Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Montagu, John (1688?-1749)
MONTAGU, JOHN, second Duke of Montagu (1688?–1749), courtier, born in 1688 or 1689, was eldest surviving son of Ralph, first duke of Montagu [q. v.], by his first wife, the Lady Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, and widow of Joceline Percy, eleventh earl of Northumberland. In 1709 he succeeded his father as second duke, and visited Marlborough's headquarters in Flanders (Marlborough Despatches, vol. iv.), but he does not appear to have then held any military rank. He officiated as high constable at the coronation of George I, who appointed him colonel of the 1st troop of horse guards and gold stick. On 23 Oct. 1717 he was admitted a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London, at his own request. He often attended the delivery of the Harveian orations, and not unfrequently the annual dinners. By letters patent of 22 June 1722 George I granted him the islands of St. Lucia and St. Vincent's in the West Indies, and appointed him governor and captain-general thereof. Montagu appointed a Captain Uring deputy-governor, and sent him out with seven ships containing settlers and their families. The British men-of-war on the station would not directly support the enterprise, and when the French landed a body of troops from Martinique to oppose him, Uring was compelled to conclude a treaty agreeing to quit St. Lucia within seven days. A similar attempt to obtain a footing in St. Vincent's was opposed by the inhabitants, and also ended in failure, Montagu is said to have lost 40,000/. over the undertaking.
The duke carried the sceptre and cross at the coronation of George II. In 1737 he was reappointed colonel of the 1st troop of horse guards, but was removed the same year. He was appointed master-general of the ordnance in 1740, was succeeded by John, duke of Argyll and Greenwich, the year after,, and on the death of the latter nobleman in October 1743 was reappointed, and held the office until his death. In 1745 he raised a regiment of horse, called 'Montagu's Carabineers,' and a regiment of 'ordnance foot,' both of which, after brief service in the south of England, were disbanded after Culloden. The duke, who was K.G. (1719), grand master of the order of the Bath (1725), master of the Great Wardrobe, colonel of the queen's regiment of horse (now 2nd dragoon guards or queen's bays), and F.R.S., died of a violent fever on 6 July 1749, when, in default of surviving male issue, the dukedom became extinct.
The duke appears to have been a man of some talent, but with much of the buffoon about him. He was the originator of the famous hoax at the Haymarket Theatre of a man squeezing himself into a quart bottle. Sarah, duchess of Marlborough, wrote of him to Lord Stair: 'All my son-in-law's talents lie in things natural to boys of fifteen, and he is about two and fifty. To get people into his gardens and wet them with squirts, to invite people to his country house and put things in their beds to make them itch, and twenty other such pretty fancies ' (Walpole, Letters, i. 339). As patron of the living of St. Andrew's, Holborn, he was a party to the proceedings taken by Dr. Henry Sacheverell, the rector, against persons who had built a chapel in the parish. A statement of the case was published. The duke's correspondence with Holles, duke of Newcastle, and some other letters are among the Additional MSS. in the British Museum. Some sprightly letters from the duke to Dr. Stukeley are printed in Nichols's 'Literary Illustrations,' ii. 786, &c. A portrait of Montagu by Kneller is in the possession of W. R. Barker, esq.; and two others, by T. Hudson and M. Dahl, have been engraved (Bromley).
The duke's country place, Boughton, Northamptonshire, now belonging to the Buccleuch family, was laid out by him as a miniature Versailles. After his death his town residence, Montagu House, Bloomsbury, on the present site of the British Museum, received and for many years held the national collections, which under the name of the British Museum were first opened to the public in 1759. The name Montagu survives in the topography of the district.
Montagu married the Lady Mary Churchill, youngest daughter of the great Duke of Marlborough, and had two sons and three daughters. The youngest of the daughters, Lady Mary Montagu, married in 1730 George Brudenell, fourth earl of Cardigan [see Montagu, George Brudenell, Duke of Montagu].
[Stukeley's Family Memoirs, i. 115; Burke's Extinct Peerage; Munk's Coll. of Phys. ii. 58; Walpole's Correspondence, ed. Cunningham, vols. i. ii. and iv.; Gent. Mag. 1749, pp. 223, 531; Relation of the Intended Settlement at St.Lucia and St. Vincent's, in America, in right of the Duke of Montagu, London, 1725.]