17 things you didn’t know about Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who has died aged 88

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu sits on the original Wet-Bike from the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu sits on the original Wet-Bike from the 1977 James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me at the Beaulieu National Motor Museum
3
Have your say

Lord Montagu, founder of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, died on Monday at the age of 88. Here are 17 fascinating facts about a man who was an iconic figure in motoring history and played a leading role in the UK tourism industry and the preservation of England’s historic houses.

1. Edward Montagu inherited the Beaulieu estate on the death of his father, John Montagu, a

He wore a special costume and carried a black velvet bag containing sandwiches to sustain him through the day

motoring pioneer, when he was just two years old.

2. At the age of 10 he attended the coronation of King George VI. The youngest peer there, he wore a special costume and carried a black velvet bag containing sandwiches to sustain him through the day.

3. Just as he was about to go to Eton in 1936, war intervened and he and two of his sisters were evacuated to Canada for two-and-a-half years.

4. In his second year at Oxford University, an altercation between the Bullingdon Club and the Oxford University Dramatic Society led to his room being wrecked and he left.

5. After attending Oxford, Lord Montagu spent several years in the army as part of a peacekeeping force in Palestine.

6. On his 25th birthday in 1951, he took over the Beaulieu estate, but found the £1,500 a year he could expect from his inheritance would barely cover the running costs.

7. His first job was with advertising and public relations agency Voice and Vision, where he launched the classic comic Eagle.

8. In 1952 he paid tribute to his father, a keen motorist and publisher of the first motoring journal Car Illustrated, by exhibiting a small collection of cars on display in the front hall of Palace House.

9. On opening day, he told his private house guests that if they received more than 100 visitors by 6pm they would have champagne with dinner. The figure was reached by 12.30pm.

10. The infamous Montagu trials of 1953 and 1954 resulted in the peer being charged with homosexual acts, which were then illegal. He pleaded not guilty but was convicted and given a 12-month sentence.

11. The backlash against the heavy-handed prosecution of Edward Montagu and his fellow defendants contributed to the establishment of the Wolfenden Committee, which in 1957 recommended the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. A decade later, this recommendation was implemented.

12. By 1959 his vehicle collection had grown and a new building was constructed. It was officially opened by Lord Brabazon of Tara in the presence of many luminaries from the world of motorsport, including Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks.

13. In 1967, the now world-famous Beaulieu Autojumble was held for the first time. The inspiration came from the automobile swap meets which Montagu saw in the United States. The name he devised, autojumble, was later given a place in the Oxford English Dictionary.

14. In 1972 the Duke of Kent came to Beaulieu to open what was to become Britain’s National Motor Museum, a new visitor complex.

15. The motoring reference library at Beaulieu is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

16. Lord Montagu regularly attended the House of Lords and when the 1999 reforms were

implemented he was one of the Conservative hereditary peers elected to remain.

17. His father John’s secretary, Eleanor Thornton, posed for sculptor Charles Sykes and is believed to have been the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy, which is still used as the bonnet ornament on all Rolls-Royce cars.