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Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax

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Title: Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax  
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Subject: Robert Walpole, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Upper Lodge Water Gardens, List of Fellows of the Royal Society elected in 1695, History of the British national debt
Collection: 1661 Births, 1715 Deaths, Chancellors of the Exchequer of England, Clerks of the Privy Council, Earls in the Peerage of Great Britain, English Male Poets, English Mps 1689–90, English Mps 1690–95, English Mps 1695–98, English Mps 1698–1700, English Poets, Fellows of the Royal Society, Knights of the Garter, Lord High Treasurers, Lord-Lieutenants of Surrey, Members of the Privy Council of England, Montagu Family, People Educated at Westminster School, London, People from South Northamptonshire (District), Presidents of the Royal Society
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Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax

The Right Honourable
The Earl of Halifax
First Lord of the Treasury
In office
13 October 1714 – 19 May 1715
Monarch George I
Preceded by The Duke of Shrewsbury
as Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by The Earl of Carlisle
In office
1 May 1697 – 15 November 1699
Monarch William III
Preceded by The Earl of Godolphin
Succeeded by The Earl of Tankerville
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
3 May 1694 – 15 November 1699
Monarch William III and Mary II
Preceded by Richard Hampden
Succeeded by John Smith
Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
21 March 1692 – 3 May 1694
Monarch William III and Mary II
Preceded by Thomas Pelham
Succeeded by John Smith and William Trumbull
Personal details
Born 16 April 1661
Horton, Northamptonshire
Kingdom of England
Died 19 May 1715(1715-05-19) (aged 54)
Spouse(s) Countess Dowager of Manchester
Relations fifth son of the 1st Earl of Manchester
Profession poet

Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax KG PC PRS (16 April 1661 – 19 May 1715) was an English poet and statesman.


  • Early life 1
  • Political office 2
  • Earl of Halifax 3
  • See also 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6

Early life

Charles Montagu was born in George Stepney.

Montagu was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1679, graduated MA in 1682, and became a Fellow of Trinity in 1683.[1] Two portraits of Montagu by Godfrey Kneller are in the college collection.[2]

His relation, Dr. John Montagu, was then Master of Trinity College, and took him under his wing. At Cambridge he began a lasting association with Isaac Newton.

In 1685, Montagu's verses on the death of King Charles II made such an impression on the Earl of Dorset that he was invited to town and introduced to other entertainments. In 1687, Montagu joined with Matthew Prior in "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse," a burlesque of John Dryden's The Hind and the Panther. He sat in the Convention Parliament of 1689. At about the same time he married the Countess Dowager of Manchester, and intended taking Holy Orders, but changed his mind and purchased for £1,500 a position as Clerk of the Council.

Political office

In 1691, having become a member of the House of Commons, he argued in favour of a law to grant the assistance of counsel in trials for high treason. He became flustered in the middle of his speech, and upon recovering himself, observed "how reasonable it was to allow counsel to men called as criminals before a court of justice, when it appeared how much the presence of that assembly could disconcert one of their own body".

After the House of Commons he rose quickly, becoming one of the House of Lords.

John Macky, relates a short description of the circumstances leading up to Charles, Lord Halifax's impeachment, in the Secret Service Papers published by his son in 1733.

...But as all courtiers, who rise too quick, as he did, are envied, so his great Favour with the King, and powerful Interest in the House, raised a great Party against him, which he strengthened, by seeming to despise them. The Deficiency of Parliamentary Funds, and the growing Debts of the Nation, by the great Interest of Paper Credit, laid him but too much open to these Attacks, he having the whole Administration of the Revenue. When he saw the Party growing too strong for him in the House of Commons, he prudently got himself made a Lord; and as a Screen from all Objections against his Administration, quitted his Management of Commissioner, to serve as Auditor: But his Enemies did not quit him so, they followed him into the House of Peers with an Impeachment, and so left no Stone unturned, to get him out of his Employ, bespattering him every Day with Pamphlets.
Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky Esq., pp. 51–54

On the accession of Queen Anne, Montagu was dismissed from the Council, and in the first Parliament of her reign was again attacked by the Commons, and again escaped by the protection of the Lords. In 1704 he wrote an answer to Bromley's speech against occasional conformity. He headed the inquiry into the danger of the Church. In 1706 he proposed and negotiated the Union with Scotland and when the Elector of Hanover received the Garter, after the Act had passed for securing the Protestant Succession, he was appointed to carry the ensigns of the Order to the Electoral Court. He sat as one of the judges of Henry Sacheverell, but voted for a mild sentence. Being now no longer in favour, he obtained a writ for summoning the Electoral Prince to Parliament as Duke of Cambridge.

Earl of Halifax

Charles Montagu was made Viscount Sunbury and Earl of Halifax at the accession of George I.

At the Queen's death Montagu was again appointed one of the regents. At the accession of George Montagu.

Halifax is reported to have left Catherine Barton, Newton's niece, a sizable inheritance for "her excellent conversation", as John Flamsteed wryly reported at the time.[3]

Alexander Pope commemorated the Earl's death in his unpublished poem "Farewell to London in the Year 1715":

The love of arts lies cold and dead
In Halifax's urn,
And not one Muse of all he fed
Has yet the grace to mourn.

See also


  • Cooper, C. H. (1861). Memoirs of Cambridge. London: Macmillan.
  • Johnson, Samuel (2006). The Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets. Roger Lonsdale, editor. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Thomson, A. T. (1871). The Wits and Beaux of Society. London: Routledge.
  • Handley, Stuart (2004). "Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press online edn, Oct 2005.
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ See Westfall, Life of Isaac Newton, p. 240
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Sir John Bramston
Sir Thomas Darcy
Member of Parliament for Maldon
With: Sir John Bramston 1689–1693
Sir Eliab Harvey 1693–1695
Succeeded by
Irby Montagu
Sir Eliab Harvey
Preceded by
Sir Walter Clarges, Bt
Sir Stephen Fox
Member of Parliament for Westminster
With: Sir Stephen Fox 1695–1698
James Vernon 1698–1701
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Crosse
James Vernon
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Hampden
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
John Smith
Preceded by
The Lord Godolphin
First Lord of the Treasury
Succeeded by
The Earl of Tankerville
Preceded by
Christopher Montagu
Auditor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
George Montagu
Preceded by
The Duke of Shrewsbury
(Lord High Treasurer)
First Lord of the Treasury
Succeeded by
The Earl of Carlisle
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Northumberland
Lord Lieutenant of Surrey
Succeeded by
The Duke of Argyll
Peerage of Great Britain
New creation Earl of Halifax
Peerage of England
New creation Baron Halifax
Succeeded by
George Montagu
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