Christopher Montagu, MP (c.1655 - 1735)

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About Christopher Montagu, MP

Family and Education b. c.1655, 3rd s. of Hon. George Montagu† of Horton, Northants.; bro. of Charles*, Irby* and James Montagu I*. educ. M. Temple 1682. m. lic. 15 Jan. 1694, his cos. Lady Anne (d. 1730), da. of Edward Montagu†, 1st Earl of Sandwich, wid. of Sir Richard Edgcumbe† of Mount Edgcumbe, Cornw., s.p.1

Offices Held

Lt. Salcey forest, Northants. 1691–3.2

Commr. stamp duty May 1694–8; million lottery 1694, malt lottery 1697; excise Aug. 1698–1700, May 1706–d.; duty on candles 1710; duties on soap and paper 1712; auditor of Exchequer Sept. 1698–Nov. 1699.3

Biography In 1688 Montagu took up arms in Northamptonshire with his brother Charles in support of the Prince of Orange, joining the Earl of Manchester’s party. He first evinced an interest in standing for Northampton in a by-election in March 1694. Unable to muster sufficient interest on that occasion, he was able to mobilize the family interest to secure his return at the 1695 election. In the Commons he was forecast as likely to support the government on the division on the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696, and signed the Association, but he appears to have been absent from the division on fixing the price of guineas at 22s. and on Sir John Fenwick’s† attainder later that year. Most Journal references do not distinguish between the many Montagus in the House, but on 22 Jan. 1697 Christopher Montagu was specifically named to draft a bill to restore to sheriffs the right to make return of juries.4

Even before Montagu was re-elected in 1698, rumours began to circulate that he would be included in a new excise commission. He was duly appointed in August and consequently appeared on lists of placemen for 1698. He was also classed as a placeman and a Court supporter in a comparison of the old and new Parliaments compiled in around September 1698. Charles Montagu’s desire to provide a lucrative retreat for himself should the Whig ministry disintegrate prompted him to persuade the Treasury Board to appoint his elder brother Christopher to the auditorship of the Exchequer. Although the office was technically in the gift of the Treasury, the move was controversial as the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†) had secured the reversion for his son. There were also rumours that Charles himself was drawing the emoluments of the auditorship while Christopher held the post. Christopher Montagu continued to support the ministry, voting against the third reading of the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. However, Leeds and other Tories included him as one of their targets in a campaign to enforce the 1695 Act whereby Members concerned in the collection of taxes were ineligible to sit in the Commons. Speaking in his own defence on 13 Feb. 1699, Montagu pleaded that he had not acted as a stamp commissioner since qualifying himself to sit as a Member on 29 Nov. 1698. Although a committee was appointed to consider his qualification to sit, the matter was quietly allowed to rest, Robert Price* commenting ‘we let him go in order to catch the rest’. In November 1699 he relinquished his Exchequer office to his brother. Early in 1700 he was classed as a Junto supporter in an analysis of the Commons into ‘interests’. In June 1700 he resigned his place at the excise, in the words of a Whig newspaper,

there being a clause in the late Act of Parliament for laying 2s. in the pound upon land, which makes any Member of the House of Commons incapable of being a commissioner of excise, unless he quits the same . . . choosing rather to serve his Majesty and the public in the great senate of the nation.5 Though a Member of both 1701 Parliaments, Montagu took no very active part in them. The controversy over the auditorship of the Exchequer refused to die, the matter being included in the articles of impeachment drawn up against his brother (now Lord Halifax). He was defeated at the 1702 general election and again in a by-election in November 1704. Thereafter, he seems content to have supported his nephew George* who won back Northampton in 1705. In 1706, as the Whigs gradually increased their power over the ministry, Montagu recovered his office in the excise, worth £800 p.a. When Lord Halifax went to Hanover on a diplomatic mission, Montagu officiated at the Exchequer in his absence. He was omitted from the Northamptonshire bench in 1710, but this may reflect not so much his being the victim of a Tory purge as his own weakening ties with his native shire. Indeed, he retained his post at the excise for the rest of his life. Montagu died on 27 Sept. 1735, aged 80. In his will of 1733 he cited his abode as Rowell (Roel), Gloucestershire, which he left to George Montagu†, the eldest son of his nephew, Colonel (later brigadier-general) Edward Montagu†. George Montagu’s four brothers benefited from equal shares of his £8,000 in South Sea stock and other relatives from the £5,000 in South Sea annuities he possessed at his death.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715 Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley Notes 1. Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxi), 280; Bridges, Northants. i. 368; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 140. 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1267; x. 79. 3. Ibid. x. 552–3, 618; xii. 126; xiii. 393, 431; xxvi. 288; xx. 655. 4. Add. 29563, f. 342; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 116. 5. Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 1584, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 14 July 1698; Centre Kentish Stud. Stanhope mss U1590/O59/7, Robert Yard* to Alexander Stanhope, 26 July 1698; Luttrell, iv. 423, 483; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 166, 177; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 396; Post Boy, 13–15 June 1700. 6. Chandler, iii. 168; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 34; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 207; Bridges, 368; PCC 210 Ducie.

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