MONTAGU, James (1603/7-1666), of Kimbolton Castle, Hunts.; later of Lackham, nr. Chippenham, Wilts

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. 1603/7,1 3rd s. of Sir Henry Montagu* of Kimbolton Castle, Hunts. and 1st w. Catherine, da. of Sir William Spencer† of Yarnton, Oxon.;2 bro. of Edward*. educ. Sidney Sussex, Camb. 1624.3 m. 11 Nov. 1635, Mary (bur. 22 June 1685), da. and h. of Sir Robert Baynard† of Lackham 7s. 1da.4 d. Feb. 1666.5 sig. J[ames] Mountagu.

Offices Held

R. adm. privateering expedition led by 2nd earl of Warwick (Sir Robert Rich*) 1627;6 capt. RN 1635.7

Commr. Poll Tax, Wilts. 1660, assessment/subsidy Beds. 1662-d.8


According to the 1684 visitation of Northamptonshire, Montagu was aged 63 at his death in February 1666.9 However, the date of his admission to Sidney Sussex suggests that he was about four years younger. His early career was shaped by family connections: his uncle James Montagu had been the first master of his college, and the privateering expedition in which he held a command in 1627 was led by the 2nd earl of Warwick, one of whose daughters had recently married his eldest brother. The voyage was not a success: after a brief clash with a Spanish fleet at the mouth of the Tagus, the fleet was becalmed en route to Terceira, and returned to England empty-handed. However, Montagu acquitted himself well under fire, and is not known to have suffered any of the disciplinary problems encountered by vice admiral Sir Francis Stewart*.10

Montagu was undoubtedly returned as a burgess for Huntingdon at the behest of his father, Lord President Manchester (Sir Henry Montagu), joint lord lieutenant of the county and joint purchaser - with his brother (Sir) Sidney Montagu* - of Hinchingbrooke House, which lay just outside the borough.11 Montagu was co-opted to sustain his family’s electoral influence, as his eldest brother already had a seat in the Lords, while the next brother, Walter, a diplomat whose knowledge of French affairs would have been useful in the Commons, was under detention in the Bastille at the time.12 Montagu left no trace on the surviving records of the Parliament, and never sat again, although his half-brother George and his cousins Edward and William Montagu were returned for the borough at the 1640 elections.13

While the earl of Manchester provided for each of his younger sons, Montagu derived most of his fortune from the property his wife inherited from her father, Sir Robert Baynard, who may have known Sir Edward Montagu* from his time at the Middle Temple in 1580s. On securing a command in the first Ship Money fleet of 1635, James Montagu appointed Baynard’s nephew as his lieutenant.14 His marriage took place later the same year, at which time the bride was only 15, which suggests that her father, aged 72 and only six months from his death, was keen to avoid leaving his estate open to wardship. Baynard demanded a jointure estate of £200 a year for his daughter, which Montagu’s father more than fulfilled by giving the couple the Bedfordshire manor of Colmworth, then under lease at £300 a year.15 Montagu’s elevation into the ranks of the landed gentry presumably explains why he did not pursue his naval career.

Baynard’s legacy was not without its problems: Montagu and his wife took over the administration of her father’s will in 1639, but within months they had difficulties in paying various bequests, and they were also prosecuted over a dispute arising from Baynard’s service as sheriff of Wiltshire in 1629-30.16 In addition, the Colmworth estate soon fell short of its expected yield, both because it was charged with a life annuity of £50 to Montagu’s half-brother George, and as a result of a dispute with the tenant of the estate, who claimed that Montagu promised to reduce the rent by £50 a year to compensate for damage done in the Civil War.17 Montagu’s problems were compounded by a dispute with his eldest brother, now earl of Manchester, who claimed an annuity of £100 from Colmworth under a deed which Montagu insisted had been revoked when he was granted the manor in 1635.18

Unlike Manchester, Montagu played no significant part in the Civil War. After the Restoration he claimed to have ‘suffered for the king’, but he cannot have been an active royalist, as his estates were never sequestrated, and he was not mentioned in the major generals’ list of suspected royalists in 1655-6.19 The cynical tone of his report of parliamentary proceedings in January 1655 suggests that he had a low opinion of the Protectorate: ‘the Western men begin to show their pristine virtue and declare their sense of their present condition. But their prayers may sooner relieve them than their endeavour for performance of former engagements’.20 However, when the surveyors of highways pulled down a bridge near Lackham a few months later, he vigorously petitioned both the Protector (Oliver Cromwell*) and his cousin Col. Edward Montagu†, a member of the Council of State, for redress.21

Montagu fared rather worse after the Restoration, being imprisoned in king’s bench in the autumn of 1662. Although most of the inmates were debtors, he claimed to have been incarcerated ‘because, from his openness of spirit, it is surmised that he is an enemy to monarchy’.22 He is not known to have been involved in any of the republican plots of the period, but the timing of his detention suggests that he may have criticized the deprivation of nonconforming clergy which was implemented on St. Bartholomew’s day 1662. He was free by March 1664, when he quarrelled with several of his sons, probably over their inheritance.23 The estate may have been partitioned before his death in 1666, as he does not appear to have left any will or administration. His eldest son, another James, died relatively young in 1676, whereupon the estate passed in turn to his grandsons Edward and James, who were returned to the Commons for Chippenham in 1698 and 1702 respectively. Lackham remained in the family until the beginning of the nineteenth century.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 142, but see below.
  • 2. Vis. Northants. ed. Metcalfe, 115.
  • 3. Al. Cant.
  • 4. Wilts. RO, Lacock par. reg. 1654/1-2; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 142; PROB 11/351, ff. 110-1.
  • 5. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 142.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 170.
  • 7. Ibid. 1634-5, pp. 603, 605; 1635, pp. 6, 73, 93; Life and Works of Sir Henry Manwaring ed. G.E. Mainwaring (Navy Rec. Soc. liv), 231.
  • 8. SR, v. 221, 327, 455, 527.
  • 9. Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 142.
  • 10. ‘Warwick’s voyage of 1627’ ed. N.P. Bard, in Naval Misc. V ed. N.A.M. Rodger (Navy Rec. Soc. cxxv), 15-93.
  • 11. VCH Hunts. ii. 136.
  • 12. CSP Dom. 1627-8. p. 473; 1628-9, p. 81.
  • 13. OR.
  • 14. MTR, i. 241, 245; CSP Dom. 1635, p. 73.
  • 15. PROB 11/179, ff. 364-6; 11/192, f. 375; C142/618/30.
  • 16. PROB 11/179, f. 366; HMC 8th Rep. ii. 55; C2/Chas.I/J22/28; 2/Chas.I/S5/20.
  • 17. PROB 11/192, f. 375; C2/Chas.I/H41/6, 2/Chas.I/M5/7.
  • 18. HMC 8th Rep. ii. 64; C2/Chas.I/M5/7.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 633; Add. 34012.
  • 20. Northants. RO, Montagu 6/107.
  • 21. Bodl. Carte 74, f. 25.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 633.
  • 23. Northants. RO, Montagu 6/109-11.
  • 24. PROB 11/350, ff. 421-2; Wilts RO, Lacock par. reg. 1654/2; J. Aubrey, Wilts. Top. Colls. ed. J.E. Jackson.