Sir William Montagu, Knight, 1st Earl of Salisbury

Sir William Montagu, Knight, 1st Earl of Salisbury

Male 1301 - 1344  (43 years)

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  • Name William Montagu 
    Title Sir 
    Suffix Knight, 1st Earl of Salisbury 
    Born 1301  Cassington, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Gender Male 
    Also Known As Baron Montacute  [3
    Also Known As King of Mann  [2
    Also Known As Salisbury  [2
    Also Known As William Montacute  [2
    Died 30 Jan 1344  Windsor, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    • Injuries from a tournament...
    Buried Bisham Abbey, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    • The History of Bisham Abbey
      Bisham Abbey is a spectacular manor house located in the town of Bisham, Buckinghamshire, England. Today it is home to one of the National Sports Centres managed on behalf of Sport England; but this has not always been the case, below is a short history of the Abbey and its residents, some of whom are rumoured to still live there to this day.

      The Manor House
      Bisham Abbey is a Grade I listed manor house in Bisham. The name is taken from the monastery which once stood alongside the manor house. The Abbey church previously known as Bisham Priory was the traditional resting place over the years of many of the Earls of Salisbury who inhabited the manor house.

      The manor house was built around 1260 for the Knights Templar; a very powerful order of knights in the Middle Ages. The Templar knights could be recognized by their white mantles with a red cross and were famed for fighting in the Crusades in the Holy Land. When the Templars were suppressed in 1307, King Edward II took over the manorial rights of the Abbey and granted them to various relatives.

      Famous Residents
      In 1310 the building was used as a place of confinement for Queen Elizabeth of Scots, her husband Robert the Bruce, her stepdaughter Princess Marjorie and her sister in law, Lady Christine Carrick; following their capture on the Isle of Rathlin during the wars of the Scottish succession.

      In 1335 the manor was bought by William Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury. In 1337 he founded Bisham Priory and was later buried there.

      In 1540 Henry VIII left the manor house to his fourth wife of only 6 months, Anne of Cleves as part of her divorce settlement which also included Richmond Palace and Hever Castle. Anne later swapped the house with Sir Philip Hoby for Westhorpe in Suffolk and the Hoby family went on to live there until 1768 being regularly visited by Elizabeth I.

    Person ID I43561  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 11 Sep 2019 

    Family Catherine Grandison, Countess of Salisbury,   b. ~1304, Ashford, Hertfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Nov 1349, Bisham Abbey, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 45 years) 
    Married ~1320  [1, 2, 4
     1. John Montacute, 1st Baron Montacute,   b. ~1330, Donyatt, Somersetshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Feb 1389, Salesburg, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 58 years)
     2. Sybil Montacute,   b. ~1330, Donyatt, Somersetshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Jan 1381, Somerset, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 50 years)
     3. Philippa Montagu,   b. ~1332, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Jan 1392, Bisham, Berkshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 59 years)
    Last Modified 11 Feb 2020 
    Family ID F15820  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1301 - Cassington, Oxfordshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 30 Jan 1344 - Windsor, Berkshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Bisham Abbey, Berkshire, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    Sir William Montagu, alias de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 3rd Baron Montagu, King of Mann (1301 - 30 January 1344)
    Sir William Montagu, alias de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 3rd Baron Montagu, King of Mann (1301 - 30 January 1344)
    Coat of Arms

  • Notes 
    • William Montagu, alias de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 3rd Baron Montagu, King of Mann (1301 – 30 January 1344) was an English nobleman and loyal servant of King Edward III.

      The son of William Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu, he entered the royal household at an early age and became a close companion of the young Prince Edward. The relationship continued after Edward was crowned king following the deposition of Edward II in 1327. In 1330, Montagu was one of Edward's main accomplices in the coup against Roger Mortimer, who up until then had been acting as the king's protector.

      In the following years Montagu served the king in various capacities, primarily in the Scottish Wars. He was richly rewarded, and among other things received the lordship of the Isle of Man. In 1337, he was created Earl of Salisbury, and given an annual income of 1000 marks to go with the title. He served on the Continent in the early years of the Hundred Years' War, but in 1340 he was captured by the French, and in return for his freedom had to promise never to fight in France again. Salisbury died of wounds suffered at a tournament early in 1344.

      Legend has it that Montagu's wife Catherine was raped by Edward III, but this story is almost certainly French propaganda. William and Catherine had six children, most of whom married into the nobility. Modern historians have called William Montague Edward's "most intimate personal friend"[3] and "the chief influence behind the throne from Mortimer's downfall in 1330 until his own death in 1344."[4]

      Family background

      William Montagu, born at Cassington, Oxfordshire in 1301, was the second but eldest surviving son of William Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu, and Elizabeth de Montfort, daughter of Sir Peter Montfort of Beaudesert, Warwickshire.[5] by Matilda/Maud de la Mare daughter and heiress of Henry de la Mare of Ashtead, Surrey, Royal Justice, Seneschal of William Longspree II Earl of Salisbury.[6] The Montagu family, a West Country family with roots going back to the Conquest, held extensive lands in Somerset, Dorset and Devon.[7] The father, William Montagu, distinguished himself in the Scottish Wars during the reign of Edward I, and served as steward of Edward II's household. Some members of the nobility, including Thomas of Lancaster, viewed Montagu with suspicion, as a member of a court party with undue influence on the king.[8] For this reason he was sent to Aquitaine, to serve as seneschal. Here he died on 18 October 1319.[8] Even though he sat in parliament as a baron, the second lord Montagu never rose above a level of purely regional importance.[9]

      Early service

      The younger William was still a minor at the time of his father's death, and entered the royal household as a ward of the king in 1320.[10] On 21 February 1323 he was granted his father's lands and title.[5] His service to Edward II took him abroad to the Continent in both 1320 and 1325.[5] In 1326 he was knighted.[9] After the deposition of Edward II in 1327, Montagu continued in the service of Edward's son Edward III. He helped the new king in repelling the Scottish invasion of 1327, and was created knight banneret in 1328.[5]

      Montagu enjoyed a close relationship with Edward III, and accompanied him abroad on a diplomatic mission in 1329. That same year he was sent on an embassy to negotiate a marriage alliance with King Philip VI of France.[5] His most important task, however, came in connection with a mission to the Papacy in Avignon. The young king—along with his government—was under the dominance of his mother Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, who had been responsible for the deposition of the king's father.[11] Montagu explained the king's situation, and Pope John XXII asked for a special signal that assure him that he was dealing with the king in person. After Montagu's return, Richard Bury, Keeper of the Privy Seal, wrote to inform the pope that only letters containing the words pater sancte (holy father), in Edward's own handwriting, were indeed from the king. Only Edward, Bury and Montagu were party to the scheme.[12]

      Coup against Mortimer

      When Mortimer discovered the conspiracy against him, Montagu was brought in for interrogation – along with the king – but gave nothing away.[10] Afterward he supposedly advised Edward to move against his protector, because "It was better that they should eat the dog than that the dog should eat them".[5] On 19 October 1330, while Mortimer and Isabella were entrenched in Nottingham Castle, the constable of the castle showed Montagu a secret entrance through an underground tunnel.[13] Along with Edward de Bohun, Robert Ufford, and John Neville and others, he entered the castle, where he met up with the king.[5] A short brawl followed before Mortimer was captured. The queen stormed into the chamber shouting "Good son, have pity on noble Mortimer".[14] Edward did not obey his mother's wishes, and a few weeks later Mortimer was executed for treason in London.[15] As a reward for his part in the coup, Montagu was given lands worth ¹1000, including the Welsh lordship of Denbigh that had belonged to Mortimer.[16] His family also benefited; his brother Simon Montacute became Bishop of Worcester and later of Ely.[17] Another brother, Edward Montagu, 1st Baron Montagu, married Alice of Norfolk, a co-heir of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk.[18]

      Service under Edward III

      Edward III founded the Order of the Garter in 1348, and included Salisbury's son among the founding members.
      In the years to come, Montagu acted as Edward's closest companion.[3] In April 1331, the two went on a secret expedition to France, disguised as merchants so they would not be recognised. In September of the same year, Montagu held a tournament at Cheapside, where he and the king were costumed as Tartars.[5] From 1333 onwards, Montagu was deeply engaged in the Scottish Wars, and distinguished himself at the Siege of Berwick and the Battle of Halidon Hill. It was after this event that his lordship over the Isle of Man was recognised, a right he held from his grandfather.[5] The lordship was at the moment of a purely theoretical nature, however, since the island was still under Scottish control.

      In February 1334 Montagu was sent on a commission to Edinburgh, to demand Edward Balliol's homage to Edward. In the great summer campaign of 1335, it was Montagu who provided the largest English contingent, with 180 men-at-arms and 136 archers.[5] He was well rewarded for his contributions: after the Scots had been forced to cede the Lowlands, Montagu was granted the county of Peeblesshire. He was also allowed to buy the wardship of Roger Mortimer's son Roger for 1000 marks, a deal that turned out to be very lucrative for Montagu.[19] At this point, however, the fortunes were turning for the English in Scotland. Montagu campaigned in the north again in 1337, but the siege of Dunbar met with failure.[20] Following the abortive attempt in Scotland, Edward III turned his attention to the continent.

      The Hundred Years' War

      Montagu was created Earl of Salisbury on 16 March 1337. This was one of six comital promotions Edward III made that day, in preparation for what was to become the Hundred Years' War.[21] To allow Montagu to support his new status, the king granted him land and rent of a value of 1000 marks a year. The money was provided from the royal stannaries of Cornwall.[22] A contemporary poem tells of a vow made by the earl on the eve of the wars – he would not open one of his eyes while fighting in France. The story is probably a satire; the truth was that Montagu had already lost the use of one of his eyes in a tournament.[23]

      In April 1337, Montagu was appointed to a diplomatic commission to Valenciennes, to establish alliances with Flanders and the German princes.[24] In July 1338, he accompanied the king on another mission to the continent, again providing the greatest number of soldiers, with 123 men-at-arms and 50 archers.[5] In September of that year he was made Marshal of England. After the death of Thomas of Brotherton, Earl of Norfolk, this office had come into the hands of Norfolk's daughter Margaret. The king did not trust the office with her husband, so he decided instead to bestow it on his trusted companion, Montagu.[25] Edward's policy of building alliances put him in great debt, and when he left the Low Countries to return to England late in 1338, Salisbury had to stay behind as surety to the king's debtors, along with the king's family and the Earl of Derby.[26] The earl had earlier voiced concerns about the costly alliances, but he nevertheless remained loyal to the king's strategy.[27]

      While Edward was away, Salisbury was captured by the French at Lille in April 1340, and imprisoned in Paris.[5] Reportedly, King Philip VI of France wanted to execute Salisbury and Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, who was captured with him. Philip was, however, dissuaded by John of Bohemia, who argued that the earls could come in handy in an exchange, should any French noblemen be captured.[28] Though released on parole in September, it was not until May 1342 that he reached a final settlement with the French. Salisbury was freed in a prisoner exchange, but only on the condition that he never fight in France again.[5]

      Final years

      Salisbury's residence of Bisham Manor in Berkshire.
      Salisbury had long been frustrated by the failure of the government in England to provide sufficient funds for the war effort.[29] On his return, however, he played little part in the conflict of 1341 between King Edward and Chancellor John Stratford. In May that year he was appointed to a committee to hear the king's charges against Stratford, but little came from this.[30] In 1342–43 he fought with Robert of Artois in the Breton War of Succession, and in 1343 helped negotiate the Truce of Malestroit.[5] It was probably sometime after this he made good his claim on the Isle of Man, by conquering the island which was until then held by the Scots.[5]

      His final international commission took place late in 1343, when he accompanied Henry of Grosmont, Earl of Derby, on a diplomatic mission to Castile.[5] Early in 1344 he was back in England, where he took part in a great tournament at Windsor. It was during this tournament, according to the chronicler Adam Murimuth, that he received wounds that would prove fatal.[5] Salisbury died on 30 January 1344. He was buried at Bisham Priory in Berkshire, adjoining his home, Bisham Manor. He had founded the priory himself in 1337, on his elevation to the earldom.[31] King Edward's financial obligations were never paid in full during the earl's lifetime, and at Salisbury' death the king owed him ¹11,720. Of this, some ¹6374 were written off by his executors in 1346.


      In or before 1327 Salisbury married Catherine, daughter of William de Grandison, 1st Baron Grandison. Two anecdotal stories revolve around Catherine Montagu; in one she is identified as the "Countess of Salisbury" from whose dropped garter Edward III named the Order of the Garter.[5] In the other, Edward III falls in love with the countess, and arranges to be alone with her so he can rape her. Neither story is supported by contemporary evidence, and the latter almost certainly is a product of French propaganda.[32]

      William and Catherine had six children, most of whom made highly fortunate matches with other members of the nobility.[18] The first Earl of Salisbury made enormous additions to the family fortune; at the time of his father's death, the lands had been valued at just over ¹300. In 1344, only the annual income of the lands has been estimated to more than ¹2,300,[18] equivalent to about ¹1.82 million in present day terms.[33] Edward was also free with granting franchises to Salisbury, including the return of writs, which gave the earl authority in his lands normally held by the royally appointed sheriff.[34] Salisbury's oldest son William succeeded his father in July 1349, while still a minor, as William Montagu, 2nd Earl of Salisbury.[35] The younger William was one of the founding members of the Order of the Garter, but he never enjoyed the same favour with the king as his father had.[9]

      The children of William and Catherine were as follows:[36]

      Name Birth Death Notes
      Elizabeth Montagu — 1359 Married Hugh le Despencer, 2nd Baron le Despencer before 27 April 1341
      Married Guy de Brian, 4th Baron Brian, after 1349

      William Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury 1328 1397 Succeeded his father 11 June 1349[37]
      John de Montacute, 1st Baron Montacute 1330 1390 Father of John Montacute, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
      Philippa Montagu 1332 1381 Married Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March
      Sibyl Montagu — — Married Edmund FitzAlan, the disinherited son of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel
      Agnes Montagu — — Was contracted to marry John, eldest son of Roger Grey, 1st Baron Grey de Ruthyn
      Alice Montagu — — Married Ralph Daubeney, son of Helias Daubeney, 1st Baron Daubeney

      * [2]
    • more...

      William Montacute
      Born: 1301 at Cassington, Oxfordshire
      Baron Montacute
      Earl of Salisbury
      Died: 30th January 1344 at Windsor, Berkshire

      William was born in 1301, the eldest son of William Montacute, 2nd Baron Montacute (d. 1319) and his wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Piers de Montfort of Beaudesert in Warwickshire. William Junior succeeded his father as 3rd Baron on 6th November 1319, being granted wardship of his own lands, though yet a minor. In 1322, he came of age and received livery of his lands, together with a grant of Lundy Isle off the Devon coast. In 1325, he was knighted and received letters of protection on his departure for France. In 1327, he went with Edward III to repel the Scottish invasion, when the latter nearly missed capture. In 1329, he accompanied the King abroad and was sent, in June, to treat for a marriage between the eldest son of the King of France and Edward's sister, Eleanor. In September, he was despatched, with Bartholomew de Burghersh (d. 1355), on an embassy to the Pope at Avignon, returning before the end of the year, when, in his capacity as executor of Blanche, Queen of Navarre, he lent the King two thousand marks that had belonged to her, and were deposited at Whitefriars.

      Next year, the young king took him into his confidence about his plans for the arrest of Mortimer. During the parliament held at Nottingham in October 1330, Montacute, with a band of retainers, including Sir John de Molines, penetrated by a secret passage into the castle, where they found Mortimer in the Queen-Mother's apartments. After a struggle, in which two of Mortimer's attendants were killed, his arrest was effected and he was sent to London for trial. Edward obtained, from Parliament, indemnity on Montacute's behalf for all consequences of the death of Mortimer's attendants, and rewarded him with various grants of land forfeited by Mortimer in Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent and Wales, including Sherborne, Corfe Castle and Purbeck Chase in Dorset, and the lordship of Denbigh in North Wales. On 4th April 1331, Montacute accompanied Edward III when, disguised as a merchant and attended by only a handful of men-at-arms, the King paid a secret visit to France. He was also present when Edward repeated his homage to the French King at Amiens on 13th April, and returned with him to Dover on 20th April. In September, Montacute held a great tournament in Cheapside, entertaining his guests in the Bishop of London's palace.

      Next year, he attended the King in Scotland and, in 1333, was present at the Siege of Berwick and the Battle of Halidon Hill. In the same year, Edward made over to him all his rights to the Isle of Man. He appears to have accompanied Balliol to Scotland and, in February 1334, was deputed by him to excuse his absence from the parliament held at York. On 30th March, Montacute was appointed envoy to France, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and two others; but, in June, was again in Scotland, where, in 1335, he was left in command of the army, with Arundel. In the same year, he was granted the forests of Selkirk and Ettrick and the town of Peebles, made Governor of the Channel Islands and Constable of the Tower of London, as well as acquiring Bisham Manor which, being so close to the King at Windsor, he made his principal family seat. In November, he was given power to treat with Andrew Murray, Constable of Scotland. On 27th January 1336, he commenced the Siege of Dunbar Castle, but, after nineteen weeks, the blockade was raised by Alexander Ramsay and Montacute gave it up in despair, making a truce that was strongly disapproved of in England. In the same year, he was appointed Admiral of the Fleet from the mouth of the Thames westward.

      On 16 March 1337, at the parliament held in London, Montacute was created Earl of Salisbury. In the following April, he was sent to King Philip VI to declare Edward's claim to the French Crown, and thence on an embassy to the Emperor Louis, Rupert, Count Palatine, the Duke of Bavaria and other princes of Germany and the Netherlands, to organise a league against France. In October, he was commissioned to treat with Scotland, but, in July 1338, commanded a successful raid into Scotland from Carlisle. Later on in the year, he sailed, with Edward, from the Orwell to Flanders, and by a patent, dated Antwerp 20th September 1338, was appointed Marshal of England, an office then vacant by the death of Thomas, Earl of Norfolk. He remained in Flanders, where he was one of the captains of the English forces, for the next two years, during part of which he was in garrison at Ypres. In November 1338, he was one of those appointed to treat with Philip of Valois at the desire of the Pope. Shortly after, he made an inroad into the territories of the Bishop of Liege and, in February 1339, negotiated an agreement with the Archbishop of Treves and the Duke of Brabant, and was subsequently employed in various other negotiations. In 1340, induced, perhaps, by treachery within the walls, Salisbury and Suffolk, with a small force, made an attempt on Lille. The attack failed and both were taken prisoners and conveyed to Paris, when Salisbury, it is said, owed his life to the intervention of the King of Bohemia. On 18th October, Edward demanded a levy of wools to secure his liberation. He was set free - on condition of never serving against King Philip in France - at the peace negotiated after the Siege of Tournay, in exchange for the Earl of Moray, who had been captured in the Scottish Wars.

      Salisbury returned to England in November and took part in Edward's arrest of the treasury officials and others. In May 1341, he was commissioned to investigate the charges against Stratford. Perhaps it was at this time that he conquered the Isle of Man from the Scots and was crowned King there; but the event has also been assigned to 1340 and 1342. In May 1343, Salisbury embarked, with Robert d'Artois, for Brittany, captured Vannes and proceeded to besiege Rennes. After the death of Artois and some months of ineffectual fighting, a truce was signed and, in August, Salisbury was sent on an embassy to the court of Castile. There, he took part in the Siege of Algeciras, which King Alfonso XI was then prosecuting against the Moors. He was soon recalled to England, however, and sent north against the Scots. He died on 30th January 1344 from bruises, it is said, received during a tournament held at Windsor, and was buried at Bisham Priory which he had founded in 1337. He married Katharine, daughter of Sir William Grandisson, by whom he had two sons, William, 2nd Earl of Salisbury, and John, and four daughters, one of whom, Philippa, married Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March [3]

  • Sources 
    1. [S7498] "Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and jure uxoris Earl of Ulster (1 February 1352 - 27 December 1381)" biography,.

    2. [S7499] "William Montagu, alias de Montacute, 1st Earl of Salisbury, 3rd Baron Montagu, King of Mann (1301 - 30 January 1344)" b.

    3. [S7504] "William Montacute" biography,

    4. [S8163] "Catherine Montagu, Countess of Salisbury (~1304-1349)", biography, abstracted October 18, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.or.