James Montagu

In the north west tower chapel in Westminster Abbey is a free standing white marble statue to Captain James Montagu.


An over-life-size figure of James in naval uniform stands on a pedestal on which is a carved relief of a naval battle flanked by two lions. Behind and above his figure is one representing Victory and she originally held a laurel wreath above his head. At the back of the pedestal is a relief of two seated mourning sailors. At the sides are a trident with a crown and a laurel wreath formerly encircling the word 'Constitution'.

The sculptor was John Flaxman, 1804. The monument cost over 3,000 pounds and originally stood one bay further east in the nave. The inscription reads:

Erected at the public expense to the memory of James Montagu, who was killed on board the Montagu, which he gallantly commanded in the memorable victory over the French fleet off Brest on the first of June 1794, in the forty second year of his age and twenty eighth of his service

His Life

He was born on 12th August 1752, a son of Admiral John Montagu (d.1795) and his wife Sophia (Wroughton). His brothers were Admiral George Montagu and Edward Montagu, an army officer. After several years at sea his father appointed him to the Mercury. He later served on the North American station and took papers announcing the capture of Rhode Island by Sir Peter Parker and General Clinton back to England. While sailing on the Hudson river his ship was sunk when it hit a submerged wreck but he was cleared at the court martial. Later he saw action off India and his last ship was the Montagu in which he was killed on what was called the 'Glorious 1st of June 1794'. Parliament voted the funds to put up his monument within weeks of his death, together with a monument to Captain John Harvey and Captain John Hutt, who died in the same engagement.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 (James, his father and brothers)

"The Glorious First of June 1794" edited M. Duffy and R. Morriss, 2001

"The politics of public monuments: parliamentary commissions of monuments in Westminster Abbey 1798" by Susan Jenkins in Sculpture Journal vol. 30,1.2021

Flaxman's design for the monument is at the Henry Moore Foundation, Leeds and the contract drawing is in the National Archives.


12th August 1752


1st June 1794





Memorial Type


Material Type


James Montagu
James Montagu memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

James Montagu
Lion on James Montagu monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster