Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax

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


Early life

He was born at Horton, in Northamptonshire, the son of George Montagu, fifth son of the 1st Earl of Manchester. He was educated first in the country, and then at Westminster, where he was chosen as a Queen's Scholar in 1677, and entered into close friendship with George Stepney.

Montagu was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1679, graduated MA in 1682 and became a Fellow of Trinity in 1683.[1] 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."

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