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Famous Gamblers – John Montagu

John Montagu lived in the middle of the eighteenth century. After studying at Cambridge, he left his native England and traveled widely in Europe. Upon his return he became First Lord of the Admiralty (similar to the Secretary of the Navy in the United States) and was determined to build the British navy into an effective fighting force. Although he made many enemies along the way and was ridiculed and attacked in the media, he instituted many changes. For example, he insisted that naval shipyards be inspected and that the navy adopt a written code of discipline.

Some critics accused him of being corrupt and incompetent and point to the fact that the Revolutionary War took place on his watch. They maintain that he should shoulder some responsibility for losing The Colonies.

His private life was eventful. His wife’s health failed and he took a mistress. After many years of happiness, she was murdered. He took responsibility for the children he fathered and two of his sons became successful.

According to legend, after he spent a couple of days gambling without stopping to eat or drink, his servant begged him to take a break and eat some beef. Montagu loved beef but didn’t want to leave the table to waste time eating, so he asked for the beef to be put between two slices of toasted bread. This new “invention” became extremely popular and was quickly named after its originator, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich. And that’s how the sandwich got its name.

The Sandwich Islands (renamed Hawaii) in the Pacific were also named after him, since he sponsored and supported the explorations of Captain Cook.