A: Today I’m chatting with Julie Montagu.
I first met Julie Montagu in 2016, while I was an ambassador for Liz Earle Skincare. Julie is one of those people with an effervescent energy. When Julie walks into a room, she lights it up. I knew her also because of her yoga, wellbeing, and nutrition. Julie came in for a facial, and we have a similar book agent. Julie was achieving amazing things back then, but when I thought about how to introduce Julie on my podcast, I came across her Wikipedia page, which gives us an idea about Julie Monague. Her official title is Viscountess Hinchingbrooke. She has her own TV series, YouTube channel, and four books. She teaches yoga and runs retreats. Also at her home called Mapperton, they’re now running weddings there too. Julie’s one of those characters with a real can do, ‘I’m going to achieve,’ character.
So I am so excited to welcome you, Julie, to the podcast.
J: Well, thank you, Abigail. That was just too kind, and I always wonder who writes these Wikipedia pages. Sometimes I want to go in there and edit it myself. Because I don’t know if that’s all true, I have no idea. Speaking of facials, Abigail, I need to book in another one. But equally, Abigail, you have done a gazillion things since we last saw each other in 2015 or 2016.
A: We’re busy ladies. That’s an understatement, I think. Even though both of us are in the wellbeing and holistic field, we’re fundamentally businesswomen. We are hustling and doing our thing. So as much as I’ve given you that little bit of an intro, and people can also Wikipedia you, I’d love for you to tell us your story.
I also find it lovely to hear someone tell their own story in a nutshell. I’d appreciate if you could just share a little bit about where you’ve come from, the journey and where you are now.
J: Yes, of course, maybe somebody listening to this can update the Wikipedia page, after hearing me.
Obviously, you can tell by my accent that I am American. I was born and raised in a small town outside Chicago, and then moved over here. Not because I wanted to, but because I had a job over here. I moved over way back when at times the food wasn’t good over here.
Let’s be honest. I think we can all remember that time, and I thought, I don’t think I can live here because the cheese is yellow, which is actually the right colour. Whereas I was used to growing up in America with Velveeta slices, and the cheese is a bright orange, and I literally thought that was the colour of cheese.
Fast forward, I married into this well-known English family, actually well-known family around the world because it’s the Sandwich family. My husband’s ancestor was the fourth Earl of Sandwich. In fact, my father-in-law is the current Earl of Sandwich, and he invented that snack that we all have.
A: What an amazing heritage to the family.
J: Yes, it is. I mean, it is funny. I remember when my husband first told me that his father was the Earl of Sandwich, and one day he would be the Earl of Sandwich. This is when we were dating, and I thought, ‘No, we’ve got to sit down and talk about this,’ because I literally didn’t know that these titles were carried on.
But sure enough, here I am in England and in Britain, and the titles continue. I’m obviously a holder of one of them, that very, very long title, which I won’t repeat again because the listeners will get so bored of it.
A: Amazing. So I know you Julie, for all these things, but when we first connected, all those years ago, it was the nutrition and the yoga. I’d love to talk about your yoga journey.
J: It’s so wonderful to recount the path I’ve been on with my yoga and wellbeing. I started my yoga practice, not my teaching, but my practice after my fourth was born. So I have four children, and my fourth was born 15 years ago.
I had a little bit of a moment after my fourth was born, and I remember I was at Chelsea Westminster Hospital. I purposely booked a meeting on October 17th, because only 2% of women have their babies born on their due date. So I thought, ‘This is a big meeting. I’m going to book it on October 17th.’
I knew I’d be in and out of hospital because I had three other kids, and they were, luckily for me, quite easy. So I booked it in, and low and behold, I go into labour late on the 16th of October. My fourth was born at 12 minutes past midnight on the 17th, but there was no way I was going to cancel that meeting.
So I tried to get the paediatrician into the hospital the next morning to make sure I was all good and that I could just be sent home. My husband thought I was completely mad, because I had called everybody and said, ‘I may have had the baby today, but I’m coming in for the meeting.’
I think that was the start of me needing to slow down and take a little time out, and that’s when I found yoga. It was almost forced on me that I needed to slow down, and about how crazy it was that I was actually going to attend a meeting less than 9 hours after I had given birth to my fourth child.
By the way, the meeting was cancelled. Everybody thought I was bonkers. That’s where it started and then, and it’s formed and shaped where I am today, and my yoga career. I ended up doing my teacher training back in my home country.
I went to New York and did teacher training there, but it was intense, so I wouldn’t have to be away from the kids for so long. I think it was about two weeks, and it was intense. That was in 2009, and my youngest was born in 2006.
That’s where my yoga career began, when I returned from New York after doing my yoga teacher training, and the rest is history. Well, as far as yoga goes.
A: Yes. It’s interesting because I’m actually thinking about us trying to schedule this in today. We’d got it in the diary, and last minute we’d got a message from you going, ‘Oh my goodness, I seriously, I can’t do it. I’ve got to pick a child up.’ Then literally half an hour later, ‘No, it’s all on. It’s good.’ I was just sitting with it and thinking, ‘This is just so Julie,’ the fact that even when something did crop up, you are obviously not sitting and thinking, ‘Oh, it’s not going to happen.’
You’d committed to doing this. I think when you’re a mother hustling work and careers, I think there’s just an underlying next level of capability, and today was a testament of you being able to do that.
I know family is important to you. How has being a mother formed your career choice? Obviously, your career has been varied over the years as a mother. As amazing as it is, it has its restrictions, or maybe, it’s a burning desire to keep doing things. I’d love to know a little bit about how your family has had an impact on your career choices.
J: Yes, you’re exactly right. For me, not growing up with a nanny, I’m one of five in my family and my mother doing it all. I wanted to replicate that with my own children, but simultaneously have a career. There was that point that I would literally do. I don’t even know how many school runs, from nursery to primary school to secondary school, in the morning and in the afternoon. Between that period, I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got about 6 hours to go for it.’ I just thought, if I want to have it all, this family and I want to teach yoga and go down the wellbeing route. Whatever else comes my way, I’m going to have to really utilise these 6 hours incredibly well and be incredibly efficient with it. So I think for me personally, it worked, but I was highly motivated that I would take my kids to their school and then do what I need to do for the 6 hours, and then pick them up.
Now, it’s not to say that I was this perfect mother. You know, there were times, it’s always the youngest one. I left my four year old, I picked up the other two at the same school. So one daughter went to a different school. I picked up two of the boys. I went all the way home. I had kept getting unknown numbers on my mobile phone. I thought, ‘I don’t know who that unknown number is, I’m not going to answer.’ It ended up being the school. It wasn’t until 4.45 when my husband got a hold of me and said, ‘I need you to look around, I think you forgot something’. I’m looking around the house saying, ‘I don’t think I forgot anything.’
He said, ‘You’ve actually forgotten a child.’ I had to go back to the school. He was sitting on the blue sofa, and the headmaster said, ‘What happened?’ And I said, ‘I just forgot him.’ That was the truth. But so it’s not perfect, but it’s about accepting it’s not perfect, and the kids will be okay.
A: Yes, and they obviously are when you were hustling. I’ve had many clients who’ve come to see me for facials in London, who have been clients of Julie. They go to your yoga classes, and all of them will say, ‘I’ve got to book in, because it just books out. I’m not going to get there.’ You have definitely managed to build up a frenzy and amazing reputation for what you were doing with your yoga, and people are resonating with that.
What was the driving force, and the hustle, to keep doing your yoga? I’d love to talk about the driving force for where your mind was with that side of things.
J: When I completed my first teacher training back in 2009, we had to go around the room and everybody had to say why they wanted to teach yoga, and mine was that I’m teaching it because I never want anybody to feel as bad about themselves as I’ve felt about myself before. So it was a real opportunity for me to be able to pass along these wonderful yoga teachings to other people who might be experiencing what I experienced, which was low self-esteem and very little self-confidence.
My Sunday night class had 80 people for years. You would have to book, and it was the Sunday night class in London to go to. I’m proud to say that I don’t think I necessarily realised what an effect it had until the pandemic, when everything shut down.
I took this Sunday night slot because I was a new teacher, and nobody wanted to teach on a Sunday. My husband said, ‘Go ahead. Take that slot. You just got into this big studio in London. So if that’s the slot they’re giving, you take it. I’ll take care of the kids. ‘So it was this 7:00 to 8.30 slot on a Sunday. I think I started with 8 people, and it grew quickly to 80. You did have to book it in. I don’t know if it was necessarily me or how I structured the class, but I didn’t play traditional yoga music. There was U2, Coldplay, Eminem, Journey, and 80’s rock.
At the time, I had young children at home, and I could connect with many other young mothers. They were getting that Sunday night off, to just reset themselves. It wasn’t just young mothers who were coming to the class. It was lots of people.
There were times when it’s Sunday, I think, ‘Oh gosh, if I could just get that back one more time if I could just teach that one more time. It would be a real treat.’
A: You’ve mentioned your husband encouraging you to just do it. It sounds like you’ve got a really supportive network there. Would you say that’s true, and how important is that to you, your family, and your career?
J: Absolutely. Many people who’ve read anything about my husband and I, and without going into too many details, he was ill for a very long time.
He was mis prescribed pharmaceutical drugs as so many people are, and for a sinus operation that he had a bad reaction to. It was a really harrowing period, and I’m not singling out women as this, but when life really throws things at you, you have a choice. You can either go down that route of letting it destroy you or affect you, or you can rise above it and think, ‘Right, what am I going to do with this situation and how am I going to make it better?’ It was all about making it better, and my husband was just very supportive in particular. When he was not very well, he said, ‘Absolutely go out and do what you need to do.’
I do have this really supportive network, not just from my husband, but also from my in-laws and my children. I think they also saw that during that trying period when somebody’s ill, that you need to have the tools to cope with it. I think the children and my husband saw that. Not only was I teaching yoga because I was passionate about it, but I was also practising it myself.
That’s the real reason I was able to get through that difficult period. I always tell people that yoga is the hub of everything I do. I have lots of spokes around that hub, but it is that all those spokes would fall apart if I didn’t have the yoga.
A: Has your yoga practice changed as you’ve aged?
J: That’s a really good question, Abigail. Probably most people might be expecting me to say, ‘Yes, it’s slowed down,’ or, ‘I do more restorative. ‘But no, it hasn’t. In fact, it’s almost gotten to the other extreme. I like to handstand. I like poses that are really rather difficult, and I don’t necessarily know how to do it. I want to be able to learn how to do it, because for me, the yoga poses represent, in one sense, where we are in life. It’s not a judgmental thing, and it’s not an attachment thing. Where I am still, in life right now, is I want to grow in my yoga practice and continue to evolve in areas in my life in particular, or down the TV route.
So the yoga poses for me are a challenge, just like the roles that I’m taking on in life. Even as my kids get older, I always say, ‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop till I’m about 90.’ That’s who I am as a person. So I like these yoga challenging poses because it helps me to challenge myself in life as well as on the mat.
A: I was kind of expecting that to be your answer because I’ve seen you on your social media, and I don’t get any sense of you dulling down your yoga practice. Are there any yoga poses that you just don’t vibe with, that you have to force yourself to do or avoid?
J: I don’t avoid any yoga poses. I’ll always try them. In fact, I’m leaving next week to go to an intensive advanced teacher training course. My teacher lives in Milan, and I’m going with one of my best yogi friends. It will be the hardest training I will have ever done. I will arrive and there will be poses that I probably can’t do, but that’s the thing about the pose, it doesn’t need to look like the book. I always say to my students, rather than saying, ‘Okay, I’m not even going to try this pose.’ I will try all the poses, and I will see where I get stuck and how I might be able to manoeuvre it to make it work for my body.
So it may not look like my next door neighbour on the mat. They might be doing it perfectly, but I can manoeuvre it in a way that I’m still getting the same benefits, and I think that’s what life is about.
You might not be able to do something as well as that person or whatever it is, but you can manoeuvre it in a different way to make it suit you. You might find that that is a real leap forward into taking your life, your career, or your journey to the next level.
A: I love the passion that you talk about yoga, it really just beams out of you. With the crazy schedules that you have going on in your life, is it still a daily practice for you?
J: Yes. I couldn’t be as chaotic and crazy as I am if I didn’t. Have my yoga and people always said, ‘How do you fit it in?’ I’ll just do it. It’s not like I do an hour and a half practice every day. Some days I’ll just do 10 sun salutation a’s and 10 sun salutation b’s, and that’s 30 minutes. I already know that that’s a 30 minute practice for me. It goes wherever I go. So when I know I’m heading on a walk, I think, ‘Okay, great. So I’ve got a 15 minute walk to the tube station, and I’ll switch my breath on, and I’ll do breath work while I’m walking.’
Any chance I get, I throw it in. Next week I’m on this teacher training course. It’ll take out my entire week. But because I’ve scheduled it in, I’ve let everybody know I will not be able to respond to anything for a week. Because I’m getting everything done this week, so that I have this week of just focusing on me and my teaching and, and my yoga.
A: Do you ever have days where you wake up and you’re just like, ‘Ugh. I’m just not feeling today. ‘And if you do, are there any other things that you find really helpful to gee you back up and get back on it?
J: I’ve been asked this question before. There are days that I feel less motivated.
There aren’t any days that I stay in bed or under the duvet or where I decide to do nothing. I probably need to work on that actually, Abigail. So that is probably a problem. If my husband were standing here, he’d say, ‘Problem is that my wife doesn’t switch off, and she needs to sometimes switch off and just do nothing.’
But the way I’m built and the way my head works is that I like being switched on all of the time. Now, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t days that I feel not as motivated as others. Absolutely. I also have this mantra in me, and it’s crazy, but I just think, ‘I’ve got a day.’
So I woke up, I’ve got a day. I don’t know if I’m going to be here tomorrow. I literally have that ingrained in my head, so I’m going to do what I can today, and that might be, again, slowing down a little bit. I have it in my head. I just got to get it all done, and I like what I do. So I love teaching yoga. I love TV presenting. For me, it’s fun, it’s enjoyable. I’m passionate about it.
I think if those didn’t exist, and I wasn’t passionate and had fun with what I was doing, I would’ve answered that question completely differently. I’d say ‘Yes, I stay in my bed, or I do slow down, or I do lie horizontally on the sofa, but because I enjoy so much what I do, I go for it every single day.’
Is it the same motivation every single day? No. There are things that definitely get me down, and things don’t work out, and I get frustrated and angry. I think, ‘Why isn’t this going my way?’ But I never let it get me to that point where I just give up.
A: I love that. We’ve just got another day, and you’ve got to embrace it and enjoy it. I use the phrase ‘Aging is a gift.’ Each day it is exactly there. So I really love that. Talking of aging, how do you feel about the aging process? If Wikipedia is correct, I’m presuming you are 49. Yeah. So we’ve got 50 coming up, how are you feeling about it?
J: Do you know what? Aging just doesn’t faze me at all. Everyone’s going to age. That’s how I look at it. Everyone will get to my age. I think of it as a gift that I’m here, and I think, ‘Great, bring it on.’ Bring me onto my sixties, bring me onto my seventies. I just want to be able to get there.
So I just think aging is a gift because I’m still here. I also look at everybody else who’s still young, and I just think, ‘Been there, done that.’ I’m now at this phase, and how lucky am I to be here now? That’s how I feel. I feel so lucky that I’ve made it to this age.
A: I’m presuming, just because of friends and where your yoga practice was in London, you were in Chelsea, and I’m presuming you have seen other females step into the Botox and fillers side of things. Do you have any views or thoughts on that side of the aging process?
J: As a yoga teacher, I don’t judge. I just think it’s your body. If that is what you want to do with it, then that’s your body. I know what I want to do with my body, I know what feels good in my body, and I want to do things the natural way. It’s one of the Yamas is not to judge. Do I have an opinion on when I see somebody who’s had a lot of Botox and fillers? Yes, I personally think it probably doesn’t look too nice because it just doesn’t look right.
In my view, I wouldn’t want my face to look frozen. I’m very animated and there’s lots of stuff going around on my facial expressions. I want to have those facial expressions.
A: I love that. You mentioned you like natural instead of delving into a full skincare routine.
Is there one product or a few desert island products that you absolutely love and can’t live without?
J: I’m going to say chlorella, which is like spirulina, but I think better, for about seven years.
It sounds crazy, I like my brand and I take 30. I take it religiously, every single day.
A: Interesting. And is that 20 or 30 tablets a day? I know the tablets are small.
J: Yes. I take it daily. That’s what it says on the package. Yes. I think it gives me a lot of energy. I think that’s the other reason I’m quite energetic, but I was energetic prior to taking it. I just know good things about putting algae in your body, you can live off it, that, and water.
A: I know you’re doing a lot of presenting. I know some of the TV shows when there’s a royal event, they bring you, Julie, out to comment and do that commentary. I know we’ve got an underlying tone of beauty and skincare with this particular podcast. Have you got any tips for prepping your skin before the makeup, because you’re obviously in front of cameras? Have you got any little tips, tricks that you could share?
J: The trick that I use, and I have to say, I took it from my husband. My husband still has white-blonde hair and looks about 35. It drives me up a wall, and he is three years older than I am, but he splashes cold water on his face morning and night. That is what I started to do a while ago. Before anything on my face, I just splash cold water, but I feel like it does something. It revitalises it, energises it, but it’s just a habit.
I look at him and I think, ‘How does he look so young?’ And I think it must be the cold water. What do you think of that, Abigail?
A: Well, I love cold water. And I actually have a cryo- machine within my clinic, proper cryotherapy. So we’re dropping skin down to between 0 and 4 degrees. So that’s kind of a next level of cold therapy.
I think from a rejuvenation point of view, it’s giving that immediate effect of constricting the blood vessels, and it’s supporting the lymphatic system. It will bring fresh nutrients internally to the skin. So it absolutely has those skin benefits. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you getting into your freshwater pool or pond.
So that’s a different kind of cold. I know it’s freshwater swimming, but there’s a cold element to that as well from an all over health perspective. Did you have to dig that out, or was it already there?
J: Well, luckily for us, where we manage a historic house. I’ll just give it a little plug, but it’s Mapperton, it’s in southwest England. It’s in West Dorset, and according to Country Life since 2006, it’s the nation’s finest manor house. We are open to the public, and one of the things that we have in our formal gardens is a wonderful, what we thought was an 18th century pool, which would’ve been used as a fishery.
Now we’ve just had somebody do a whole, big research on Mapperton, and he thinks that it’s actually the 16th century, so 200 years older than we thought. Because we’ve called it the 18th century pool for so long, we’re just going to stick with it.
That was a lockdown hobby and motivation for me to start my day. There were no visitors, and it was the first time in 30 years that we haven’t had visitors to this house and in our gardens. So I started swimming in the pool. When I say swimming, it was so cold, I’d go for two minutes. I always advise people, especially with wild swimming, cold swimming, to consult your doctor beforehand or get advice beforehand.
But I started doing two minutes, and it’s the most revitalising, energising, awakening regime I’ve ever done before. I’ve stuck with it since April 2020.
A: So we’ve talked about family support, and Mapperton, I’ve become obsessed with your YouTube channel. I think you and your husband are so amazing to watch. Was that a lockdown thing? Tell us a little bit about your YouTube channel.
J: So we have this YouTube channel called Mapperton Live. If you type in Mapperton Live to YouTube, you’ll find it. Over the pandemic, we lost all visitor income, and that is one of the main streams of revenue that helps preserve this part of England’s heritage, and that was completely wiped out.
So we started doing virtual tours every Tuesday at 4 o’clock. We would go live on YouTube. So these were actually live tours of the history and architecture of Mapperton, but the history of the Montague family and the Sandwich family, and they started to grow, became well received by mostly American viewers.
From that, we decided to document all the repairs, restorations, and leaks, and some fun that goes around in preserving this part of England’s heritage. We started this YouTube channel just over a year ago. We would put out episodes every Saturday, and my husband and I would be in them. It was documenting what we do, but we have such fun together. I mean, he’s very British. I’m very American. So I think the dynamic of both of us together is unique. The next thing you know, we’ve grown at such an incredible pace that we’re over 100,000 subscribers. For a small manor house, because that’s what we are and not known at all.
Americans know the big ones. They know Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle. They know Glenham, and they know Chatsworth. No one in America had heard of Mapperton before. I certainly hadn’t when I was over there. We’re a David in all these large Goliaths of historic houses. Through YouTube, we’ve been able to put ourselves on the map, so that we can not only get the video ad revenue, but also have a whole community of supporters who support us monthly. That feeds into preserving Mapperton, but the visitors who are coming to actually see the house and the garden.
They are coming from all over the UK, Australia, Canada, America, saying, ‘We found you because of your YouTube channel.’ It’s been an extraordinary run for us, and something that we’re proud of that we’ve been able to make happen.
A: So there are obviously many strings to your bow. What’s next?
J: What’s next, Abigail? That is such a good question. I’m content with where I am right now. I’m still teaching yoga. Still presenting on my YouTube channel and presenting on historic houses, not just Mapperton, but historic houses across the UK. I’m still a free royal correspondent, but I covered the Platinum Jubilee for Sky News.
I decided to get my masters in country house studies, so my 25,000 word dissertation is due next September. So I decided, because I live in a country house and everybody thinks I must know so much about it, because I live in it, and I know about that house. I’m an American, and I didn’t grow up with this rich history that Britain has compared to my very new country in comparison, and that’s a big project.
Alongside that, I would like to write a book, because my dissertation is about my husband’s great-grandmother, the ninth counts of Sandwich, who is an American like me who married into the Montague family. Like me, I will be the Countess of Sandwich one day, and she became the Countess of Sandwich, and there are many similarities there. Even though that was 100 years ago, she was a big follower of Swami Vivekananda. So she embraced this yogic life, and she had four children and she’s from Chicago. So that’s my next big project, is her.
A: So where can people find you? I know we’ve mentioned your social and bits and pieces. Where can people find you online?
J: I think the best place is probably Instagram or TikTok.
A: You’re on TikTok?
J: I am on TikTok.
A: It’s where it’s happening, isn’t it?
J: I bit the bullet, Abigail and my TikTok is growing, so I’m pleased. I find I’m posting more on TikTok these days than on Instagram. You had to figure out what the balance is, but if you just search ‘Julie Montagu,’ you can find my TikTok and my Instagram.
A: Do you ever stop and appreciate or pat yourself on the back to say, ‘You’re doing well, girl, I’m proud of myself.’ Do you ever have those moments?
J: That’s an interesting one, Abigail. They’re far and few between, and it’s not because I don’t think I’ve done a good job or I’ve come so far, but because I just think I still have so much more I want to do.
Until I get everything else that I want done, then I think I will have that moment where I might say, ‘Alright. Do you know what?’ And maybe that’s when I’m 90. ‘You’ve made it this far; you’ve achieved this much. Well done. You go and enjoy the next 10 years, and let’s hit 100.’
A: Well, I’m going to say well done you now. A huge high five team and thank you so much for this chat. I’ve loved this, and I hope the listeners have too. Let’s watch this space for what Julie does next.