Anyhow, it was ultimately decided that something must be done with him. But what? Austria and Turkey were at war in 1716; what better than to send Montagu as Ambassador to the Porte, with a mission to endeavour to reconcile the protagonists? He was appointed to this post on June 5.
It was while accompanying her husband on this mission that Lady Mary wrote her famous “Letters during the Embassy to Constantinople,” which constitute a very important document on the state of Europe at the time. It is by no means certain, however, that, in the first instance, these reflections were all cast in letter-form; it is much more likely that some were written in a diary. The letters appear as addressed to the Countess of Bristol, to the Princess of Wales, to Mrs. Thistlethwayte, to Lady Rich, to Alexander Pope, to the Abbe Conti, to Miss Sarah Chiswell, to Mrs. Hewet, to Lady Mary’s sister, the Countess of Mar, and others.
At the beginning of August, 1716, Montagu, with his wife and son, and, it is to be presumed, his suite, left England, and, after a very bad crossing, landed at Rotterdam. From that city, the cleanliness of which surprised and delighted Lady Mary—“you may see the Dutch maids washing the pavement of the street with more application than ours do our bed-chambers”—the party proceeded by way of the Hague, Nimeguen, Cologne, Frankfort-on-the-Main, Wurzberg, and Ratisbon to Vienna, where they arrived during the first week in September.
Lady Mary was all impatient to go to Court, for, as she put it, “I am not without a great impatience to see a beauty that has been the admiration of so many nations,” but she was forced to stay for a gown, without which there was no waiting on the Empress. Presently the gown was ready, and Lady Mary was presented.
“I was squeezed up in a gown” (she wrote to her sister, Lady Mar), “and adorned with a gorget and the other implements thereunto belonging: a dress very inconvenient, but which certainly shews the neck and shape to great advantage. I cannot forbear in this place giving you some description of the fashions here which are more monstrous and contrary to all common sense and reason, than ’tis possible for you to imagine. They build certain fabrics of gauze on their heads about a yard high, consisting of three or four stories fortified with numberless yards of heavy ribbon. The foundation of this structure is a thing they call a Bourle which is exactly of the same shape and kind, but about four times as big, as those rolls our prudent milk-maids make use of to fix their pails upon. This machine they cover with their own hair, which they mix with a great deal of false, it being a particular beauty to have their heads too large to go into a moderate tub. Their hair is prodigiously powdered, to conceal the mixture, and set out with three or four rows of bodkins (wonderfully large, that stick [out] two or three inches from their hair), made of diamonds, pearls, red, green, and yellow stones, that it certainly requires as much art and experience to carry the load upright, as to dance upon May-day with the garland. Their whalebone petticoats outdo ours by several yards circumference, and cover some acres of ground.