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Hinchinbrooke, Cromwell, the Long Parliament, and English Civil War, ~1620-~1670

In the mid-1600's, Montagu history gets quite entangled with Cromwell, the Long Parliament, and the English Civil War. To make some sense of this, I have found it helpful to quote at some length from the historian and biographer Hilaire Belloc. Belloc puts it like this in Cromwell, his character study of Oliver Cromwell (published in 1934):

`Who were the Montagus?

In the last days of an entirely Catholic England there had lived in Northamptonshire a certain Thomas; a gentleman, but on no great scale. He was the lord of only two manors. He was called indifferently Mountagu or Montagu, and claimed some connection with that great family of the Mons Acutus, feudal Earls of Salisbury of whom the ancestor was that Drogo the Norman who had come over with William the Conqueror. He founded the Montagus and had taken his reward in dues upon lands in Somerset. There, after centuries, many generations from the original invader, the house of Montacute still recalls his name. It is like enough (though not certain) that the claim to Drogo descent was justified; ... this Thomas Montagu with his two manors in Northamptonshire was of quite the smaller fry ... and died in the very year when the flood of the Reformation was first let loose... (1517). It was not he but his son, and his second son at that, who made the fortunes of the family.

This second son was called Edward, and since at first he had not the prospects of his elder brother he must make his way in the law. To that profession he owed some part of the great wealth that was coming to him, but much more did he owe it to the religious revolution by which he was to profit hugely - as were ... many more. His first piece of good fortune was the death of his elder brother without an heir, and Edward Montagu in the first few years after his father died, began to push his way into the King's service.

He snatched money at every chance that came his way; accumulating and adding to his original rents, serving on many commissions, and in particular doing the King's business in assessing the great fortune of Wolsey, when the King decided to sweep that wealth into his net. His were the pickings, therefore, and into his purse dropped those percentages and fees ... which went with work of this kind. Edward Montagu was already (by the time the great Cardinal died disgraced and ruined) a rich man - ... he could even entertain Henry himself, and Catherine, the imperiled Queen, with splendor.

But though he spent thus grandly for his master and benefactor the King, he never wasted money: and all was spent with a purpose. Four years later came the rising of the people against the first destruction of the monasteries, and it gave Edward Montagu another opportunity. He became Commissioner to the Commissariat for the army which suppressed the rebellion and butchered men up and down the north country. This post brought him every sort of profit. Then, immediatley after, in the general flood of loot, when the monastic lands began pouring into the coffers of the spoilers, he was among the first of them. ... he got hold of the Abbey lands right and left, and was already set up to do the King's work in this crisis as Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench.

He continued actively the work which earned him such enormous payments; he was principal agent in the killing of Catherine Howard in 1541. Right up to Henry's death he was still labouring in the good cause, for he was one of those commissioned by the dying King to bully a confession out of the Duke of Norfolk and procure his death.

It was as Lord Chief Justice (no longer of the King's Bench but of the Common Pleas) that he supported Dudley's plan for the usurpation of the throne by Dudley's son in the person of that son's child-wife, Lady Jane Grey; Edward Montagu did so with hesitation, terrified of the consequences - and might under Mary have lost that huge accumulation of gold which the Reformation had brought him. ... he lay in peril; but he and his vast fortune outlived the danger; he did not die until William Cecil had been in power and Elizabeth upon the throne seven years, and by that time the Montagus were thoroughly secure. He lived to see, five years before his death, his eldest-born grandson Edward - who should be heir to all this and in due time given the first peerage of the family - put into the House of Lords as a buttress of Cecil's new religious establishment, the Reformed Church of England.

This eldest grandson of the old millionaire had sundry brothers, of whom note two in particular: Henry, who was also born in his grandfather's lifetime, and Sidney.

... the great fortune built upon the ruins of the old religion could provide amply for its younger sons. Henry Montagu, taking to the law like his grandfather, rose rapidly, was Lord Chief Justice in his turn, distinguished himself by the condemnation of Raleigh, turned Lord High Treasurer, a post which he sought at a high price, but one which procured him a revenue many times that price. He bought Kimbolton Castle on the southern edge of Huntingdonshire, within an hour's ride of Hinchinbrooke, and because long ago Kimbolton had belonged to the great family of Mandeville he desired to adopt that name, so he entered the peerage under that title, "Kimbolton," and was later made Earl - Earl of Manchester, the first of that name. He served his King, Charles I, faithfully enough, as he had served his father James, though he was strongly on the Puritan side and of the stuff of which later the Rebellion was made; but when he came to die (in November, 1642) that Rebellion had only begun.

Brother Sidney, the youngest of the three, was a member of Parliament as all the members of the family had been as a matter of course, and member (also as a matter of course) for the Shire of Huntingdon. He also prospered in the law, adding by it to the large portion of the family estate which he had inherited; he was a Master of Requests at the moment when the too generous or too lavish Sir Oliver Cromwell had found himself compelled to turn Hinchinbrooke quickly into cash.

So here we have the three Montagus, grandsons of the old Reformation millionaire, contemporaries of Sir Oliver Cromwell, ...; and Sidney Montagu, descended from a line more avaricious and more determined to accumulate, had bought out the Williams-Cromwells from Hinchinbrooke.' (Belloc)

At this point, Belloc provides a diagram that contains the following information:

Belloc now turns to Cromwell's emotional relations and competition with the Montagus. Cromwell apparently maintained a deep hatred of the Montagu's his entire life:

`We must bear all these in mind, for Sir Oliver's nephew who was to be the Protector never forgot that first blow delivered in his youth, the loss of the ancestral home. He put all three brothers into one basket as despoilers of his family.

Of these rich men, one, Sir Sidney Montagu, the Master of the Requests, a lawyer in the traditions of his family, was now master of the roof and acres which Oliver had known and revered all his youth. Oliver himself was still the chief citizen in Huntingdon, ... but its solid basis in the place had gone. Henceforward there was feud between Oliver in his reserved, violent mind, and the Montagu blood. We shall see the earlier and later action of this: the earlier in Oliver's passionate attacks upon the Montagu's influence in the Fen Country, where the Cromwells used to be supreme; the later upon a larger scale in the hounding out of Manchester from the command of the Parliamentary army.

We see Cromwell, then, capable of a strong personal quarrel and a long retention of the animosity it had aroused. He became the permanent enemy of Manchester, because Manchester was a Montagu. And the greater joy he must have had when Manchester's nephew, the son of the very man who had purchased Hinchinbrooke, fell into a youthful hero-worship of himself, Cromwell, as a soldier. That indeed was a fine revenge for the loss of the great house!

... In his bitterness at the unsuccessful result of Newbury and under the impulse of the long-treasured Montagu quarrel he gave what was almost certainly false testimony: for he pretended that Manchester had not attacked at Shaw House until after darkness had set in, and is there at issue with every other contemporary witness. But when he said that Montagu was fighting slackly because he did not at heart wish to destroy the King, he was telling if not the truth, at any rate what he believed to be the truth. That is exactly what Cromwell did believe about Montagu.

Later when he was met by Montagu's vigorous reply and the publication of so many of his sayings which shook his position, then he backed out and said that he could not accuse Manchester of half-heartedness in attacking the King, but only of incompetence. Such a retraction was false; Oliver continued to think Montagu half-hearted, and when he said he did not, he lied for the sake of taking refuge from the storm which Montagu's accusations against him had aroused.' (Belloc)

Let us follow Belloc to the year 1630:

`Meanwhile the strain of seeing the Montagus displaying their increasing wealth under the roof which had covered him in childhood was more than Oliver could bear. He sold some part of his lands... He thus got rid as well as he could of the Huntingdon connection with its Montagu memories.' (Belloc)

And to the Long Parliament of 1640:

`... As for Huntingdon, it was now wholly in the pocket of the Montagus; two of that family came up side by side to that same Parliament, and what a bitterness for Oliver to find them there! As for the Shire, yet another Montagu was to speak for it in the same Assembly, and with him was Oliver's own brother-in-law, Walton.


Therefore from the moment Cromwell enters the Long Parliament ..., 1640, you find him a marked sort indeed and ... not consonant to the air of an assembly, ... Indeed, one of the first things we get from him now is a piece of violence in committee. It was provoked by his now ancient and deep-rooted quarrel with the name of Montagu. The family of Montagu had had assigned to them in the person of Manchester, their head, certain lands granted out of the Queen's property in the Fens. They proceeded to enclose, and therefore to get to loggerheads with the small free-holders. Cromwell in the committee appointed (With Hyde in the Chair) to inquire into the affair, launched out against Manchester as though he were engaged in a personal fight. His conduct was shocking to a man of Hyde's legal descent and ... sense of decorum; assemblies could not carry on if shouting and brawling of this kind were allowed.' (Belloc)

Cromwell, Hilaire Belloc.

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