Montgomery, George (c.1569–1621), Church of Ireland bishop, was probably born in 1569 (the inscription on his gravestone states that he was 51 years old when he died in January 1621). The second son of Adam Montgomery, laird of Braidstane, Ayrshire, Scotland, he was educated at Glasgow University, where he graduated with an MA (1582). Montgomery attached himself to Burghley and sought to make his career in England, obtaining the rectory of Chedzoy (or Shedder) in Somerset, where he put down roots, marrying Susan, daughter of a local landowner, Philip Steynings, who turned out to be a highly resourceful spouse. Moving between Somerset and London, Montgomery helped supply James VI with information about the political situation in England; and when James succeeded to the English throne in 1603, Montgomery was rewarded with a chaplaincy and, more importantly, the deanery of Norwich. Montgomery now resided at court and started to try his hand as a royal patronage broker. On 15 February 1605 the king nominated him for the Irish sees of Derry, Clogher, and Raphoe (appointed by letters patent 13 June). Remote, Irish-speaking, and unprofitable, the dioceses seemed a highly unlikely career choice for a cleric who was gaining in influence with James. His wife was certainly surprised: ‘The king has bestowed on him three Irish bishoprics, the names of which I cannot remember, they are so strange’ (Trevelyan papers, ii, 78ff).
Though Montgomery was welcomed to Ireland by John Davies (qv), the attorney general, as a ‘new St Patrick’, he proved reluctant to act as an evangelist, seeing his role more as a lobbyist and administrator. He had the dioceses surveyed, and sought to impose an English-style ecclesiastical structure and discipline on the Gaelic church that he had inherited. All did not go smoothly. After the flight of the earls in 1607, Cahir O'Doherty (qv) in 1608 razed Derry to the ground and captured Susan Montgomery, who had to endure over two months imprisonment. Ultimately, however, Montgomery's move proved a shrewd one, for after the attainder of the earls he was placed at the heart of a major royal project, the Ulster plantation, with two important roles: to look after the interests of the church in the extensive reallocation of land; and to build up a protestant church in these previously catholic areas. This he did, using his contacts at court and his considerable stubbornness and determination to press the church's case, much to the annoyance of the lord deputy, Sir Arthur Chichester (qv), who urged Montgomery to spend less time dealing with the affairs of the world and more on ‘his pastoral calling and the reform of his clergy which he greatly neglected’ (CSPI, 1608–10, 253).
Appointed one of the plantation commissioners in 1608, Montgomery won his most notable triumph in 1609 when he secured for the church the erenagh lands, those ambiguous half-ecclesiastical, half-secular appendages to the Gaelic church. Having ensured that the plantation church was economically, if not pastorally, provided for, Montgomery on 8 July was nominated by the king to Meath. This, by contrast, was a rich, anglicised Pale diocese. Financially astute as ever, Montgomery refused to take up his new post until he had negotiated better terms, including the retention of Clogher, and it was not until 4 August 1610 that he resigned as bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and not until 24 January 1612, after a lengthy visit to England, that letters patent were finally issued for his appointment to Meath. There he set about once again seeking to regain and extend the church's (and especially the bishop's) endowments. On 20 September 1614 the king finally prevailed on him to resign the deanery of Norwich, though typically Montgomery extracted the promise that he could have the rectory of Trim in Meath in recompense on its next vacancy. Montgomery died at Westminster c.15 January 1621, and was buried in a vault he had built at Ardbraccan, Co. Meath.