Sir Edward Montagu purchased the Boughton estate in 1528 and built a house on the site.
The property had monastic origins but there were few buildings to show this when Sir Edward took over. He was a lawyer who rose to be Chief Justice of the Common Pleas.
Following Sir Edward's death, his son and grandson added to the Tudor house. His grandson became Lord Montagu in 1621 and was a supporter of Charles I and during the Civil War was imprisoned for a brief period before his death in 1644.
The 1st Lord Montagu's grandson, Ralph Montagu, was an ambitious younger son - he was a patron of the arts and was influenced by French taste. After the Restoration Charles II sent him to Paris in 1669 as ambassador to Louis XIV.
Montagu's efforts to advance himself lost him his place on the Privy Council and the respect of Charles II and the Duke of York (later James II). It was not until the accession of William III and Mary II in 1689 that Montagu was readmitted to the Privy Council.
In 1665 Montagu's elder brother was killed in action against the Dutch and Ralph became heir to Boughton. His marriage in 1673 to Elizabeth, widow of the 11th Earl of Northumberland, greatly increased his means. Two years later he used some of this to build the French style Montague House in London.
In 1684 his father died and Ralph became the 3rd Lord Montagu.
The 3rd Lord left intact the rambling Tudor house with its seven courtyards. His main architectural works were the additions to the north of the house and the stable block.
The north front, with its two pavillions and an arcade, was built in the French style. Boughton House became known as the 'English Versailles'.
The main entrance was through the central door in the arcade, which lead into the great hall and here the original Tudor hammer-beam roof had been covered by a decorated barrel-vaulted ceiling. The approach to the Grand Apartment (state rooms) lay through a small hall and via a stone staircase hall to the first floor.
The five state rooms were designed as show rooms, used only by very grand or royal visitors. The rooms consisted of the great chamber, drawing room, state bedroom, a dressing room and a fifth room whose function is unknown.
Boughton was filled with works of art collected by Ralph Montagu including paintings, tapestries, furniture, rugs, needlework, silver and clocks, adding to the furnishings collected over the previous 150 years.
The paintings include work by El Greco, Murillo and Caracci and there are 40 sketches by Van Dyke. There is also a splendid armoury and a Ceremonial Coach.
In 1689 the 3rd Lord was given an earldom for the support he gave William III in his efforts to secure the Crown. William III visited Boughton House in 1695.
In 1704 the Earl's son John married the daughter of the Duke of Marlborough. Finally, the following year Ralph Montagu was created Marquess of Monthermer and Duke of Montagu by Queen Ann. The 1st Duke died in 1709.
The 2nd Duke was known as 'John the Planter' - making considerable additions to the garden. As early as 1685 the 1st Duke had employed a Dutch gardener to lay out a parterre, canal, fountain and other works.
Duke John planted trees on a massive scale, the lime and elm avenues extended at one time over 70 miles. The park escaped the landscape movement and retains its late 17th century formality.
In 1749 the 2nd Duke died and the estate passed to his daughter Mary, who married George, Earl of Cardigan and in 1766 he was created 3rd Duke of Montagu. The property passed again through the female line to their daughter Elizabeth, wife of the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch. At this point the Montagu titles died out.
However, the family name of the Dukes of Buccleuch, who own Boughton House, is 'Montagu Douglas Scott' so there is still a link with Sir Edward Montague.
After 1749 the house and contents, already considered old-fashioned, changed very little.