MPs expenses scandal - it’s all tame in comparison
Burning Bridges column takes a look at a former Huntingdonshire MP’s life as a professional gambler.
FRIDAY is the anniversary of an important medical breakthrough.
On March 18, 1718 the baby son of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was inoculated against smallpox.
That will come as a surprise to anyone who knows that Edward Jenner invented vaccination in 1796. But Jenner’s discovery was different. He found that injecting patients with the cattle disease cowpox protected them against the deadly human ailment of smallpox. Dr Jenner called his treatment “vaccination” from the Latin word “vacca” for cow, and it went on to rid the world of smallpox.
In the 18th century most people living in British towns and cities could expect to catch smallpox and 20 per cent of those who caught it died. The disease was declared eradicated from the world in 1979.
You may also want to watch:
Eighty years before Dr Jenner, Lady Mary used a different method. Her husband was the British ambassador to Turkey and she noticed that the Turks inoculated their children against smallpox, not by using cowpox but by deliberately injecting them with smallpox itself.
That was risky – about one in 200 died. But the other 199 had lifelong immunity. Lady Mary took the risk with her son and went on to introduce inoculation in England when she returned there. The treatment became quite widespread until Dr Jenner discovered a safer way.
- 1 Pubs with outdoor seating and details of how to book a table, from April 12
- 2 Village was location of rail disaster and hosted music festival for many years
- 3 Ancient church and former airfield are historical features of Graveley village
- 4 Man who drove at runner before crashing is disqualified
- 5 Village bonded during pandemic and community began stronger
- 6 Bandstand in Huntingdon lit up for Prince Philip as district pays tribute to 'dedicated' royal consort
- 7 Former Huntingdon MP, Sir John Major, talks about how the Queen will cope without the Duke at her side
- 8 Vegetable collections and hand sanitiser production was village's response to pandemic
- 9 What are the rules when pubs reopen on April 12
- 10 Highways England agreed to meet A14 campaigners at site of 'dangerous junctions'
So what did Lady Mary’s son Edward Wortley Montagu do with the life preserved for him by this bold medical experiment? Almost everything you could think of.
He spent money like water and was often imprisoned for debt. He married almost as often, but several of his marriages were bigamous so it’s hard to say exactly how many legal wives he had.
He joined the army and was mentioned in dispatches. Then he became a diplomat. Then he persuaded his cousin, our old friend the Earl of Sandwich, to get him elected as MP for Huntingdonshire. (In those days democracy in Huntingdonshire consisted of about 1,500 voters doing what the Earl of Sandwich told them to).
Montagu didn’t bother visiting his constituency or going to the House of Commons - he was busy elsewhere. He spent most of his time as our MP living in France as a professional gambler, and was jailed in Paris for cheating at dice.
His fellow conspirator, jailed with him, was the Honourable Member for Arundel.
It makes fiddling expenses seem rather tame, doesn’t it?