John Montagu Biography
John Montagu, the first Lord of Admiralty and the 4th Earl of Sandwich, rebuilt the Royal Army, established a treaty with Breda, and aided in the discovery of Australia and the islands of the Pacific.
In addition to his accomplishments, Montagu was an avid gambler who would spend entire days devoted to playing cards. He especially enjoyed playing Euchre and would invite other Royalty over for day-long tournaments.
John Montagu was born November 13th, 1718 on his family's estate in Chiswick, England. Montagu's father died when he was just four years old. His mother remarried soon after that, leaving Montagu to be raised by his grandfather, the 3rd Earl of Sandwich.
Montagu took the throne in 1729 shortly after celebrating his tenth birthday, but his duties at the time mostly involved getting a proper education. He studied at both Eton and Trinity College.
Montagu's Political Contributions
He first took his seat in the House of Lords in 1739. Early on, he was sent to speak to Breda's Congress, where he was able to negotiate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which was instated in 1748.
He also served as the British Ambassador to the Dutch Republic, the Postmaster General, and the Secretary of State for the northern department during his career.
While he was Secretary of State, he was deeply involved in the prosecution of John Wilkes, a former British Politician, who was accused of taking bribes in exchange for the various political jobs he gave out.
He later commanded the Royal Navy during the Revolutionary war against America. Despite being defeated, Montagu was still highly respected for his efforts.
Montagu supported Captain Cook's exploratory voyages through the Pacific Ocean where he discovered Australia and other small islands of the Pacific of which he named the Sandwich Islands in his honor.
Montagu needed an outlet, a way to cope with his mentally ill wife and all the stress he was under, so he turned to gambling; he loved playing cards, especially Euchre. His passion for Euchre grew during his time serving in the Royal Navy where he learned alternative ways to play the game.
When Montagu started gambling, it was very difficult for him to stop. Even after playing for extended periods of time at the card table, he wouldn't want to leave to eat a decent meal. Instead, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two pieces of bread.
As the story goes, others playing alongside Montague continually started asking for, "the same as Sandwich." Eventually the phrase got shortened to, "Sandwich" and it reflects the idea of sandwiches we often eat today.
For several years Montagu had relations with Fanny Murray, but he ceased contact with her when he married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane. They had one son together named John, who would later claim the throne as the 5th Earl of Sandwich.
Dorothy had progressively worsening mental problems that were too much for Montagu to handle, so he sent her away to live in her own room at the Windsor Castle around 1766, as divorce was out of the question.
Martha Ray, a famous Opera singer at the time, became Montagu's mistress. He had many children with her, even though they never officially got married. Basil, one of their sons, became known as the lawyer who modernized England's bankruptcy laws.
Montagu appreciated music so much that he orchestrated the "Catch Club," which was a group of professional singers that would sing a variety of ancient musical pieces selected specifically for him. He would often have them sing while he played cards, saying it helped him focus.
John Montagu retired from his duties in 1782 and moved to one of his family's homes located in Huntingdonshire. He died nearly ten years later, comfortably in his sleep.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: November 2016