Montaigne, George (DNB00)
|←Montague, Henry James||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38
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MONTAIGNE or MOUNTAIN, GEORGE (1569–1628), archbishop of York, was born in 1569 at Cawood, Yorkshire, of humble parents. The statement that he belonged to the Montaignes of Weston is incorrect. According to local tradition he was the son of a small farmer at Cawood, the site of whose homestead was long pointed out (Erskine Neale, Chancellor's Chaplain, p. 80), and determined in his youth to become archbishop of York and to occupy the palace at Cawood. Another less trustworthy story (Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xii. 38) says his mother was a beggar-woman in the neighbourhood of Lincoln, and that, fearing punishment for some fault, he ran away from her and entered the household of a Lincoln gentleman, who educated him with his son. When bishop of Lincoln he is said to have discovered his mother in a beggar who opened a gate for him, and to have handsomely provided for her. He entered Queens' College, Cambridge, as a sizar 24 Oct. 1586, and matriculated 10 Dec. (his name is written 'Moonta' in the register). He graduated B.A. 1589-90, M.A. 1593, and was admitted fellow of his college 8 July 1592 (elected in 1591). In January 1594-5 he was ordained by Howland, bishop of Peterborough, and graduated B.A. Becoming chaplain to Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, he attended the earl, according to Fuller, on the expedition to Cadiz in 1596, and showed 'such personall valour that out of his gown he would turn his back to no man' (Fuller, Worthies, 'Yorkshire,' p. 199). After Essex's disgrace he returned to Cambridge, and was appointed proctor in 1600. On 27 May 1602 he became rector of Great Cressingham, Norfolk, and obtained a dispensation to enjoy his fellowship for seven years, with any living within thirty miles of Cambridge (Cal. State Papers, James I, 1603-10, p. 142). On 4 March 1607 he was appointed professor of divinity at Gresham College, London, and proceeded D.D. at Cambridge in the same year. For some time he acted as chaplain to Sir Robert Cecil, afterwards earl of Salisbury, and probably thus first came under the notice of James I, His conversational facility and ready wit pleased the king, and promotion followed rapidly. On 22 Oct. 1608 the king granted him the mastership of the Savoy for life made him one of his chaplains, and presented him in 1609 to the living of Cheam, Surrey. On 28 Nov. 1610 he was appointed dean of Westminster. But Montaigne's chief desire to become provost of his own college (Queens') was not realised. He had given a piece of plate, afterwards called 'poculum caritatis,' to the college, with the inscription 'incipio,' which, on his failure to obtain the vacant provostship in 1614, he wished to change into 'sic desino.' He founded, however, two scholarships at the college. On 22 June 1614 he was made one of the first governors of the new Charterhouse hospital. During his residence at Westminster two royal persons, Prince Henry [q. v.] and Arabella Stuart [q. v.], were buried in the abbey, and Mary Queen of Scots' coffin brought thither from Peterborough (1612). On 18 Oct. 1615 Robert Carr, earl of Somerset [q. v.], for complicity in the Overbury murder, was committed to the dean's custody till 2 Nov., when he was sent to the Tower. From Westminster Montaigne was promoted in October 1617 to the bishopric of Lincoln, to which see he was consecrated 14 Dec. in Lambeth Chapel. His friend, Marco Antonio de Dominis [q. v.], archbishop of Spalatro, assisted in the ceremony, but five years, later Montaigne took part in sentencing the archbishop to banishment from the realm for holding intercourse with the pope (Cal. State Papers, James I, 1619-23, pp. 366, 370). In June 1619 Montaigne succeeded the Bishop of Winchester as lord high almoner, and in October entertained the king at his episcopal palace of Buckden, Huntingdonshire. In March 1621 he and Bishop Andrewes of Winchester, in the name of the other prelates, presented a grant of subsidies passed by the clergy of the province of Canterbury to the king at Hampton Court. In June Montaigne was promoted to the bishopric of London and enthroned on 10 Sept. His first official act was the consecration of Williams, dean of Westminster, to the bishopric of Lincoln, in Westminster Abbey, 11 Nov. 1621. Montaigne belonged to the high church party, and sided with Laud in successfully contesting the right of Archbishop George Abbot [q. v.], who had accidentally shot a gamekeeper, to perform the ceremony. He soon proved himself an ardent ally of Laud; preached the doctrine of passive obedience from the pulpit, and was commended by the king for per- mitting the erection and adoration of images in churches, and for suppressing popular lay lecturers. When Abbot refused to license sermons by Sibthorp and Roger Manwaring for the press, Montaigne asserted that they were 'fit to be printed' (Laud, Works, vii 7), and gave his license for their publication. But he afterwards declared from his place in the House of Lords that he had not read the sermons himself, and had licensed them only on the express command of the king (Forster, Eliot, ii. 308),
In 1623 he consecrated the new chapel at Lincoln's Inn, where an inscription recording the fact was placed beneath the arms of the see. Montaigne's ambition was still unsatisfied, and he 'would often pleasantly say that of him the proverb would be verified, "Lincoln was, and London is, and York shall be."' It was therefore a bitter blow when, late in 1627, Charles appointed him bishop of Durham, to make room for Laud in the London see. Charles, less attached to Montaigne than his father, looked upon him as 'a man unactive,' and 'one that loved his own ease too well to disturb himself in the concernments of the church' (Heylyn, Cyp. Angl. p. 174). This opinion seemed justified by the earnestness with which the bishop now protested that Durham was 'the worst kind of banishment, next neighbour to a civil death.' By his perseverance he obtained permission to remain 'in the warm air of the court,' only removing from London House in the city to Durham House in the Strand. He was elected to Durham 15 Feb. 1627-8, but in April the see of York was vacated by the death of Tobie Matthew [q. v.] Montaigne strained every nerve to obtain this prize, and, according to a well-known anecdote, when Charles was discussing the question of the vacant see in his presence, he remarked : '"Hadst thou faith as a grain of mustard seed, thou wouldst say unto this mountain (at the same time laying his hand upon his breast), be removed into that sea."' The king laughed, and at once wrote to the dean and chapter of York (4 June 1628) to elect the witty prelate to the archbishopric.
The election took place on 1 July, but the primate was 'scarce warm in his church yet cold in his coffin' (Fuller), for he died in London, aged 59, on 24 Oct., the very day he was enthroned by commission at York. He was buried by his own desire in Cawood Church, where his brother Isaac put up a monument to him (now much dilapidated), with a Latin inscription and verses by Hugh Holland [q. v.] the poet. His benevolence left him poor. He bequeathed the bulk of his property to his brother, and 100l. to the poor at Cawood, besides rings to four little girls, whom he was wont pleasantly to call his wives. John Ward, author of ' Gresham Professors,' declares that he knew a Lincolnshire clergyman, one Farmery, who called himself great-grandson to the archbishop, his great-grandfather having, he said, married Montaigne's daughter, but there is no mention of either wife or daughter in the archbishop's will, dated 12 Feb. 1627.
Besides his benefactions to Queens' College, Cambridge, Montaigne, while bishop of London, zealously promoted the building of St. Paul's, preaching on the subject at St. Paul's Cross, and giving a large sum of money towards the purchase of Portland stone.
[Authorities quoted in text; Le Neve's Lives of the Protestant Bishops, i. 117; Syllabus of Rymer's Foedera, ii. 840; Heylyn's Life of Laud, p. 166; Yonge's Diary, pp. 44, 50, 109; Newcourt's Repertorium, i. 29, 30, 719; Neale and Brayley's History of Westminster Abbey, i. 129-31; Calendars of State Papers, Dom. James I, 1610-30; Notes and Queries, 7th ser. xi. 487.]