Montague earls of Salisbury
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Arms of Montague of York
 Montague of Yorkshire

The name Montague originated in England as Montagud in 1086 [D.B.] later Montacute or Montague meaning 'pointed hill' from Old French Mont+aigu. The Montagues were residents of Old Sarum, Wiltshire but the name appears to have migrated from Somerset.

It was at Old Sarum that William I of England established his palace and early Norman stronghold. Much of William's early directives and planning occurred here after the initial invasion. In 1086, the year of Domesday, every landholder, great and small was made to swear allegiance in the Oath of Salisbury to William I at Old Sarum. 
One Montague engineered the overthrow of Queen Isabella and Roger de Mortimer at Nottingham whilst another may have written early Robin Hood ballads  in the latter part of Edward III's [essentially controlled by John of Gaunt] and Richard II's Courts. 

William Longespee was Earl Salisbury d.1226. William's Arms were Azure, six lions rampant Or. [in Salisbury Cathedral]. William was the bastard grandson of Geoffrey, Count of Anjou d.1151. Geoffrey's arms found in Le Mans Cathedral were also Azure, six lions rampant Or. This is the first recognised case of heraldic arms being carried in the lineage. Geoffrey's Arms were granted by his father-in-law, Henry I of England.

Another notable earl of Salisbury was Thomas Earl of Lancaster who lost the title following his defeat at Boroughbridge and execution in 1322 at Pontefract Castle. From Thomas the earldom migrated to William de Grandis(s)on of Burgundy who had one child, Alice [Alys]
  The arms of Montague [of Sandwich, one of the Cinque ports, the earl of Sandwich was a Montague of the 1700's who favoured the fast food of the same name] are:
"Argent, three fusils conjoined in fess Gules within a bordure sable"3
Sir John Montague [1389] had wings within a crown as the crest4.
William Montague
[Montacute] b. 1301 became, under Edward III, the 1st earl of Salisbury [ 6th earl of Salisbury] in 1337. This resulted from his arranged marriage to Edward III's ward, the young Madame Alys, countess of Salisbury.
William was born 1301 or 1304 and died 1344. In 1322 he received Lundy Isle from Edward III. According to the chronicler Geoffrey le Baker, William was one of Edward III's closest friends and allies, indeed he was the leader of  Edward's companions who broke into Queen Isabella & Roger de Mortimer's chambers at Nottingham Castle in 1330. 
He swore to protect Edward III during the early years of his reign when Edward was still a boy under the control of Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer.
1325- he was knighted and married the young Alys Grandisson daughter of the 5th earl of Salisbury. 

                                                 Alys and Joan confused
It was said that the "Countess of Salisbury" was enamoured of a steward of  the Earl of Salisbury so she married  the earl to be close to her sweetheart but both men died. This could have been Alys rather than Joan "Fair maid of Kent" for William Montacute 2nd Earl of Salisbury who she married, died in 1397 and she in 1385, whereas William Montague,1st Earl Salisbury, died in 1344 unexpectedly from bruising after a Windsor joust. William 1st earl died before Alys's death in 1350. 
However another story relates that the steward previously mentioned was none other than Thomas de Holland, appointed by Edward III to the Earl of Salisbury's household, whom Joan had been secretly married to before her marriage to William Montague 2nd earl Salisbury.
By the time of the Ball at Calais, and the famous Garter incident, Alys was 2 years from death aged 55 years whereas Joan, by all accounts a very beautiful woman, was only 20 years old.
Place the story next to 'fact' and it appears that this chronology has better cohesion if Alys is the "Countess of Salisbury" in the Wark Castle incident in 1340 and Joan could have been the "Countess of Salisbury" at the infamous Garter Ball.

1327- William accompanied the young Edward III under Isabella and Mortimer to Scotland, and later in 1329 to France.
1328 October- A Parliament was convened at Salisbury where Roger Mortimer, Queen Isabella's lover, was given the title Earl of March.
October 1330- William assisted in Roger Mortimer's arrest in a coup at Nottingham Castle and as a result was rewarded with some of Mortimer's Welsh Marcher lands.
1331- disguised as merchants he and Edward III secretly visited France.
William was present at the siege of Berwick and the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.
1335- With the earl of Arundel in command of the army in Scotland.
1335- unsuccessful siege of Dunbar.
1337- made earl of Salisbury.
Titled 1st earl and 7th earl  because he gained the title following Thomas Plantagenet's treasonable act of making battle againt Edward II in1322.
The Scots under Black Agnes held Dunbar castle against William . In the same year [1337] made Admiral of the Fleet.
1338- In June 1338 William withdrew his forces from Dunbar, he was recalled in readiness for the French campaign. He was made Marshal of England.
1340- he served in Flanders and was taken prisoner to Paris. 

Wark Castle, Northumberland.   That Famous Garter
Whilst William her husband was absent, his wife Madame Alys also spelled Alice alias Catherine/Katherine was defending Wark Castle [near Berwick] with her husband's brother, Edward de Montacute. The castle was placed under siege by David II's plunderers who were increasing in numbers as word spread. As was common in these times with the knight absent the  Lady of the castle, in this case the countess of Salisbury had to defend this small castle with only a constable, a few knights and 40 archers and servants. The siege was raised by Edward III himself according to Froissart who describes the encounter in great detail. 


                                             Jean Froissart
Born abt. 1337 died 1410? lived in England from 1360 to 1366. He was a clerk to Queen Phillipa in 1362. Froissart depended heavily on the works of the Frenchman Jean le Bel. In 1365 he visited the court of King David of Scotland.
In 1366 he accompanied Edward III and the Black Prince to Gascony.
In 1383 he became a canon in Hainaut and revisited England in 1395 when he met Richard II.
Froissart wrote Chroniques in French recording events from 1327-1400 which may be inaccurate in parts.

It would appear Edward III was captured by The Countess of Salisbury's beauty and he made ministrations towards her which she rejected.
It is at this point that gossip led to stories that the Countess of Salisbury had been abused. Edward is supposed to have raped and battered the "Countess of Salisbury", whilst her husband was in France. 
If not William's wife then probably Alice, the wife of Edward Montague, younger brother of the Earl of Salisbury who were both present at Wark Castle. One wonders why, if it did happen, that this would have occurred, given the earl was Edward's best friend and a former guardian.  Edward led the charge in courtly chivalry, albeit a bloody time he had on the battlefield. Again as with  Alice Perrers there may have been an attempt by the French Chronicler Jean le Bel to besmirch Edward's achievements.
There are inconsistencies in  the stories about the "Countess of Salisbury" as noted above. Note also the confusion of another Edward [Montacute], William's brother being present at Wark Castle who also had a wife named Alice! So presumably there were two Edwards and two Alices in the one small castle.
Some have aligned the "Countess of Salisbury" with Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent" who married bigamously William Montague the 2nd earl of Salisbury but this seems unlikely as the marriage was immediately annulled in 1349 as she was already secretly betrothed to Thomas Holland [Earl of Kent]. 
We also have a record of, Joan Plantagenet ["Fair Maid of Kent" ], Edward  [later III] and William Montacute [later 2nd earl of Salisbury] having lived at Salisbury Castle [Old Sarum] as wards of the 1st earl Salisbury and Catherine [Alys] de Montacute.
Joan had originally been imprisoned in Salisbury Castle by Mortimer & Isabelle after they had Joan's father a previous  Earl of Kent, executed.
Later, Joan married The "Black Prince" at the age of 33 after her legitimate husband, Thomas de Holland died the previous year in 1360. This marriage led to two children, the eldest of whom was Richard II who ascended the English throne in 1377.
William 1st earl Salisbury was released from Paris in 1340 and went on to win the Isle of Man from the Scots and was crowned its king in 1341 which he held until his death in 1344. He died from injuries sustained at a joust at Windsor.
See The Winning of The Isle of Manne by The Noble Earle of Salisburie8

William Montacute b. 1328, d. 1397, 2nd earl of Salisbury [7th earl of Salisbury]. one of the original founding knights of the Order of the Garter, at Crecy, Potiers; Admiral of the Western Fleet. 
In 1348, Edward III invited both the Earl of Salisbury [this would have to be the 2nd earl as the 1st had died in 1344], William Montague and his countess [Joan was 20 years old and married the earl bigamously the following year]  to a dance, this was probably at Calais rather than Windsor,or even as some suggest, Wark Castle; for Edward was in France. It was at this dance that the famous garter fell from the "Countess of Salisbury's" leg. It was this mishap on the dance floor which led to the Order of the Garter. 
The second earl was contracted to marry Joan ["The Fair Maid "] of Kent but the marriage was annulled immediately in 1349. Joan was much admired for her beauty and following her legal return to Thomas de Holland who died in 1360, she wed her 3rd husband the famed Edward Plantagenet, "The Black Prince", Joan's second cousin in 1361.

Joan, William Montague [b.1328] and Prince Edward [later III] grew up together in Salisbury Castle or "Old Sarum" [originally William the Conqueror's fortress] under the care of William 1st earl Salisbury and Catherine [Alys] Montague. 

Old Sarum
Sarum Castle, the outer defence ditch is Iron Age Here William I of England had a castle with motte and bailey built. Alongside, a palace was constructed. The whole lay within a circular Iron Age univallate hill fort of some 15 acres. Here a town grew up and a cathedral was built. Old Sarum cathedral moved to the new site of Salisbury in the early 1200's. The building was started in 1220 and completed about 1280. The spire was added in 1334 by Edward III, it is the tallest church spire in England.With the migration of the cathedral away from the fortress the people followed, so that from Edward II's time the old site began to decline.
Previously Old Sarum had been the site of the Roman Sorviodunum which lay at the crossing of Roman roads and later Searoburg in the Dark Ages.
The castle was controlled by successive Earl's of Salisbury, the Montagues. Old Sarum Palace
Joan Plantagenet,"Fair Maid of Kent", Edward  [later III] and William Montacute [later 2nd earl of Salisbury]  lived at Salisbury Castle [Old Sarum] as wards of the 1st earl Salisbury and Catherine [Alys] de Montacute. Roger Mortimer had Joan of Kent imprisoned here when she was a child after her father was executed whilst Edward [later III] her brother, was still under the control of his mother Queen Isabella and Mortimer. The Earl of Kent had been tricked into sending a message to Corfe castle in Dorset where Isabella and Mortimer had falsely suggested that Edward I was stll alive and well there. The letter proved his 'treachery' to Isabella.

The 2nd earl's only son William, was killed whilst tilting at Windsor. Susequently William sold the barony of  the Isle of Man to William de Scrope.

John Montague Kt. as the [3rd] 8th Earl of Salisbury [b. 1350? died 1400], who some regard as the author of the early ballads of Robin Hood.  This is a little known factoid. A contemporary French chronicler said of John:

He was humble, sweet, and courteous in all his ways and had every man's voice for being loyal in all places and right prudent. Full largely he gave and timely gifts. He was brave and fierce as a lion. Ballads and songs and roundels and lays right beautiful he made. Though but a layman, still his deeds became so gracious that never, I think, of his country shall be a man in whom God put so much of good, and may his soul be set in Paradise among the saints for ever. 9

John was  one of King Richard II's closest friends and had a strong interest in poetry, literature and history and was a contemporary of Chaucer, Edward III as well as Richard II, often appearing in the King's Court. He was knighted in France, made a commander in Ireland under Richard II [1394-5] and supported Wycliffe's teachings and the Lollards.
The earldom was lost to the Montagues' of Salisbury in 1400 when John was convicted of treason, beheaded by a mob and had his head placed on London Bridge.

Thomas Montague the 9th earl of Salisbury [b.1388 d. 1428] Son of John Montague. Made a  Kt. of the Garter [1414] & became commander of the Rear in Henry V's army in 1419. He later became Lt.-General in Normandy, invading Maine and Anjou in 1421.
In 1423 he distinguished himself at the relief of Crevant and at the seige of Montaguillon in 1424. By 1425 he was helping to subjugate Champagne and Maine which he completed.
Thomas returned to England in 1427 to obtain reinforcements. In June 1428 Thomas returned to France and laid seige to Orleans but was struck by a cannon-ball and died of his injuries.

The Neville family inherited the  titles of the Montagues i.e. Earls of Salisbury after the Montagues sided with the House of Lancaster. See Neville's
The Nevilles were powerful supporters of the House of York. Richard Neville, or Warwick "The King-Maker" also inherited the Earldom of Warwick through his wife.
Close up of Old Sarum motte and bailey, the palace lies between the two ditches.
See: Edward III

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1.  Mills, A.D. Dictionary of English Place Names, O.U.P. 1991.
2. Johnson, Paul. The Life and Times of Edward III, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1973.
3. Bedingfield, Henry. Heraldry, Bison Books, 1973.
4. Woodcock, T. & Robinson J. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, O.U.P., 1988.
5. Froissart, Jean. Oeuvres, vol. 4, pp 458-62
6. Lee, Christopher. This Sceptered Isle, Penguin/BBC Books, 1997.
7. Hallam, Elizabeth [ed.], The Plantagenet Encyclopaedia, Tiger Books, London, 1996.
8. Manx Society Vol. 16- Ballads and Songs.
9. Holland. B. The Hollands of Lancashire. 1899, London, p. 139.

Copyright ©  Tim Midgley 2002. Revised August 2023.