Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Montagu, James (1666-1723)

594871Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 38 — Montagu, James (1666-1723)1894Lucy Maude Manson Scott

MONTAGU, Sir JAMES (1666–1723), judge, sixth son of George Montagu of Horton in Northamptonshire, by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Anthony Irby, was born on 2 Feb. 1665–6. His father was son of Sir Henry Montagu, first earl of Manchester [q. v.], by his third wife, and his brother was Charles Montagu, earl of Halifax [q. v.] James was entered at the Middle Temple, and called to the bar. In 1695 Montagu became member of parliament for Tregony, and for Beeralston in 1698, when he was also made chief justice of Ely. In 1704 he successfully defended John Tutchin [q. v.], indicted for a libel published in his periodical, ‘The Observator,’ and two years later he was leading counsel in the prosecution of Beau Feilding for bigamy in marrying the Duchess of Cleveland [see Feilding, Robert]. In 1705 he was committed by the House of Commons to the custody of the serjeant-at-arms for having in 1704 demanded a habeas corpus on behalf of the Aylesbury men, whom the house had committed to Newgate for bringing actions against the returning officer; Montagu pleaded strongly against the privilege claimed by the commons. He remained in custody from 26 Feb. to 14 March, when parliament was prorogued and afterwards dissolved. In April 1705 he was knighted at Cambridge, and made one of her majesty's counsel in November of the same year.

In the second parliament of Queen Anne Montagu was returned for Carlisle; he became solicitor-general in 1707, and was attorney-general from 1708 to 1710, when the queen granted him a pension of 1,000l. This pension was made the subject of a motion brought before the house in 1711, in which Colonel Gledhill represented it as intended to defray the expenses of Montagu's election at Carlisle; the charge was, however, disproved. As attorney-general Montagu opened the case in the House of Lords against Dr. Sacheverell. He received the degree of the coif on 26 Oct. 1714, was made baron of the exchequer on 22 Nov. 1714, and was lord commissioner of the great seal (on the resignation of Lord Cowper) from 18 April to 12 May 1718, when Lord Parker became lord chancellor. Montagu succeeded Sir Thomas Bury as chief baron of the exchequer in May 1722. He died on 1 Oct. 1723.

He married in 1694 Tufton Wray, daughter of Sir William Wray of Ashby, bart.; she died in 1712, and he married as his second wife his cousin Elizabeth, daughter of Robert, third earl of Manchester, by whom he had a son Charles, afterwards M.P. for St. Albans.

[Foss's Judges of England; parish register of Horton.]

L. M. M. S.