Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The love letters from Hugh Montgomery to Sara Maxwell, 1625 and 1631

Hugh Montgomery's first wife, Elizabeth Shaw of Greenock, rightly gets a lot of attention given her enormous impact on his County Down settlement project. She died (precise date unknown, but some time between 1620–23) and in 1630 he married Sara Maxwell the Countess of Wigtown. She didn't like Ulster much and went back to Scotland. Here are two letters he wrote to her, in 1625 from Lochmaben in the Scottish Borders, and from Newtownards in 1631. It's hard to know how to describe the language, Montgomery was an educated and well-connected man, but Scots vocabulary and influence still comes shining through his English.

From Hugh, First Viscount Montgomerie of Airds,
to Sara, Countess of Wigton
A proposal of marriage.

20th April 1625.

Right Honnorabill,
He whois growndis hath sildowm bein settillid by imagenarey contemplatiowns, nathir yit hath had his actiowns limettid by othir menis lavell, bot who by the practicall effectis of his awin personall actiowns is accustomat (by Godis spetiall fawour) to owircom his opposing deficultes, hes (finding his accustomat rest and liberte becom a stranger vnto him) stolin him self from cuntrei and attendantis to offir him self to yowr honnouris wew, that by conferant he may not onle ondirstan the reall effect of his onaccustomat distrubant wroght by the fleing fame of yowr ledyschipis raer wertws, that by conferant he may ondirstand how athir to atten to the combill of desayiris or support the trevarsis of his froneing fortowne. This intretting to be exkussid for that he hes thus passid the lemeitis of yowr honnouris prescriptiowne as for him who in kissing your honnouris is resolfeid to reman,

Youris honnouris affectionat servant,


Loghmaban, this 20 of April 1625.

To the right honnorable and his singular good ladei, the Cowntas of Wigtowne, theis.


Hugh, Viscount Montgomerie of Airds,
to his wife, Sara, Countess of Wigton
Complaining of her long absence from him, and sending her some strong waters.

7th March 1631.

Right Honnourabill and Deirly Belowid Hart, —
By your letteris to your freindis heir it appeirris that ye ar informeid that I am seikly, quharof ye desayr to be aduerteised, for that if it war so, ye, my hart, would presently com hetheir what watheir soewir it war. I could hef bein bettir satisfeid that ye, my hart, had keipid that to your self, in regard that our best effectid freindis, by all that heiris of ws, ar (not without caus possessid) with a oppiniowne that ye, my hart, heth newir lekin or contentment of my companei, no quhillist I am in helth, and that, heirring of my seiknes, ye sould be so ernist as to presipitat your self to ane em[in]ent dangerus jornay for a weisseit in my siknes (a confortles weisseit to trewly effectid luferis). No, my hairt, what thois that ar so possessid with the first oppeneowne would mak of this otheir, I leif the sensour may be mad of it to your approweid iugisment; and for that my desayris ar that ye, my confort, sould so settill your self and your turns thaer that that sosiete and confort that we ar tayeid the on to the otheir might be with such a mvtull hermonei contenoweid and confermeid, that this so gros and raer ensampill of our extrawagencies might ewaneis; and that we both might approwf our selfis to be fathfull, lowing and trew confortteris on of anotheir durring the small remender that is reservid for ows (leist a wore insew to both our discontentis). I will be sattisfeeid, therfor, to beir with this grewows occasiowne of discontent for yowr absenc for a tym, that therin ye may mak such a full and fenall settilling of thois occasiowns ye hawe thaer, that we both may iniow the confort of on anotheirris compane. The respect that I hef to the doctour is for that he is a Mexwell, and heth good partis in heim. God hes so blissid me with the helth of the bodei (God mak me thankfull) that I hef no ows of medesin. My ewir hopfull confort, I persaw that ther is no hopis of settilling betuix the erill and yow, so as theis your hopfull dochteiris ar lek to hawe no confort from yow. Wald to God that I could suplei both your defectis. My hart, I hef sent your horc to yow, and such a on as I hop will gif yow content in all, safing in his cullowr; if nocht, he will both dissawe and discontent me. My harte, thaer is a miserabill and lamentabill accident fallin owt to auld Achinneill, that will inforc me to keip the gennerall assayis at Kragfergus the 24 of this instant; and I hef also on occasiowne of my awin that I most keip the assaysis at Downe, for the quhilk sittis the 4 of Apprayll, so as by Godis faworabill assistanc I intend to be at Downeskay the 10 of Appreill (so God grant a saf passag), to see quhat conclutiowne I can mak of that fekles bulding I hawe ther; and in attending, my hart, your pleisowr conserneing your presenc heir (quhar as ye ar so mvch langid for). As conserneing my actiowns in law, I dow nocht dowt ther ewent, altho my aduersareis dow postpone tyme and drayf me to chargeis. My hart, being tow weill acquanttid with your extraordenar spaer dayat, and that this lentren tym mvfis yow to a harder, I hef sent yow a small supplei of strong wattiris of Doctour Maxwell his making heir in your awin towne, and thay ar als good as anny in Londowne, intretting yow to mak ows of them (as, or if, ye respect me) to confort that stomak of yourris that hes a frawerd gardean. To conclud, if our nobill, generus, and most lowing sone, the Lard of Hempisfeill, or anny vtheir of your nobill freindis, by thaer conwoy hetherwart, will gres your jornay to theis powr cottagis ye hef heir, lat mestir James be aduertissid what ye wald hef downe; that sinc ye ar nocht destitude of prowesiowne heir, that ther may be so mvch sent to Downskay as ye thinkis nessisare for that place, for this will ansuer for it self. This, hopping that quhatsoewir is insert in theis laynis schall be constroweid in the best sence as commeing from him that, tho he be agetattid and tossed with ma[n]y dywers and most inportant motiowns, yeit and still in the singilnes of hart and all trew affectiowne as he is, so shall he ewir approwf him self, your ledeiships fathfull and ewir lowing husband to be commandeid,


Newtowne, this 7 of Marche, 1631.
To his right honnourabill and his onle and deirly belowid ledei, the Cowntes of Wigtowne and Veiscowntes Montgomere of the Greit Aerds, theis.


Montgomery married Sara Maxwell in 1630. As the Montgomery Manuscripts, which were written by his grandson William Montgomery, unromantically say, Hugh –

“…brought her to Newtown, to fill up the empty side of his bed… but she not liking to live in Ireland… after some months stay, returned to Scotland, and did remain therein, which obliged his Lordship to make yearly summer visits to her, and to send divers messages (by his son George) to persweade her Ladyship to return and cohabit with him…”

She was not to be persuaded, so Sir Hugh sent her a page-boy called Edward Betty or Beattie - a dwarf with golden curly hair described as “….the prettiest little man I ever beheld. He was of a blooming damask rose complexion; his hair was of a shining gold colour, with natural ring-like curls hanging down, and dangling to his breast…”

Sara Montgomery died on 29 March 1636, aged 60, and was buried at Holyrood in Edinburgh. By now aged 76, Sir Hugh’s final known visit to Scotland was to attend her Sarah’s funeral, but on the way back his coach overturned and he suffered a number of injuries – “the pains whereof reverted every spring and harvest till his own fall”.


Lolly said...

I read every one of your blog posts and very rarely comment - but this I loved :)