William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury

Born: June 25, 1328

Donyatt, Somerset, England

Died: June 3, 1397 (Age 68)

Salisbury in History

Little is known of the earl life of William Montague, but it seems that he was betrothed to Joan of Kent (1341) when not yet a teenager. The marriage fell through, however, and Joan married, successively, the Earl of Huntingdon and Edward the Black Prince, the latter of the unions producing the future King Richard II. Montague became Earl of Salisbury upon his father's death in 1344 due to injuries in a jousting tournament, and the new earl began his military career at the Battle of Crecy (1346), where he was knighted. The earl continued to fight in the Hundred Years War in France, and his most notable achievement came as one of the main commanders at the Battle of Poitiers (1356). Salisbury served in subsequent (and less successful) campaigns in France and also served in local English politics as a justice of the peace in several different counties. Despite his military successes, a majority of the remainder of Salisbury's life, from the 1370s on, was spent in the courtroom, engaging in lengthy trials with the Mortimer family (over a land dispute) and with his own younger brother John (over a statute merchant).

In 1382, Salisbury accidentally killed his own (and only) son in a jousting tournament (an ironic reminder of his father's death in the same fashion), leaving his hated brother and nephew as the heirs to his earldom and lands (which makes it no surprise that the earl sell off a large portion of his property in the final years of his life). Within the government of Richard II, it appears that Salisbury played a fairly minor role, but always remained loyal to the king. He participated in the quelling of the Peasants Rebellion (1381) and did not participate in the rebellion against the king by the Lords Appelant (1387), which saw Richard's power severely diminished and many of his favorites exiled or executed at the Merciless Parliament. Despite all the military campaigning and the bitter court battles that dominated his life, Salisbury survived until he was nearly seventy, dying in 1397 as the last of Edward III's well-known commanders. The earldom was inherited by his nephew John, who would be executed in 1400 for his participation in a plot against King Henry IV.

Salisbury in Shakespeare

Appears in: Edward III

William Montague appears only in the first act of Edward III where he announces that the Scots have invaded England to the king and his party. The announcement is his only line. It is unlikely that Montague had any involvement in the situation at all considering that the events occur before the naval Battle of Sluys (1340), at which time Montague was only twelve years old.

Salisbury in Jack Straw

The Earl of Salisbury appears very briefly in Jack Straw where he is seen comforting the queen mother after the outbreak of the peasant's revolt.


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