This blog post tells the story of John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. We will start with the personal life of the aristocrat. Then you will learn about the legacy he left behind. After that we will discuss how the sandwiches became such a big hit. Also, we’ll cover what other cultures have sandwich-like dishes. Finally, we covered the most common questions on the subject.
John Montagu 4th Earl of Sandwich – Personal Life
Born in 1718, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, Baron Montagu of the Saints Neots, was part of English high society. His father died when he was only four years old and his mother remarried soon. Soon after, John Montagu succeeded his late grandfather at the age of ten, making him the Earl of Sandwich in 1729.
Sandwich had a mistress, Fanny Murray, for a few years before finally settling down and marrying Dorothy Fane, daughter of 1st Viscount Fane. The couple had a son together, who then took over as 5th Earl of Sandwich. Unfortunately, Dorothy’s health deteriorated and she eventually went mad. At the time, John Montagu started an affair with Martha Ray, a talented opera singer. She was publicly murdered by a jealous suitor, James Hackman.
A famous 1780 novel, Love and Madness by Herbert Croft, illustrated the events surrounding Ray’s murder. John Montagu’s 4th Earl of Sandwich is said to have never fully recovered from his grief. Moreover, historians agree that the count had a gambling problem and spent long hours at a weekly poker game. It is said that Montagu especially liked to play Euchre. A fun fact about the card game is that the joker was included in the card game because of Euchre.
After graduating from Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, John Montagu spent considerable time traveling. At first he did the Grand Tour around continental Europe. Then the 4th Earl of Sandwich visited exotic destinations like Greece, Turkey and Egypt, which were all part of the Ottoman Empire at the time. His travels in these places then inspired him to discover multiple orientalist societies.
John Montagu returned to England in 1739 and took his seat in the House of Lords. He held various military and political positions during his career. The Earl was Postmaster General as well as First Lord of the Admiralty (three times). In addition, he assumed the roles of Secretary of State for the Northern Department, and he served as a diplomat for the Breda Congress. Sandwich has often been accused of bribery but has never been convicted.
Timeline of John Montagu
While some historians will likely argue that John Montagu Sandwich had a fairly “ normal ” life given the times and his upbringing, we think it was a pretty hectic life. His personal and professional life has been rich in dramatic events that have marked history. That’s why we thought it was better to identify the highlights of the timeline below:
|1718||👶 John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, was born|
|1729||🏰 John Montagu succeeds his grandfather|
|1729||📜 Eton and Trinity College graduates, Cambridge|
|1740/41 (old style / new style)||💍 Wife the Honorable Dorothy Fane|
|1746||👔 Sent as plenipotentiary to the Congress of Breda|
|1748–1751||💼 First term as first admiralty lord|
|1749-1756||👨💼 💼Bailiff of the Bedford Level Corporation|
|1762||🥪 Popularization of the sandwich|
|1763||✒️ Takes the role of secretary of the North|
|1763||💼 Second term as first lord of the admiralty|
|1768||✉️ Takes the role of Postmaster General|
|1770||🖋️ Takes the role of Secretary of State|
|1771–1782||💼 Third and final term as First Lord of the Admiralty|
|1779||🔫 Murder of Martha Ray|
|1782||👴 retires in March|
|1792||⚰️ Passed away on April 30|
As you can see there was many milestones in the life of John Montagu, the most linked to his political and military career. In addition, the British nobleman suffered the loss of his father and grandfather at a very young age. Later, his wife went mad and his mistress was killed. Nonetheless, the 4th Earl of Sandwich left a mark in history.
John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich – Legacy
It is undeniable that Sir John Montagu left a legacy in this world. He is best known for “inventing” the sandwich in the 18th century. It was served as a convenient snack during poker games. In addition to this, several islands are named after the 4th Earl of Sandwich. If you want to feel like the Lord, we suggest you play at the best UK poker sites while eating a delicious sandwich.
The Sandwich Islands
Throughout his life, John Montagu has supported Captain James Cook and his career. In addition, Sandwich had the power to allocate Admiralty funds as the First Lord of the Admiralty. This enabled him to approve the purchase and equip the Resolution, Adventure and Discover – the ships used for Cook’s second and third exploration expeditions in the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to this, the British nobleman managed to arrange an audience with the king so that Cook could meet with His Majesty. At the time, it was very unusual for a lower ranking officer to meet with the ruler of the Empire. Later the sea captain honored Sandwich by naming many islands after himHere is the full list:
- Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)
- Montague Island (south-eastern Australia)
- The South Sandwich Islands (South Atlantic Ocean)
- Montague Island (Gulf of Alaska)
- Hinchinbrook Island (northeast Australia)
The invention of the sandwich
And now for the time you’ve been waiting – the invention of the sandwich! John Montagu was a gamer and played cards for hours. Like any ordinary human, he was hungry and asked the servants to bring him food. However, unlike many nobles, Lord Sandwich did not spend extra time in the dining rooms. John Montagu wanted to eat something practical while being at the chart table.
We say that Montagu was inspired by his travels in the Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. Locals indulge in pockets of pita and other flat breads like naans stuffed with dips, cheeses and meats. However, his choice was a little different – corned beef between two slices of toast. Sir John Montagu says his playmates have started ordering “the same as Sandwich!” and that is how the sandwich was born.
As fun as it sounds, there’s a chance the idea for the beloved sandwich wasn’t born like this. Lord Sandwich’s biographer NAM Rodger suggests a slightly different perspective. According to him, Sir John Montagu would spend long hours in the office tackling politics, the navy, and other work-related matters, so it’s likely that the first sandwich was eaten at his desk.
the sandwich has taken the old continent by storm once popularized by John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich. Shortly after the “invention” of the practical snack, Edward Gibbon, a British historian, wrote in his diary that he saw many of the first people eat the dish in a restaurant. Sandwiches were well established in England during the American Revolutionary War. Surprisingly, Americans weren’t inclined to embrace this new concept, mainly because it reminded them of the British aristocracy they were fighting.
In the early 1800s, Eliza Leslie included a sandwich recipe in her cookbook. Many people believe that Americans adopted the dish thanks to Leslie. The recipe was easy to recreate – a classic ham sandwich, which many of us still enjoy to this day. About a century later, in the 1920s, there was a sandwich boom due to the invention of the toaster. The United States has fallen in love with the English dish so much that November 3 (Montagu’s birthday) is National Sandwich Day.
The sandwiches before the count
John Montagu is often credited with inventing the sandwich. This is because there is no trace of people eating corned beef between two slices of bread before it made it popular among the aristocrats. However, we know that many cultures around the world had similar dishes which are essentially meat between bread.
According to experts, the idea of a ‘sandwich’ dates back to the 1st century BC when a rabbi, Hiller the Elder, stuffed apples, nuts and wine-stuffed spices into a few pieces of flatbread. But the Greeks also have pita pockets which can be stuffed with meats and vegetables. In addition, Arab and Indian nations used naan bread to contain curry and rice, among others. Even across the pond, the Spanish conquistadors noted that the Mexican natives ate meat between tortillas, better known as tacos.
As we mentioned earlier, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, visited several countries in the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe. This is why many historians believe the Earl was inspired by his travels for the sandwich. Also, people all over the world have always had a dish that combines meat and bread, so it’s difficult to give credit to one person.
Popular questions about sandwiches
We hope this piece has taught you some new and interesting sources of conversation about the Earl of Sandwich and his invention. Now, before you go to the kitchen and make yourself a delicious sandwich, check out the section below. Here we have answered the most common questions surrounding the dish.