Managing Aristocratic Households: Women’s Agency within the Montagu Property Network, c.1709-1827
thesisposted on 02.07.2018, 11:42 by Emma Frances Purcell
The English country house has captured people’s interest and imagination for centuries, and has been the subject of many popular and academic studies. However, due to a tendency to focus upon the art and architecture of such properties, how families actually lived in and used these great houses has often been obscured and underexplored. The eighteenth-century Montagu family will be used as a case study through which to explore a number of key themes associated with the social, rather than architectural side of the country house. Their country seat of Boughton House, Northamptonshire will be considered as part of their wider network of urban, suburban and country estates, which increased throughout the century through marriages and inheritance patterns, in order to explore the position of the country house in connection to other aristocratic properties. This thesis will use the Montagu family to examine how aristocratic families used, managed and moved between a large network of estates. It will highlight the importance of inheritance and legal terminology in giving elite women agency, power and influence within households, within their marriages and over their own finances. It will explore the position that Boughton occupied within their network in relation to other properties, looking at what criteria three generations of the family prioritised when moving between houses. In particular, it will show that not all country properties were at the height of their popularity in the eighteenth century, with some, like Boughton, being neglected by owners and left to fall into decline.