John de Montgomery
Grand Commander 1439-1445
Full plate armour for man and horse commissioned by Sigismund II Augustus
John (Jean in French) de Montgomery was Laird of Giffen in Scotland and head of one of the major armigerous branches of the Montgomery family.
He was born about 1394. In 1413 he obtained a charter from the Regent Albany to have his son named as Laird of Giffen and place him in the guardianship of his eldest brother.(The charter shows the eldest brother as Hugh, but family records show the eldest as Alexander and Hugh as a cousin). His son Robert could not have been more than 5 years old and may have been even younger, hence the reason for the charter. This suggests that his wife had died otherwise the boy would have been placed in his mother's care as guardian. It is probable that he went over to France either that same year or the next year 1414 likely as part of a group of Scots mercenaries. He would have returned in 1419 to help organise the contingent of 6,000 that went over in 1420. By this time, he would have been an experienced Captain and possibly this is why he was able to command the rear-guard of the Franco-Scottish army after Verneuil.
He must have married again in France as he had a second son René born about 1440, to whom René d'Anjou stood as god-father. Unfortunately, we do not have the names of either of his wives. His son René de Montgomery married Jeanne d'Harcourt. (The Harcourts and the Setons descend from Bernard the Dane, who was the great-great-grand-uncle of Roger de Montgomery, who came over to England with William I. So the Harcourts and Montgomerys were distant cousins) René and Jeanne had 2 children Jeanne d'Harcourt de Montgomery, who was the first wife of René de Lorraine (SGC 1485-1508) and Rene II de Montgomery who married Lionne Lodes, from whom Gabriel de Montgomery is descended (1).
John went over to France in 1420 in the Scottish Contingent of 6,000 knights and men-at-arms together with the Earls of Douglas and Buchan. In 1424 at the bloody battle of Verneuil the Scots contingent was cut to pieces and the Earls of Douglas and Buchan together with Sir John Seton and Sir Alexander Buchanan were all killed. Being the only leader to survive he took command and led the Scots in a fighting rearguard action to enable the French troops to retreat (1).
Battle of Verneuil
It is unclear how many of the original 6000 survived and whether they remained in France or accompanied the bodies of the Earls back to Scotland, but we do know that John de Montgomery stayed in France and accepted the title of Seigneur and lands of d’Azay-le-Rideau from King Charles VII and either then or somewhat later the position of Constable of the King of France’s Scottish troops previously held by Sir John Stewart, who was killed at Orleans.
King Charles had been so impressed by the bravery of the Scots that in the next year 1425 he created an elite bodyguard of two Scots sub-divisions a) “Garde du Roi” and b) “Garde de Corps du Roi”. Again, whether these were recruited from the survivors of Verneuil, or from elsewhere is not clear but probably both. In the meantime, a group of survivors attached themselves to Sir John de Montgomery as his own company consisting of men-at-arms and archers. If you are going to be Constable of the King’s Scottish troops, then it is useful to have your own private troops, who are loyal to you in an emergency and anyway as a French feudal lord he would be expected to bring his own troops to serve the king when called upon.
In 1429 on 15th August he commanded the Scottish troops at the battle of Senlis, under René d‘Anjou and later in September that year was once again fighting alongside René and Joan of Arc at the siege of Orleans. At both battles there were 5 independent Scottish mercenary companies under their respective Captains but under the overall command of Sir John both as senior Captain but also as Constable of the Scottish troops, and it is from these 5 individual companies that the Ordre du Lys (Now Order of the Fleur-de-Lys) was formed.
Rene decided to try to become regnant as well as titular King of the Two Sicilies, but having no money looked to Cosimo de Medici to help and Cosimo seeing advantages for Florence agreed. Rene employed both Scottish and Italian mercenary troops to help him take Naples. Once installed he gave Letters Patent to the 5 mercenary companies as the Ordre du Lys and made John de Montgomery its Grand Commander. These three Rene, John and Cosimo are therefore the founders of the Order (4).
After the formation of the Order by Rene, Sir John became its Grand Commander whilst still remaining as Constable of the King of France’s Scottish troops.
He died in battle serving his adopted country in 1445.
Standard of the "Scottish company", the 1st company of the Royal Garde du Corps (i)
Rene d ’Anjou stood as godfather to John de Montgomery’s eldest son who of course was christened Rene. Rene married Jeanne d ’Harcourt and followed his father into the Scots Guards and became cupbearer to the Duke of Orleans and was given the title and lands of de Lorges.
1. Montgomery,H. (2002), Montgomery Millennium, Megatrend University, Serbia also The God-Kings of the Vikings (2010)p.153, The Book Tree, CA USA
2. History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages by Sir Charles Oman, Vol. 2 (1278-1485) 1991 Edition by Greenhill Books
3. Revue cantonale de Livarot, 3e trimester 1987
4. Montgomery, H. (2002), Montgomery millennium p8-9, Megatrend University, Serbia
5. History of the Order of the Fleur-de-Lys www.orderofthefleurdelys.org.uk /order-history
6. History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages by Sir Charles Oman, Vol. 2 (1278-1485) 1991 Edition by Greenhill Books
7. Revue cantonale de Livarot, 3e trimester 1987
8. Montgomery, H. (2002), Montgomery millennium p8-9, Megatrend University, Serbia
9. History of the Order of the Fleur-de-Lys www.orderofthefleurdelys.org.uk /order-history
i) yberMonk (Richard Couture) - http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=Image:French_Gardes_du_Corps_1st_Company_Standard.jpg