Could Edward Montague take control of Tangier before the Spanish or Dutch landed?

January 1662, Tangier Bay,  Admiral Edward Montague, (Narrative History)

Edward Montague breathed a huge sigh and smiled with satisfaction.

He invited the messenger into his cabin, called for two glasses of the best Madeira Malbec and slit the seal open. He knew the content of the single sheet of paper before he had read it. His patience had been rewarded and at last the intransigent governor of Tangier had been brought to heel by his own stupidity. The curt note brought by the messenger from Luis de Almeda, the Portuguese Governor of Tangier, invited Montague to send a party of marines to reinforce the depleted city garrison, accepting an offer he had made some weeks ago[1].

The invitation marked a great step forward for England and for the monarchy of Charles II - the beginning of the occupation of Tangier, and the achievement of an ambition he had formed some three years earlier when earning his maritime spurs under Sir Robert Blake, the sculptor of the English Navy.

On a trip to the Mediterranean under Blake, Montague had seen for himself the advantage an anchorage at the gateway to the Mediterranean would give to England. He had suggested Gibraltar, Tetuan or Tangier. He had reckoned Spanish Gibraltar too well defended to be a practical proposition. Then, as if Divine Providence had decreed it, a series of events had led to his being here now.


He had always been sure England could only prosper under a strong leader. Charles I had proved an ineffectual sovereign and Montagu had raised a regiment to fight for Parliament. He had not approved of the execution of the King but had supported Cromwell as a competent leader and approved his appointment as Lord Protector.


Unfortunately his death had left Richard as supreme commander, a role for which he was ill-suited. At the prompting of his father-in-law Montague had then turned his thoughts to the unthinkable, and begun to believe the country would be best served by the restoration of Charles Stuart. It was said he was a dissolute young man, but that was probably due to his circumstances, and no doubt exaggerated by his enemies. Once installed as King he would be occupied with the responsibilities of government and have much less time for carousing. There would need to be safe-guards for those who had served Parliament – such as himself – but surely Charles would agree to work with Parliament if that were the condition for him regaining his throne.

Montague's role in the Restoration

Montague had always been an able negotiator a born diplomat. Once he had convinced himself of the efficacy of such a move he had facilitated negotiations with Charles[2] and acted as broker between Charles and Parliament resulting in the Treaty of Breda, and had then prepared the fleet for Charles' return by purging it of those likely to cause trouble and replacing them with Royalists[3].

To Montague's great relief the Restoration went smoothly. He had personally taken the fleet to the Netherlands to bring His Majesty home and had ensured everything went smoothly. In return His Majesty had rewarded him with a Knighthood – he was now a proud Knight of the Garter – and an Earldom – Earl of Sandwich[4].

All of which had placed him in a strong position to offer advice to the King.

Charles had made a promising start to his reign, and all those countries that had sought alliances with Protectorate England were now clamouring for friendship with Charles II. The strong Navy was still a potent presence on the high seas, the New Model Army that had battered its way through the best of Spanish tercios at the Battle of the Dunes was still quartered in Dunkirk, and to all intents and purposes England was a united country with full support from the Scots and Irish. England was a country it was better to have as an ally than an enemy.

Certainly Luisa de Gusman, Queen of Portugal felt that way and she was keen to enlist Englishmen in her war of independence with Spain. Her proposal for Charles to marry her daughter, Princess Catherine of Braganza, included an agreement for England to equip Regiments to send to Portugal to fight against Spain. She had thrown in free trade with Portugal's South American colonies to win over the City of London merchants and the outposts of Tangier and Bombay to persuade the courtiers of Company of Royal Adventurers in general and Monck and Montague in particular. Charles was much beholden to Monck and Montague for his Restoration and their opinion was important to the King. It helped that Prince Rupert was also in favour.

The clincher was the 2 million Portuguese crowns sweetener, added on advice from Charles' advisers, which could not be resisted by a king with extravagant tastes, who was financially constrained by his Parliament.

And so the deal had been done, the arrangement announced by Charles on his coronation day and the nuptial agreement duly signed. Now Sandwich, Earl of Sandwich and Knight of the Garter, Admiral of the Narrow Seas was made Ambassador to Portugal. Charles was relying on his diplomatic skills to complete the deal.


But Ambassador Extraordinaire, dowry collector and bride transporter to England was only the second part of his mission.


Is first involved a gunboat diplomacy mission to the Barbary Coast. Sandwich's diplomacy had secured the release of hostages from Algiers, but the Bey had proved intractable on demands his corsairs cease searching English ships. The weather had thwarted Sandwich's attempts to pummel the Bey into submission with cannon-fire, but he had sunk an Ottoman corsair fleet which resulted in Tunisia pleading for an extended peace treaty[5].


More importantly by dividing his forces and leaving his vice-admiral to patrol the Straits Sandwich had pre-empted a Dutch attempt to suborn Tangier whilst he visited Lisbon.


He had returned to find Tangier Bay empty, to his relief, and he was safely moored in Tangier Roads in sufficient force to deter the Dutch or the Spanish from any attempt to occupy the city before the arrival of the overdue Peterborough and his garrison. His only remaining concern was t a landward attack from the Moors would overrun the city.


Sandwich had employed his time profitably by: assigning his firemaster, Martin Beckman, to survey the walls and draw up proposals for the city's improved defence; sending men to erect stables ready for Peterborough's cavalry; taking stock of the city's supplies and allocating provisions, and personally taking soundings throughout the harbour in preparation for assigning moorings and designing a mole to protect ships in harbour from Atlantic storms [6].


Now, with this note from Almeda, he could complete the task. He would send gun crews ashore to man the cannon, and his best marines to guard the city walls. He would give orders that his men mount careful guard over the munition stores and all weaponry to secure them against theft and ensure his men could be resupplied in case they were called into action.


At last sandwich could relax - he poured himself a glass of wine and called for his captains to come aboard for a council of war.  

Fact Check:

[1] The Journal of Edward Montague 1659 - 1665

[2] Pepys Diary

[3] Montagues' Journal

[4] Dictionary of National Biography

[5] Montagues' Journal

[6] Montagues' Journal


Main Source: 

Ollard R., Cromwell's Earl (London: Harper Collins 1994)