Portrait of the Earl of Manchester by Sir Peter Lely, circa 1661-1665
and his wife, the infamous and equally eccentric writer, traveller and orientalist, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (circa 1689–1762).
Portrait of a Lady thought to be Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
oil on Canvas
Montagu began his adventures in 1716, at just three, his mother took him on a hair-raising journey across Europe to join his father at the Ottoman Porte in Constantinople.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
attributed to Jean Baptiste Vanmour
oil on canvas, circa 1717
27 1/4 in. x 35 3/4 in. (693 mm x 909 mm)
Before starting for the East with her son, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, had met Alexander Pope, and during her absence he wrote her a series of extravagant letters, which appear to have been chiefly exercises in the art of writing gallant epistles. While Pope may have been fascinated by her wit and elegance, Lady Mary's replies to his letters reveal that she was not equally smitten. Lady Louisa Stuart says Pope had made Lady Mary a declaration of love, which she had received with an outburst of laughter.
William Powell Frith depicts the moment after Alexander Pope declared his ardent love to Lady Mary. She has burst into a fit of laugher. He sits in pain, his pride hurt. William Powell Frith, Pope makes love to Lady Mary Montagu, 1852.
Returning to England for his education, Edward was sent to Westminster School, but ran away frequently, one on occasion, at the age of thirteen, enrolling himself in a course of oriental languages and taking up with a mistress seven years his senior. On another occasion he made it to Portugal, and managed to elude capture for two years. Despairing of their son, his parents packed him off to the West Indies for three years with a tutor. In 1730, at the age of just seventeen, he inexplicably married ‘a woman of very low degree' said to be a washerwoman named Sally. The marriage did not last long and the affair was hushed up. He was again sent abroad by his parents, whilst his father took advice about disinheriting him.
A fine scholar and a brilliant linguist, Montagu spent three years travelling through Europe with his tutor, John Anderson. Prone to excessive indulgence in both women and drink, and leaving huge debts behind wherever he went, in the autumn of 1734, having come of age, he finally gave Anderson the slip and returned to England incognito. He then travelled in the Netherlands, and to Italy. In 1741 he enrolled at the University of Leiden to study oriental languages. Within three months, however, he had abandoned Leiden, having again run up significant debts, and was back in Italy living wildly and keeping low company.
In 1742 he returned to England and, following a short spell in debtors’ prison, with the impending War of Austrian Succession looming, he joined the army as a cornet in the 7th Hussars; later promoted a Captain. He fought at the Battles of Dettingen
John Wootton (1682–1764)
King George II at the Battle of Dettingen, with the Duke of Cumberland and Robert, 4th Earl of Holderness, 27 June 1743
oil on canvas
National Army Museum
Felix Philippoteaux (1815-1884)
Battle of Fontenoy during the Austrian Succession War between the British, Hanoverians, Austrian and Dutch and the French, 11th June 1745. 1873 (painted)
oil on canvas
Montagu made the acquaintance of a cousin, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich and Second Sea Lord, and through whose influence Montagu managed to secure a seat in Parliament, thus gaining him much sought after immunity from his creditors.
John Montagu, The Fourth Earl of Sandwich
Etienne Liotard (1702 - 1789)
Montagu resigned from the army in 1748 and returned to England to become secretary to his cousin, the Earl of Sandwich. Sandwich, who was by now First Lord of the Admiralty In London he lived fashionably, gambled heavily, was elected to the Royal Society, and regularly frequented the Divan Club; a society formed of young Englishmen who had travelled to the East and affected admiration for the Turks, headed by Sandwich and the notorious bon vivant Sir Francis Dashwood (1708–81).
Joseph Highmore (1692–1780)
John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, c. 1740
Sandwich's interest in the Middle East led him to found the Divan Club
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions 121.9 × 91.4 cm (48 × 36 in)
National Portrait Gallery
In July 1751 Montagu bigamously married his second wife, Elizabeth Ashe. However he left her within three months having fathered a son, also Edward Wortley Montagu, one of several illegitimate children that he fathered by different women, including another son, George, as well as a daughter, Mary.
Attributed to George Romney, R.A. (1734-1802l)
Portrait of Edward Wortley, Lord Montagu
oil on canvas, in a painted oval
22 x 20 in. (55.9 x 50.8 cm.)
In April 1763 he set sail for Alexandria and an extensive tour of the East. Adopting the alias 'The Chevalier de Montagu', he travelled through Armenia, Sinai and Jerusalem accompanied by Caroline Dormer Feroe, the beautiful, twenty-one year old wife of the Danish Consul in Alexandria. Montagu had persuaded Caroline to marry him having convinced her that her husband, away in Europe at the time, was dead. When she eventually discovered that she had been duped, Montagu, who had been received into the Roman Catholic faith at Jerusalem, simply declared that her marriage to a Protestant was void anyway. By then however, Caroline had rather gotten used to the idea of being 'La Contesse de Montagu', and instead of returning to her life as the wife of the rather dull Danish Consul she remained with Montagu for several years
George Romney - DALTON 1734 - 1802 KENDAL
PORTRAIT OF EDWARD WORTLEY MONTAGU (1713–1776)
oil on canvas
162.7 by 119 cm..; 64 by 46 3/4 in
The exact route of his travels is hard to follow, but he lived for some time at Rosetta, on the Nile Delta in Egypt, and travelled through Ottoman held Greece. In 1767 he visited Zante, Salonica and Constantinople; and for several years travelled extensively throughout Turkey, Palestine, Egypt, and possibly even as far afield as Ethiopia; sporadically returning to Italy, which he used as a base. By this time professing himself a Muslim, Montagu adopted Eastern dress and perpetrated the story that he was the illegitimate son of the Turkish Sultan, a claim that raised no complaint from the Sultan himself, and entitled him to wear the saffron turban and jewelled aigrette of a prince of the Ottoman Empire
Edward Wortley Montagu
by Matthew William Gainsborough
oil on canvas, 1775
45 3/4 in. x 33 7/8 in. (1162 mm x 862 mm)
In July 1773 he finally returned to Venice, where after years of adventuring in the Middle East he lived in grand Oriental style. His many visitors included such distinguished figures as the King’s brother, Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1743–1805), and Montagu considered himself ‘part of the polite education of any noble youth who comes to this place on the grand tour’.
HRH William Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester c.1775
Oil on canvas
231 x 139.5 cm
National Army Museum
Montagu died of choking on a fish-bone; he left a number of illegitimate children, some of whom were addressed in his will.
Edward Wortley Montagu, 1713-1776: The man in the iron wig
by Jonathan Curling
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