The Montagu trials, 1953 and 1954



Lord Montagu photographed in 2007 | Wikipedia | 14206

Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, famous for his stately home and his love of motor cars, was born in 1926 and accepted his bisexuality early on but during the British anti-gay hysteria of the 1950s he ended up being prosecuted twice.

In 1953 he was prosecuted for allegedly taking sexual advantage of a 14-year-old Boy Scout at his beach hut. He denied the offence and was found not guilty.


Lord Montagu of Beaulieu arrives for a hearing at Lymington Magistrate’s Court, Hampshire, 1953 | Getty | 17143

In 1954 he was arrested again in 1954 and jointly charged with his cousin Michael Pitt-Rivers and his friend Peter Wildeblood of performing “gross offences” and “conspiracy to incite certain male persons to commit serious offences with male persons” with RAF servicemen Edward McNally and John Reynolds during a weekend party at the same beach hut. Again he pleaded not guilty but this time the conviction was successful and he went to prison for twelve months for “consensual homosexual offences”. He was released after serving eight months of his sentence.

On his release he continued to protest his innocence and deny the charges against him.

His campaign to clear his name led to the Wolfenden Committee, who were already looking at the laws on prostitution, to additionally review the law on homosexuality. In 1957 they reported and recommended that homosexual acts in private between men should be decriminalised. It then took ten years to get the repeal through the Houses of Parliament, finally being achieved on the 28th July 1967.

In 2007 Channel 4 televised a play based on the Montagu trials.

From 1984 to 1992 he was the Chairman of English Heritage and played a major role in the preservation of the nation’s historic houses.

Peter Wildeblood emerged from prison determined to do all he could to change the way Britain’s draconian laws against homosexuality impacted on the lives of men like him. He wrote an account, “Against the Law”, which was published as a book and in 2017 has been turned into a film starring Daniel Mays and directed by Fergus O’Brien. The film will be shown on BBC 2 later in 2017.

Peter Wildeblood died on 13 November, 1999, in Canada.

Michael Pitt-Rivers died in December 1999.

Lord Montagu died on 31 August, 2015.

This post was updated with additional information after Lord Montagu’s death, on 2 September 2015.

This post was further updated with additional information on 11 February 2017.

A further photograph was added to this article on 31 July 2017.

Peter Wildeblood’s obituary



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