The Bloody History of The Sandwich


In our discussion on the bloody history of some of the foods we enjoy, we continue with a look at the sandwich. You might be wondering if something something so unassuming and ordinary could have such a violent and bloody history associated with it.

You know damn very well it can, sometimes, these things aren’t directly related to them.

First off, where did the name come from?

That would be the Earl of Sandwich, which is an actual place. The etymology of the word is a combination of the words sand, which means sand (duh), and the Anglo –wich comes from an Anglo word that translates to “fortified building where trade takes place”, in short, “Market town on Sandy Soil”. 

The title of Earl, however, had been passed down to several people before it got to our friend here. The Earl in question is John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Inheriting the title after the death of his grandfather at age ten. He held a variety of other titles: Postmaster General, First Lord of the Admiralty, and finally, inventor of the Sandwich. But what transpired during the life of a man who is now associated with the lunchtime staple we all know and appreciate?

The story goes that Montagu was a fervent card player who rarely took breaks for anything. He is credited with the concept of having his chefs put meat between two pieces of bread for him to eat while he was playing cards, thus a new invention was created. While the invention itself is pretty spotless in terms of violence it elicits, the life of the inventor is anything but. See the bloody events that transpired in this man’s life, starting from the very beginning.

Jacobite Rising

“Come on men, their spiffy red coats and professional training are no match for…for….uh…ATTACK!”

The young Earl saw some military action in a conflict known as the Jacobite Rising. The rising itself went like this: most of Europe was at war due to the fact that the throne in Austria was empty and it needed to be filled, and everyone thought their guy (Actually, one of the contenders was a woman named Maria Theresa)  was the one who was gonna do the job. Most of the countries involved had all of their troops dedicated to the conflict, which to one ambitious man with an equally ambitious name by the name of Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart (take a breather after reading this) gathered up his fellow “Jacobites” or those people who believed that The House of Stuart were the true heirs to the British throne, and said, “Yeah, let’s get me the throne of England”.

In a series of battles, the Jacobites managed to take Scotland from the British and made plans with the Scots to invade England and put Charles back on the throne. However, like many college group projects, things didn’t turn out the way it was supposed to, and soon the uprising was defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. Even after proposing an invasion of England by France, which went nowhere (again, why I hated school group projects), Charles died in Rome in 1788.

Casualties (Battle of Culloden) 300 British troops killed; 1,500-2,000 Jacobites killed and wounded. 

Island Hopping

When your sexy beach photo session gets wrecked by the people you just attacked for stealing a boat earlier that day

There was also a place named The Sandwich Islands a long time ago. The Earl sponsored a voyage led by Captain James Cook of the British Navy, and along the way came across the islands on January 18, 1778, which was surprisingly peaceful as far as contacts go for that time. The locals, thinking the British were gods, were fascinated by the tall British ships and traded metalwork for sexual favors. According to some sources, their 2nd arrival couldn’t have come at a better time as the locals were celebrating a festival dedicated to the fertility god Lono, and the British ships, arriving in Kealakekua Bay, cemented their status as immortal men. 

The hero-worship of the natives, however, ended when a crew member died, thus proving to the locals that these men weren’t gods after all, and suddenly, relations went south. The British, wearing out their welcome, set sail, but ended up back on the islands due to rough seas. This third visit, however, was exactly the kind of experience most people reading this blog would’ve expected: pissed off natives agitated by foreign explorers, violence over a boat which resulted in the death of a local chief, and finally, the death of Cook himself at the hands of said locals. 

So, what happened to those islands? Well, they were a sovereign nation that called itself Hawaii until some upstart nation called the United States eventually came into possession of them (the nerve of those ungrateful colonials) by some seriously questionable maneuvers. Now, the history of how the Hawaiian islands came into possession of the islands, that’s another story for another day (Spoiler alert: Same sh*t, different day).

Casualties: 1 Dead British Captain, 1 Dead Minor Chief, at least 4 British marines killed, unknown casualties on the indigenous side.

Marth Ray

It took a lot of time to stunt on some hoes for a selfie back in the 18th century

Imagine your wife is dying and you decide that now would be a good time to have a mistress. If you didn’t wretch in disgust at that idea, then Montagu is your man as that is exactly what he did. 

Martha Ray was a talented, intelligent, and beautiful singer that caught the eye of Montagu. Living with him when she was 17 (that’s called grooming by 21st century standards) Montagu gave her the financial security that many would die for in those times, helping her complete her education and having nine children with him (five survived). Montagu was madly in love with her, however, possibly to money issues of his own, he seemed to not have an issue with her having a side piece of her own, a man by the name of James Hackman. Hackman proposed marriage to her but was denied each time. 

Like all good love stories, this culminated in Hackman killing her in a jealous rage in 1779 while she was attending an opera. Hackman was later found, tried, and hanged for his deed. Montagu was said to have never recovered from his grief over losing her. 

Casualties: 1 mistress and her jealous lover.

Do you love history and food? Do you love learning about the surprisingly violent and dark stories that arise from the pages of history books? Share what items you want me to cover in the comments below.

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