he was seconded to the staff of his cousin, Lord Sandwich, British representative at the conference of Breda and the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. His knowledge of foreign languages, including Dutch, made him useful to Sandwich, who described him to Newcastle as ‘a treasure’, securing his appointment as secretary at the Congress and his unopposed return for Huntingdonshire in 1747.
Wortley attended the opening of Parliament, but was recalled almost immediately to Aix by Sandwich. According to Edward Montagu:
His father has a little augmented his allowance, but has not made it sufficient for a knight of the shire. He has not yet admitted him into his company and he has orders to sit on a different side of the House from him.2
On the signature of the peace treaty in October 1748, Sandwich sent him with the news to the King at Hanover, where he raised the question of his future with Newcastle, the secretary of state in attendance. Newcastle, having recently quarrelled with Sandwich, at once wrote to the Duke of Cumberland at Allied Headquarters to forestall any application by Wortley:
Mr. Wortley (lately called Mr. Montagu) will pay his duty to Your Royal Highness with my Lord Sussex [one of the hostages appointed under the Treaty for the return of Cape Breton]. He has a mind to go to Paris with my Lord Sussex. I am not against it, as I think he would be of use to the young man; but otherwise I should not wish to have a Montagu there at this time. He pushed at being secretary for the embassy. I told him plainly Mr. Yorke [Joseph] was to go with the Duke of Richmond; perhaps the secretary to the embassy; or as second minister ... And so I have put Wortley off tho’ he still has it in his head.3
In August 1749, after the termination of his appointment, he went to Paris, where he came under the suspicion of the British embassy by visiting French ministers without informing the embassy. Hardwicke, however, on hearing of this incident, brushed it aside as relating to ‘a strolling light-headed man’. In November 1750 he had to leave Paris, because of the arrival of his father, who had made it a condition of his allowance of £1,000 a year that they should never be in the same city together.4 At the beginning of 1751 he reappeared in London, where he and Theobald Taaffe, another adventurer, set up as faro bankers to Mme de Mirepoix, the French ambassadress.
Our greatest miracle [wrote Horace Walpole] is Lady Mary Wortley’s son, whose adventures have made so much noise; his parts are not proportionate, but his expense is incredible. His father scarce allows him anything: yet he plays, dresses, diamonds himself, even to distinct shoe-buckles for a frock, and has more snuff boxes than would suffice a Chinese idol with an hundred noses. But the most curious part of his dress, which he has brought from Paris, is an iron wig; you literally would not know it from hair—I believe it is on this account that the Royal Society have chosen him of their body.
He also contracted, 21 July 1751, a bigamous marriage with a Miss Elizabeth Ashe, prominent in London society at that time.5
In the summer of 1751 Wortley and Taaffe went to Paris, where in October they were arrested by the French authorities on charges by an English Jew, Abraham Payba, an absconding bankrupt, of cheating him out of large sums of money at play and, on his failure to pay up, of breaking into his lodgings and taking 50,000 livres worth of jewellery and other valuables.6 Released on bail, Wortley and Taaffe brought counter-charges against Payba, who himself was arrested. In January 1752, they were acquitted and Payba was sentenced; but on appeal the judgment was annulled and Payba ordered to be released.7 During these proceedings Wortley took a very good house in Paris, keeping a magnificent equipage, and living at great expense, though how he supported it was a mystery to the embassy, since it was thought that after this affair ‘few people would choose to play with him for much money’.8
After this there was no question of Wortley’s standing again for the county, but in 1754 his father returned him at Bossiney to protect him from his creditors. After many other vicissitudes, he died at Padua, 29 Apr. 1776.
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Romney R. Sedgwick
- 1. E. Wortley Montagu to John Bridger, 24 July 1760, mss in possession of Sir Henry Shiffner, Bt.
- 2. Sandwich to Newcastle, private, 22 Dec. (N.S.) 1747, Add, 32810, f. 323; 17 Mar. (N.S.) 1748, Add. 32811, f. 349; 31 May (N.S.) 1748, Add. 32812, f. 219; Geo. Paston, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 446-7, 451-2.
- 3. Newcastle to the King, 21 Oct., to Cumberland, 29 Oct., and Cumberland to Newcastle, 3 Nov. (all N.S.) 1748, Add. 32717, ff. 179, 147, 169.
- 4. Hardwicke to Newcastle, Sept. 1749, Add. 32719, f. 95; Luynes Mems. x. 366.
- 5. Walpole to Mann, 9 Feb. and 22 Nov. 1751
- 6. Taaffe to Albermale, 2 and 6 Nov. (N.S.) 1751, Add. 32832, f. 215; London Gaz. 15 and 16 June 1751.
- 7. Wortley Montagu to Albemarle, 29 Dec. (N.S.) 1751, Add. 32832, f. 215; Taaffe to Albermale, 19 Jan. (N.S.) 1752, Add. 32833, f. 68; J. Jeffreys to Royston, 23 Aug. and 8 Sept. (N.S.) 1752, Add. 35630, ff. 48-51.
- 8. Jeffreys to Claudius Amyand, 5 Jan. (N.S.) 1752, mss in possession of Sir William Cornewall, Bt.