Lord Montagu is a Conservative peer who was born in 1926 and became the 3rd Baron at the age of just two in 1929, when his father was killed in an accident. He took up his seat as soon as he was old enough, in 1947.
He is perhaps best known for his conviction and imprisonment in 1954 on a charge of homosexual sex, which he denied, though the case become a pivotal cause célebre in British gay history.
Lord Montagu said he knew from an early age he was bisexual and kept homosexual affairs discreet, given homosexual acts remained illegal in the UK, even in private, until 1967. However, he believes he fell victim to the ‘witch hunt’ atmosphere of the 1950s.
His trial and subsequent imprisonment prompted a backlash among some politicians and church leaders, which led to the establishment of the Wolfenden Committee and its 1957 report which recommended the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in private between two consenting adults.
In 2007, Lord Montagu said: “I am slightly proud that the law has been changed to the benefit of so many people. I would like to think that I would get some credit for that. Maybe I’m being very boastful about it but I think because of the way we behaved and conducted our lives afterwards, because we didn’t sell our stories, we just returned quietly to our lives, I think that had a big effect on public opinion.”
Lord Montagu is also known for his love of motoring and established the National Motor Museum in the grounds of his stately home, Palace House in Beaulieu, Hampshire, in 1952. He also founded The Veteran And Vintage Magazine in 1956, was chairman of the Historic Houses Association from 1973-78 and chairman of English Heritage from 1984-92.
In 1958, he married Belinda Crossley, a granddaughter of Savile Crossley, 1st Baron Somerleyton, by whom he had a son and a daughter before their divorce in 1974. In 1974, he married his second wife, Fiona Margaret Herbert, with whom he has a son. The heir apparent to the barony is the Hon. Ralph Douglas-Scott-Montagu.
As a descendant of the 5th Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Montagu is also in remainder to this peerage and its subsidiary titles. The title Duke of Buccleuch was created in the Scottish peerage in 1663 for James Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of Charles II.
Monmouth married Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Baccleuch, in 1663 and adopted her surname. She was created Duchess of Baccleuch in her own right and so, following Monmouth’s execution and attainder in 1685, the title was unaffected and passed on to his descendants, who have successively borne the surnames Scott, Montagu-Scott, Montagu Douglas Scott and Scott again.
The 10th Duke, Richard Walter John Montagu Douglas Scott, is the largest landowner in the United Kingdom, Chief of the Clan Scott and 12th Duke of Queensbury, a title his family has held since 1810, making the holder one of the only five people in the UK to hold two or more different dukedoms.