Fonds MONT II - Papers of Edwin Montagu, Part II

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Papers of Edwin Montagu, Part II


  • 1889-1968 (Creation)

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About 10 boxes; paper, card, and parchment

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Edwin Samuel Montagu reached the summit of his political career as Secretary of State for India, a position he held from 1917 to 1922, and he is best known for his contribution to constitutional reform in that country. However, following the publication of letters revealing the close relationship between H. H. Asquith and Venetia Stanley, Montagu’s own relationship with Venetia, who became his wife in 1915, has also become a subject of interest.

Montagu was born in London on 6 February 1879, the second son of Samuel Montagu, later the first Baron Swaythling. His father had made a considerable fortune in banking, and was a Liberal MP from 1885 to 1900. But besides their common attachment to the Liberal cause, father and son had little in common; in particular, Edwin had little sympathy for his father’s rigorous adherence to the Jewish religion, though he remained a member of the Jewish community all his life.

Between the ages of eight and twelve Montagu was taught at the Doreck College, a preparatory school in Kensington Gardens Square, London, and from 1891 he attended the Jewish House at Clifton College, near Bristol. However, owing to his ill-health it was thought that he would benefit from travel, and in the winter of 1891–2 he made a voyage round the world with his tutor, J. D. Israel. On his return he returned to Clifton College till 1893, and then studied at University College, London, where he took a science degree at the second attempt in 1898, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he passed the Natural Sciences Tripos in the third class in 1902.

At the general election of January 1906 Montagu was elected member of Parliament for West Cambridgeshire, and he represented this constituency and its successor, Cambridgeshire, continuously until 1922. Shortly after his election he was invited to become Parliamentary Private Secretary to Asquith, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he continued to hold this post when Asquith became Prime Minister in 1908. The following year Montagu made the acquaintance of Venetia Stanley, his future wife, who had already become a close friend of Asquith’s.

In 1910 Montagu was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for India, and while in this post he made his first visit to India, the events of which he recorded in his first Indian Diary. For a while his rise continued smoothly. In February 1914 he became Financial Secretary to the Treasury; in the New Year’s Honours of 1915 he was made a Privy Councillor; and in the following month he was appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, which gave him a place in the Cabinet at an unusually young age. But his position of eminence was short-lived, for the Liberal Government was replaced by a Coalition in May, and in the consequent changes of office Montagu was reduced to his previous post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

About the same time his affair with Venetia reached a crisis, and she finally consented to marry him in May. She converted to the Jewish religion—a procedure which both husband and wife considered a mere matter of form—and the couple were married at the West London Synagogue on 26 July. Venetia spent most of the period of their engagement working at a hospital at Wimereux near Boulogne, and a considerable correspondence between the couple survives from this period. In the following years, much of the Montagus’ attention was given to the development of their house and estate at Breccles in Norfolk, under the direction of Sir Edwin Lutyens.

In June 1916 Montagu was appointed Minister of Munitions, a post he held for a year before accepting the office of Secretary of State for India, which he had long desired. Following the declaration in Parliament that the goal of British policy in India was to be the ‘progressive realization of responsible government’, Montagu made a second journey to that country, accompanied by a small delegation, from November 1917 to May 1918. He again kept a Diary of his experiences, an edited version of which was published by his wife in 1930. The eventual scheme of constitutional reform became law as the Government of India Act, 1919. But Montagu’s sympathy with the interests of Indians was to lead to his downfall. After the war, the question of the treatment of conquered Turkey aroused great agitation among the Muslim population of India; and in 1922, when Montagu authorized the publication of the Government of India’s protest against the treaty of Sevres without obtaining the permission of Cabinet, he was compelled to resign.

Montagu spent his last few years in business, making a journey to Brazil in the winter of 1923-4. He died on 15 November 1924, at the early age of forty-five.

Archival history

These papers were purchased by the College at a sale held at Christie’s on 20 November 2002.

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Scope and content

This collection, the second accession of Montagu papers received at Trinity, comprises papers of Edwin Montagu himself, with various related additions. It includes correspondence between Montagu and his wife Venetia, both before and after their marriage; telegraphic correspondence between Montagu, as Secretary of State for India, and the Viceroys Lord Chelmsford and Lord Reading; parts of Montagu’s second Indian Diary; letters from Montagu to his mother and father, Lord and Lady Swaythling; and a few letters to Montagu from various correspondents, including H. H. Asquith, Winston Churchill, and members of the Stanley family. The items added after Montagu’s death include press-cuttings of obituaries, and correspondence about the sorting of the papers in the 1950s.

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      The Library also has the Papers of Edwin Montagu, Part I, acquired from Judith Montagu in 1960.

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      Adèle: Lady (Adela) Essex
      Aggie: Lady Agnes Jekyll
      Agnes, Lady: Lady Agnes Macleod
      Alan: Alan Parsons
      Anne: Lady Islington
      Anthony: Anthony Henley
      Arkers: Audrey Arkwright (later Ralli)
      Arnold: Arnold Ward
      Aubrey: Aubrey Herbert
      Ava: Lady Ribblesdale
      Barbara: Barbara McLaren
      Baroness, the: Catherine D'Erlanger
      Beb: Herbert (Dixon) Asquith
      Beb, Mrs: Cynthia Asquith
      Blanche: Blanche Stanley (later Pearce-Serocold)
      Bluetooth, Bluey: H. T. Baker
      Bongie: Maurice Bonham Carter
      Bron: Auberon Herbert
      Cardie, Cardy: Lionel Montagu
      Clementine, Clemmie: Clementine Churchill
      Conrad: Conrad Russell
      Crooks: Lord Beaverbrook
      Cynthia: Cynthia Asquith
      Cys: Cyril Asquith
      Diana: Diana Manners
      Diana W.: Diana Wyndham
      Dolly: Dorothy Rothschild
      Dorothy: Dorothy Howard
      Dudley: Dudley Ward
      Duff, Duffy: Duff Cooper
      Edgar: not identified
      Edward: Edward Horner
      Eliza: Elizabeth Asquith
      Eric: Eric Ward, Viscount Ednam (later Earl of Dudley)
      Ettie: Lady Desborough
      Evie: Evelyn Rivers-Bulkeley
      Excie: Reginald McKenna
      Frances: Lady Horner
      Francis: Francis McLaren
      Frida: probably a servant of Venetia's
      Geoffrey: Geoffrey Howard
      Gilbert: Gilbert Russell
      Goonie: Lady Gwendeline Churchill
      Hazel: Hazel Lavery
      Hugh: Hugh Godley
      Hugo: Hugo Wemyss, or Hugo Rumbold
      Ivor: Ivor Guest (Lord Wimborne)
      Jack: Jack Churchill
      Jimmy: Jimmy Rothschild
      Joan: Joan Dickson-Poynder
      Jonah: L. E. Jones
      Julian: Julian Grenfell
      Katharine, K: Katharine Asquith
      Kitty: Katherine Somerset (later Lambton)
      Letty: Violet Charteris
      Margot: Margot Asquith
      Mary: Mary Herbert
      Maud: Maud Cunard
      Maurice: Maurice Baring
      Michael: Michael Herbert
      Micky, Mikky: Roderick Meiklejohn
      Nancy: Nancy Cunard
      Neil: Neil Primrose
      Nellie: Nellie Romilly (née Hozier)
      Noll: Oliver Stanley
      Oc: Arthur Asquith
      Old Boy, Old Bird, Old B, (the): H. H. Asquith
      Olga: Olga Lynn
      Olive: Olive Macleod
      Oliver: Oliver Stanley
      O.S.: H. H. Asquith
      Osbert: Osbert Sitwell
      Pamela: Pamela McKenna
      Patrick, Pat: Patrick Shaw-Stewart
      Peggy: Lady Crewe
      Phyllis: Phyllis Boyd (later de Janzé)
      Pride of Cheshire, the: Barbara Tomkinson
      Prime, the: H. H. Asquith
      Puffin: Anthony Asquith
      Raymond: Raymond Asquith
      Reggie: Reginald McKenna
      Rib: Lord Ribblesdale
      Rosemary: Rosemary Leveson-Gower
      Roy, the (i.e. the Viceroy): Lord Wimborne (Ivor Guest), Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland
      Ruby: Ruby Peto (later Lindsay)
      Rufus, Sir: Sir Rufus Isaacs (later Lord Reading)
      Sachie: Sacheverell Sitwell
      St John: St John Brodrick (Lord Midleton)
      Scatters: Sir Mathew Wilson
      Sredgar: Sir Edgar Vincent
      Sylvia: Sylvia Henley
      Violet, Vizee: Violet Asquith
      Waxworks: Sir Reginald Macleod
      William: William Rawle
      Winston: Winston Churchill



      Places outside London:

      Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire: country home of Lord and Lady Sheffield
      Archerfield House, Dirleton, East Lothian: a house rented by the Asquiths from 1907 to 1912
      Ardgowan, Inverkip, Renfrewshire: home of Sir Hugh Shaw-Stewart
      Breccles Hall, Norfolk: the Montagus' country home, purchased in 1917
      Easton Grey, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire: home of Lucy Graham Smith
      Ewelme Down, Oxfordshire: home of Frank Lawson
      The Manor House, Fritwell: home of Sir John and Lady Simon
      Hoe Farm, Hascombe, near Godalming: a house leased by Winston and Jack Churchill in the summer of 1915
      Hopeman Lodge, Hopeman, Moray: a house lent to the Asquiths in 1913
      Killarney House: home of the Earl of Kenmare
      Littlestone-on-Sea, Kent: a coastal village on the edge of Romney Marsh
      The Manor House, Mells, Somerset: home of Sir John and Lady Horner
      Munstead House, Busbridge, Godalming, Surrey: home of Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll
      Penrhôs, Holyhead: second country home of Lord and Lady Sheffield
      Pixton Park, Dulverton: home of Lady Carnarvon, mother of Aubrey and Mervyn Herbert
      Rounton Grange, Northallerton: home of Sir Hugh Bell, father of Gertrude
      Stanway, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire: seat of the Earl of Wemyss
      Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire: home of the Grenfell family
      Tilstone Lodge, Tarporley, Cheshire: home of Charles Threlfall
      Townhill Park, Bitterne, near Southampton: home of Louis Montagu (later Lord Swaythling)
      Vinters, Maidstone, Kent: home of Sir Reginald and Lady Macleod
      Walmer Castle, Walmer, Kent: official residence of Lord Beauchamp, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports; lent to Asquith as a weekend retreat from 1914
      The Wharf, Sutton Courtenay, Berkshire: country home of H. H. Asquith, bought in 1912

      London addresses:

      20 Cavendish Square: home of the Asquiths, before and after Asquith was Prime Minister
      Derby House, Stratford Place: home of the Earl of Derby
      8 Little College Street, Westminster: home of Francis and Barbara McLaren
      18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.: home of Lord and Lady Sheffield
      24 Queen Anne’s Gate: home of Edwin Montagu, bought in January 1913
      36 Smith Square, Westminster: home of Reginald and Pamela McKenna
      5 Swan Walk, Chelsea: a house leased by Osbert Sitwell
      Wimborne House, 22 Arlington Street, St James’s: home of Lord Wimborne

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      Transcripts have been made according to the following scheme:

      The spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, and paragraphing have not been altered, except in the special cases noted below, but editorial judgement has been used in cases where they are unclear. Words written indistinctly have been assumed to be spelt correctly unless they are consistently misspelled elsewhere, and words divided between two lines have been joined where appropriate. Catchwords have been ignored. Underlined words are printed in italics, except for signatures, parts of addresses, etc. Original corrections have generally been adopted without comment.

      The arrangement of addresses and dates at the head of letters has sometimes been changed. Addresses derived from printed letter-heads are reproduced in italics, and in these cases changes have sometimes been made to the original punctuation and capital letters. The various other information sometimes found on letter-heads has usually been disregarded. Printed addresses repeated on continuation sheets have been ignored.

      Square brackets denote editorial insertions. A vertical line (|) has been introduced where it seemed useful to indicate the end of a line in the MS. A dagger (†) is used to confirm that something erroneous or unexpected is present in the original text.

      Textual and explanatory notes, where they have been supplied, are placed at the end, after a dividing line. References to these in the text are enclosed in braces { }.

      Note that the apostrophe in words like ‘arent’, ‘cant’, ‘dont’, ‘therell’ (there’ll), and so on, is often omitted. Venetia Montagu sometimes left a space between the elements of compound words (e.g. ‘to day’, ‘Are nt’) and, less commonly, in the middle of other words (e.g. ‘ly ing’). Spaces of the latter kind have been ignored where, as is in fact usual, the space is smaller than that usually left between words. Edwin Montagu’s signature has been printed ‘Edwin S. Montagu’ everywhere, but usually only the first two letters of the Christian name are legible. Holes have been punched in the letters for filing, and in some cases a small part of the text has been removed, but the missing letters are usually obvious and they have been supplied without comment. A few full stops have been supplied where they appear to have been omitted by inadvertence or lack of space.


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion

      This catalogue was compiled by A. C. Green in 2003 and revised by him in 2020.




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