What are the Montagu Monuments?
The Montagu Monuments were commissioned to commemorate key members of the Montagu family, ancestors of the Buccleuch family. The monuments depict three generations of the Montagu family and are now significant memorials of such key historical figures.
The marble sculptures are masterpieces of art- demonstrating extraordinary artistic skills from their creators. Additionally, as a collection, the monuments are representative of the evolution of artistic style in Britain’s history.
Where are the Montagu Monuments?
The Montagu Monuments are located in St Edmunds Church in the small village of Warkton, only a few miles from Boughton House. The monuments are in four recesses, positioned in a purpose-built chancel within the church.
The Montagu Monuments are a highly important example of Britain’s social and artistic history. In 2014 the Montagu Monuments conservation project began in order to secure and protect the sculptures from damage caused by environmental issues such as pollution and high humidity levels. The project was funded by the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, the Church and the Heritage Lottery Fund and work on the monuments has been progressing since 2014.
The Montagu Monuments:
Monument to John, 2nd Duke of Montagu
The first monument sculpted was in commemoration of John, 2nd Duke of Montagu. The sculpture was created by French artist, Louis François Roubiliac, one of the most prominent sculptors working in England during the eighteenth century.
The 2nd Duke of Montagu, was the son of Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu- who was responsible for the rebuilding of Boughton House. John died in 1749 at the age of 58, leaving his widow, Mary Churchill, to erect the monument. Mary has been depicted standing at the left hand side of the monument.
Surrounding the monument you can see objects such as a gun barrel, cannon balls and a flag, sculpted to symbolise John’s military career. Furthermore, there is a figure of Charity, standing to the right of the monument, to represent the fact that John was a forefather of the Foundling Hospital to the poor in London. One of the children featured beside the monument is also seen to be holding an extinguished torch, symbolic of dying relatively young.
Monument to Mary Churchill
The second monument commissioned, was again sculpted by Louis François Roubiliac. This time it was dedicated to the 2nd Duke of Montagu’s wife, Mary Churchill, who died two years after John, in 1751, aged 61. It was John and Mary’s daughter, Lady Mary Montagu, who erected the monument.
Featured in the monument are figures representing the three fates of Clotho, Atropos and Lachesis, arranged to show the cutting of Mary’s life thread. Looking closely you can acknowledge Lachesis’ dismay at Mary’s life thread being cut short. Three putti are also displayed as part of the monument, one of whom holds the spindle from which the thread was cut.
This monument completes a harmonious pair of exquisitely executed monuments to husband and wife.
Monument to Lady Mary Montagu
The third monument was created by Dutch sculptor Peter Mathias van Gelder. It commemorates Lady Mary Montagu, daughter of Duke John and his wife Mary, who inherited Boughton House upon their deaths.
Mary was known to be a free spirited lady, often travelling extensively and independently. She is responsible for collecting many of the finest paintings still found in the Buccleuch collection today.
The monument holds a neoclassical style, in which the influence of pre-eminent architect of the time, Robert Adam, can be recognised. The monument to Mary is Rococo in style and more decorative than that of her parent’s.
The composition centres around an ornate funerary urn, which is seen to be surrounded by figures of grief stricken women and children. An angel on the left comforts the mourners, seen to be pointing to heaven.
Monument to Lady Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch
The fourth and final monument is dedicated to Lady Elizabeth, Duchess of Buccleuch (daughter of Lady Mary Montagu – Monument 3). Scottish designer Thomas Campbell was commissioned to sculpt this monument.
Elizabeth brought the Montagu inheritance to the Buccleuch lineage after she married Henry, the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. During her lifetime, she involved herself with a considerable amount of charity work and maintained a strong connection to her Christian faith, as highlighted in the quotation shown above her monument: “thine alms are had in remembrance in the sign of God”.
Elizabeth was also a patron of music, and was the main instigator behind the Montagu Music Collection, now held at Boughton House.