John Montagu, 3rd Earl of Salisbury
Died: January 5, 1400
Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England (Age 50)
Salisbury in History
The career of John Montagu began as a soldier. He fought in several battles in the Hundred Years War during the reign of King Edward III. During the reign of Edward's successor, Richard II, Montagu seems to have not been taken with much favor. There are rumors from certain chroniclers (mainly Thomas Walsingham) that he was a Lollard supporter (Lollards were a radical religious faction guided by the teachings of John Wycliff, a man who wanted common people to be able to read the bible and composed an English translation). Not until 1397, when Montagu inherited the Earldom of Salisbury from his uncle, did he seem to acquire any royal favor from King Richard. He participated in the trial of the former Lords Appellant that same year and was in favor of their punishments. Salisbury accompanied the king on his Irish expedition in 1399, and when Richard was informed that Henry Bolingbroke had returned to England illegally to retrieve his inheritance, the earl was sent ahead with troops to encounter Bolingbroke's growing forces. Many of Richard's favorites were arrested by Bolingbroke (some of whom were executed), and Salisbury was not left out. He was brought up on charges, as many others were, for his involvement in the trials against the Lords Appellant in 1397 and was accused of possibly taking part in the murder of the Duke of Gloucester, Bolingbroke's (and the king's) uncle. He was ultimately released from prison but decided to take part in a conspiracy against the newly crowned Henry IV. Richard had been captured, deposed and imprisoned by Bolingbroke, and several lords (including the Earl of Kent and Huntingdon) planned to murder King Henry and his sons and place Richard back on the throne. King Henry was informed of the plan, and the rebels, forced to flee, sought sanctuary in Cirencester. There they captured by the townspeople, and both the Earl of Kent and Salisbury were beheaded. Salisbury had not been a royal favorite all his life but he had proved to be one of the few loyal servants that Richard could count on. Unfortunately, the earl chose the wrong king to remain loyal to.
Salisbury in Shakespeare
Appears in: Richard II
As in history, Salisbury is one of the few lords to remain faithful to King Richard until the end in Richard II. He is there when the king lands in Wales upon his return from the Irish expedition and is one of the members of the Earls Rebellion against Henry IV. In the play's final scene, we are informed that Salisbury, along with several of the other conspirators, has been killed at Cirencester.
Goodman, Anthony. ‘Montagu , John, third earl of Salisbury (c.1350–1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2005 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/18995, accessed 13 Oct 2009]