Churchill's career went from splendour to splendour. He was made Baron Churchill of Eyemouth, then Viscount, and then, in 1702, Duke of Marlborough.
His services at home and abroad were recognised by all, irrespective of party, but wherever he was, under no circumstances did he ever fail to write to his wife, and his letters always breathed of devotion. "I am heart and soul yours; I can have no happiness till I am quiet with you; I cannot live away from you; I cannot be unhappy as long as you are kind." Thus he wrote to her when she was no longer young, when her beauty had almost gone, and her temper was a byword in London. Whenever things went wrong between them, he took on himself the blame of the contention.
The great Marlborough of the battlefield was. in his heart, always longing for his home, there to play with his children in the presence of his wife. When he and the children were in Tunbridge, and the Duchess was not with them, we have this pretty picture. At the end of a letter full of news of the children, the Duke writes: " Miss is pulling me by the arm, that she may write to her dear mamma; so that I shall say no more, only beg that you will love me always as well as I love you, and then we cannot but be happy." And the following little postscript is added from his small daughter: "I kiss your hands, my dear mamma. - Harriet."
A Domineering Duchess
The Duchess had everything to make her happy, but her nature was such that she could not keep from intrigue and tea-table politics. She was unquiet in her spirit, and even her magnificent homes at Holywell House and Blenheim could not satisfy her. She was a fond mother, while her children were young; when they grew up she made a point of never agreeing with them.
Meanwhile, her friendship with Anne became the tails' of the country. By this time Anne was Queen, but the Duchess was apparently Empress and Pope and Grand Mogul all rolled in one. She tyrannised over Anne, insulted her, refused her money when she was the keeper of the purse, and at last brought about a complete rupture; for
Anne's husband, unable to suffer any longer the treatment his wife was receiving, banished both Marlborough and his wife from Court. The Duchess wrote one or two letters protesting against this treatment, pointing out that she had saved the Queen £10,000 in two years for clothes alone; but Anne had endured enough, and would not take her back into favour.
When George I. came to the throne Marlborough was restored to a certain amount of power, but he never regained much influence.
Good Works and Hard Words
At this time the Duchess, content to leave her own vindication till later, was engaged in compiling the memoirs of the Duke. His fame and glory she prized above her own. When the Duke died, in 1721, she devoted herself to good works and harsh words; built almshouses with one hand, quarrelled with Walpole with the other; petted some of her grandchildren, flouted the others; made pretence of political power, and engaged in petty and futile intrigue; adored her three dogs, and tied up bundles of papers to help historians in writing the life of her husband.
On that life her influence had been remarkable. Her ambition had urged him on, and he had learnt to rely upon its incentive in all his designs. Without her he would not have been the great worldly figure he was. Even greater was the influence of his unfaltering devotion to her. With provocations as great as those of Xanthippe's husband, he shamed Socrates by his deep loyalty to his lady. For her one cannot have affection, but one certainly has pity. She lived in turbulence and discontent, and died at the age of eighty-four, unloved, un-regretted, and calumniated. Everyone knows the name of "scolding Sarah," and the story of her pride, her rudeness, and the humiliation which overtook her when she was banished from Court; but few remember that nobler and more significant fact, which proves what lay beneath the burr-like exterior-the fact that to her husband she was always his "soul's soul."