Military Wiki
The Right Honourable
The Earl of Sandwich
Secretary of State for the Northern Department

In office
19 December 1770 – 12 January 1771
Prime Minister Lord North
Preceded by The Earl of Rochdale
Succeeded by The Earl of Halifax

In office
9 September 1763 – 10 July 1765
Prime Minister George Grenville
Preceded by The Earl of Halifax
Succeeded by The Duke of Grafton
First Lord of the Admiralty

In office
Prime Minister Lord North
Preceded by Sir Edward Hawke
Succeeded by The Viscount Keppel

In office
Prime Minister The Earl of Bute
Preceded by George Grenville
Succeeded by The Earl of Egmont

In office
Prime Minister George Grenville
Preceded by The Duke of Bedford
Succeeded by The Lord Anson
Postmaster General

In office
Prime Minister The Duke of Grafton
Lord North
Preceded by The Marquess of Downshire
Succeeded by Henry Carteret
Personal details
Born (1718-11-13)13 November 1718
Died 30 April 1792(1792-04-30) (aged 73)
Chiswick, England
Spouse(s) Dorothy Montagu, Countess of Sandwich
Martha Ray
Alma mater Eton College, Trinity College, Cambridge
Profession Statesman
Religion Anglican

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, PC, FRS (13 November 1718 – 30 April 1792)[1] was a British statesman who succeeded his grandfather, Edward Montagu, 3rd Earl of Sandwich, as the Earl of Sandwich in 1729, at the age of ten. During his life he held various military and political offices, including Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for the Northern Department, but is perhaps best known for the claim that he was the eponymous inventor of the sandwich.


Early years

John Montagu was born in 1718, the son of Edward Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke. At the age of four his father died, leaving him as his heir. His mother soon remarried and he had little further contact with her.[2] He succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Sandwich in 1729. Educated at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge,[3] Montagu spent some time in travelling, initially going on the Grand Tour round Continental Europe before visiting the more unusual destinations of Greece, Turkey and Egypt which were then part of the Ottoman Empire.[4] This led him to later found a number of Orientalist societies.[5] On his return to England in 1739 he took his seat in the House of Lords as a follower of the Duke of Bedford, one of the wealthiest and most powerful politicians of the era. He became a Patriot Whig and one of the sharpest critics of the Walpole government, attacking the government's strategy in the War of the Austrian Succession. Like many Patriot Whigs, Lord Sandwich was opposed to Britain's support of Hanover and strongly opposed the deployment of British troops on the European Continent to protect it, instead arguing that Britain should make greater use of its naval power.[6] He gained attention for his speeches in parliament which earned him a reputation for clearly setting out his argument, even if they lacked natural eloquence.[7]

Political career

In 1744, Bedford was invited to join the government, now headed by Henry Pelham, taking the post of First Lord of the Admiralty. Sandwich joined him as one of the Commissioners of the Admiralty in effect serving as deputy under Bedford. The experienced Admiral Lord Anson also joined the Admiralty board and was an influential figure. As Bedford spent much of his time at his country estate, much of the day-to-day running of the Admiralty fell to Sandwich and Anson.[8] Anson had control of the training and discipline of the navy, while Sandwich focused on the administration. Following a proposal by Admiral Edward Vernon, the concept of a Western Squadron was pioneered, which was to prove very successful.[9] This marked a radical shift in British naval strategy, and was to lead to British success at the Battles of Cape Finisterre.

The following year Sandwich took a commission as a Colonel in the Army as part of the response to the Jacobite Rebellion and the prospect of a French invasion. In order to boost the relatively small British army, a number of units were raised by prominent figures, and Sandwich served in the regiment formed by Bedford. While serving in the Midlands he fell seriously ill with fever, and nearly died.[10] After his recovery, he returned to his duties at the admiralty. He remained an army officer for the rest of his life, remaining on the half-pay list, and eventually rising to the rank of General even though he took no further active part in the army.

Congress of Breda

In 1746 he was sent as a plenipotentiary to the congress at Breda, and he continued to take part in the negotiations for peace until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was concluded in 1748. Sandwich was also made British Ambassador to the Dutch Republic during the talks. Using the resources of the British Secret Service, Sandwich was able to outmanoeuvre his French counterpart by intercepting the latter's secret correspondence.[11] His service at Breda drew him to the attention of the influential Duke of Newcastle, who lobbied for him to be given high office when he returned home.

It is possible that during his time at Breda, he played a role in the 1747 Dutch Revolution which brought The Prince of Orange wider powers, something supported by Britain as they hoped the Prince would improve the Dutch Republic's military performance in the ongoing war in the Low Countries. However, there is no firm evidence of this.

First Lord of the Admiralty (first and second spells)

In February 1748 he became First Lord of the Admiralty, retaining this post until June 1751. By 1751 Newcastle, who had previously admired Sandwich for his forthright and hardline views, had increasingly begun to distrust him and his relationship with The Duke of Bedford who Newcastle regarded as a rival. Newcastle engineered the dismissal of both of them, by sacking Sandwich. Bedford resigned in protest, as Newcastle had calculated, allowing him to replace them with men he considered more loyal personally to him.

The Duke of Bedford was a long-standing patron of Sandwich, and his support helped him further his career.

For the next few years Sandwich spent time at his country estate, largely avoiding politics, though he kept in close contact with both Bedford and Anson and Britain's participation in the Seven Years War. Partly thanks to naval reforms pioneered by Anson and Sandwich the Royal Navy enjoyed a series of successes and was able to blockade much of the French fleet in port.

In 1763 he returned to the Admiralty in the government of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute, and encouraged a major rebuilding programme for the Royal Navy. Bute was a Tory who wished to bring the war to an end, which he did with the Treaty of Paris. It was during this time that Sandwich first met Martha Ray who became his long-standing mistress. He was soon dismissed from the office, but was offered the influential position of Ambassador to Madrid.

Northern Secretary

In August 1763 Sandwich became Secretary of State for the Northern Department, in the government of George Grenville who had replaced Bute. While filling this office he took a leading part in the successful prosecution of the radical M.P. John Wilkes for obscene libel. Although he had been allegedly associated with Wilkes in the notorious Hellfire Club (also known as the Monks of Medmenham), recent scholarship has suggested that the two had a more distant but cordial relationship than the friendship which was popularly portrayed at the time.[12] John Gay's The Beggar's Opera was played in Covent Garden shortly thereafter, and the similarity of Sandwich's conduct to that of Jemmy Twitcher, betrayer of Macheath in that play, permanently attached to him that appellation. Wilkes was eventually expelled from the House of Commons.

He held the post of Northern Secretary until July 1765. His departure from the post coincided with the end of George Grenville's term as Prime Minister. He hoped to return to office swiftly, provided a united opposition could be formed.[13]

In The State Tinkers (1780), James Gillray caricatured Sandwich (on left) and his political allies in the North government as incompetent tinkers.

Sandwich was Postmaster General from 1768 to 1771 and briefly Secretary of State again from December 1770 to January 1771.

First Lord of the Admiralty (third spell)

Sandwich served again as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lord North's administration from 1771 to 1782. He replaced the distinguished Admiral Sir Edward Hawke in the post.[14] His appointment to the post followed the Falklands Crisis which had nearly seen Britain go to war with Spain over the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean after the Capture of Port Egmont by Spanish forces. War had only been averted when Louis XVI of France refused to back the Spanish over the dispute.[15] Both France and Spain resented what they considered British hegemony following the Seven Years' War, and desired to overturn the imbalance of power; war was widely expected to break out between the nations in the near future.

Sandwich's administration of the Navy in the lead up to and during the American War of Independence was traditionally portrayed as being incompetent, with insufficient ships being ready for the outbreak of war with France in 1778. When Britain and France went to war, Sandwich advocated a strategy of concentrating the British fleet in European waters to deter invasion[16] in opposition to his colleague, Lord Germain, who pushed for more ships to be sent to North America. The cabinet largely followed Sandwich's policy, retaining footholds on the American coast which could be used as naval bases, while retaining the bulk of the fleet at home. Sandwich's problems increased when Spain entered the war on France's side in 1779 giving the Bourbon fleets a numerical advantage over the Royal Navy.

During 1779 a combined Franco-Spanish fleet was able to sail into the English Channel to threaten the coast of Cornwall in the initial stage of a Franco-Spanish invasion of Britain. Sandwich was criticised for the failure of the smaller British Channel Fleet to prevent this, although the invasion never materialised. After 1778, the primary objective in the war was maintaining control over the sugar-rich West Indian archipelago.

Personal life

For several years Sandwich had as a mistress Fanny Murray, the subject of Wilkes' An Essay on Woman (1763), but he eventually married Dorothy Fane, daughter of the 1st Viscount Fane, by whom he had a son, John, Viscount Hinchingbrooke (1743 – 1814), who later succeeded as 5th Earl. Sandwich's first personal tragedy was his wife's deteriorating health and eventual insanity. During his wife's decline, Sandwich started an affair with the talented opera singer Martha Ray. During their relationship, Ray bore him at least five and perhaps as many as nine children, including Basil Montagu (1770 – 1851), writer, jurist and philanthropist[17] Tragedy was to strike again in April 1779 when Ray was murdered in the foyer of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden by a jealous suitor, James Hackman, Rector of Wiveton. Sandwich never recovered from his grief. The events surrounding Ray's murder were depicted in a popular novel Love and Madness (1780) by Herbert Croft.

A mezzotint print of the Earl engraved by Valentine Green, after Johann Zoffany, published 30 August 1774

In a famous exchange with the actor Samuel Foote, Sandwich declared, "Foote, I have often wondered what catastrophe would bring you to your end; but I think, that you must either die of the pox, or the halter." "My lord", replied Foote instantaneously, "that will depend upon one of two contingencies; -- whether I embrace your lordship's mistress, or your lordship's principles."[18] This retort is often misattributed to John Wilkes.

Sandwich retired from public duty in 1782, and lived another ten years in retirement at the family seat, Hinchinbrooke House, Huntingdonshire,[19] dying on 30 April 1792. His title of Earl of Sandwich passed to his eldest son, John Montagu, 5th Earl of Sandwich, who was 48 at the time.


Sandwich retired in 1782. Despite the number of important posts that he held during his career, Sandwich's incompetence and corruption inspired the suggestion that his epitaph should read: "Seldom has any man held so many offices and accomplished so little."

Recently, some historians have begun to suggest that Lord Sandwich was not perhaps as incompetent as suggested, but that previous historians have placed too much emphasis on sources from his political enemies.[20]

The sandwich

The modern sandwich is named after Lord Sandwich, but the exact circumstances of its invention and original use are still the subject of debate. A rumour in a contemporary travel book called Tour to London by Pierre Jean Grosley formed the popular myth that bread and meat sustained Lord Sandwich at the gambling table.[21] A very conversant gambler, Lord Sandwich did not take the time to have a meal during his long hours playing at the card table. Consequently, he would ask his servants to bring him slices of meat between two slices of bread; a habit well known among his gambling friends. Because John Montagu was the Earl of Sandwich others began to order "the same as Sandwich!" - the ‘sandwich’ was born.[22] The sober alternative is provided by Sandwich's biographer, N. A. M. Rodger, who suggests Sandwich's commitments to the navy, to politics and the arts mean the first sandwich was more likely to have been consumed at his work desk. From 14 March 1741 Sandwich had a Grisons Republic born brother-in-law, Jerome de Salis. The Grisons, or Graubunden, are well known for their sliced dried meat, Bündnerfleisch, while its then adjoining subject territory the Valtelline, where De Salis grew up, is known for Bresaola; so the refinement of Salis' native habits to suit card playing in St. James', Westminster could have been a small step for the inventive peer.[23]

Islands named after Sandwich by Capt James Cook

Lord Sandwich was a great supporter of Captain James Cook. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Sandwich approved Admiralty funds for the purchase and fit-out of the Resolution, Adventure and Discovery for Cook’s second and third expeditions of exploration in the Pacific Ocean. In honour of Sandwich, Captain Cook named the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) after him, as well as Montague Island off the south east coast of Australia, the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Montague Island in the Gulf of Alaska.[24]


After his Naval career, Sandwich turned his energy toward music. He became a great proponent of "Ancient music" (defined by him as music more than two decades old). He was the patron of the Italian violinist Felice Giardini, and created a "Catch Club", where professional singers would sing "ancient" and modern catches, glees, and madrigals. He also put on performances of George Frideric Handel's oratorios, masques, and odes at his estate. Sandwich was instrumental in putting together the Concert of Ancient Music, the first public concert to showcase a canonic repertory of old works.[1]


  • 1718 The 4th Earl of Sandwich is born on 13 November 1718
  • 1729 Succeeds his grandfather, Edward Montague, 3rd Earl of Sandwich, in the earldom
  • 1729 Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge
  • 1740/41 (old style/new style), 14 March, marries The Hon. Dorothy Fane at St. James's, Westminster
  • 1746 Sent as plenipotentiary to the congress at Breda, and continues to take part in the negotiations for peace until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle is signed in 1748
  • 1748-1751 First term as First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain
  • 1763 Becomes one of the principal secretaries of state
  • 1763 Second term as First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain
  • 1768 Appointed Postmaster General
  • 1770 Becomes Secretary of State
  • 1771–1782 Third and last term as First Lord of the Admiralty of Great Britain (during this term: the American Revolutionary War, 1775–1783)
  • 1779 His mistress Martha Ray, mother of five of his children, murdered by her admirer James Hackman in Covent Garden
  • 1782 Retires in March
  • 1792 Dies on 30 April


  1. 1.0 1.1 William Weber. "4th Earl of Sandwich". In Macy, Laura. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.  (subscription required)
  2. Rodger p.1-2
  3. "Montagu, John (MNTG735J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. Rodger p.4-5
  5. Rodger p.7-8
  6. Rodger p.13-18
  7. Rodger p.19
  8. Rodger p.20-39
  9. Rodger p.35-37
  10. Rodger p.38-39
  11. Baker-Smith p.144
  12. Rodger p.99-100
  13. Rodger p.111
  14. Whiteley p.85
  15. Black p.152
  16. Syrett p.18-22
  17. 'Covent Garden : Part 2 of 3', Old and New London: Volume 3 (1878), pp. 255-269. "Miss Ray had borne to Lord Sandwich no less than nine children, five of whom were then living. One of these afterwards attained distinction, Mr. Basil Montague, Q.C., eminent both as a lawyer and as a man of letters, who died in 1851." According to several sources, Sandwich was unable to provide adequately and permanently for his mistress and their children; she therefore encouraged the suit of Captain James Hackman, who later exchanged the army for the clergy. Date accessed: 14 October 2008
  18. Yale University Press: Yale Book of Quotations (2007)
  19. Hinchinbrooke House.
  20. [C., Wilkinson, The British Navy and the state in the eighteenth century (Woodbridge 2004)
  21. Hexmaster's Factoids: Sandwich
  22. Sandwiches, History of Sandwiches
  23. R. de Salis, Fanezine de Salis, part I, London, 2005


  • Baker-Smith Royal Discord: The Family of George III. Athena Press, 2008.
  • Black, Jeremy. The Continental Commitment: Britain, Hanover and Interventionism, 1714-1793. Routledge, 2005.
  • Longmate, Norman. Island Fortress: The Defence of Great Britain, 1603-1945. Pimlico, 2001.
  • Rodger, N.A.M, The Insatiable Earl: A Life of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich (London: Harper Collins, 1993)
  • Syrett, David. The Royal Navy in European Waters During the American Revolutionary War. University of South Carolina, 1998.
  • Whiteley, Peter. Lord North: The Prime Minister Who Lost America. Hambledon Press, 1996.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. Encyclopædia Britannica Cambridge University Press 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
The Duke of Bedford
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Lord Anson
Preceded by
George Grenville
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Earl of Egmont
Preceded by
The Earl of Halifax
Northern Secretary
Succeeded by
The Duke of Grafton
Preceded by
The Earl of Rochford
Northern Secretary
Succeeded by
The Earl of Halifax
Preceded by
Sir Edward Hawke
First Lord of the Admiralty
Succeeded by
The Viscount Keppel
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edward Montagu
Earl of Sandwich
Succeeded by
John Montagu

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