John Churchill Marlborough, duke of, a British general, born at Ashe, in Devonshire, June 24, 1650, died in London, June 1G, 1722. He was the son of Sir Winston Churchill, a royalist of some note, who procured for him the place of page to the duke of York, shortly after the restoration. His education was slight, but he was a favorite with the duke, who made him an ensign in the guards at the age of 16. He served at Tangiers against the Moors, and in the auxiliary force which Charles II. sent to aid the French in their attack on Holland, where he won the praise of Turenne by his courage and capacity. Louis XIV. made him a colonel, and on his return to England after the peace of Kimeguen the duke of York gave him high appointments in his household. He owed his advancement as much to the influence of his sister Arabella as to his own merits, she being the mistress of the duke of York. He was engaged in not a few intrigues of gallantry, and is said to have jumped from the window of the chamber of the duchess of Cleveland, one of the most notorious of the king's mistresses, to avoid the king. The lady rewarded him by the present of £5,000, with which he purchased an annuity of £500 a year.
In 1678 he married Sarah Jennings, a young woman of good family, in the service of the duchess of York, who became famous for her talents and imperious temper. He received military promotion, and was made Lord Churchill in the peerage of Scotland; and soon after, on the marriage of the princess Anne with Prince George of Denmark (1683), Lady Churchill was made chief lady of her bedchamber. The ladies had been friends for some time, though no two persons could be more unlike; Anne being as dull, heavy, and yielding as Sarah was lively, changeable, and imperious. They corresponded, when unavoidably separated, under the names of Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman. The influence thus established lasted for more than a quarter of a century, and would have ended only with Anne's life if Lady Churchill had known how to govern her temper. On the duke of York becoming James II, Churchill was made general and baron of Sandridge, and was sent as ambassador to France. On the rebellion of the duke of Monmouth, he performed important military services, and the victory of Sedgemoor was due to him. He was not conspicuous during the reign of James II, and was opposed to the policy of that prince; but his opposition was not of a demonstrative character, and down to the last moment he enjoyed the king's confidence.
The influence of his wife over Anne was used with effect to keep the princess opposed to her father's policy, and in 1687 Churchill communicated that fact to William of Orange. On the landing of William, Churchill was made a lieutenant general, and appointed to an important command. He induced Lord Cornbury, son of the earl of Clarendon and brother-in-law of James, to join William, and soon followed him, accompanied by several military men, and by the duke of Grafton, an illegitimate son of Charles II His example was followed by Prince George of Denmark, while Lady Churchill found no difficulty in persuading Anne to leave London, and to join the northern insurgents. The influence of the Church-ills was employed to induce Anne to waive her superior claim to the throne over William. For this Lord Churchill received valuable appointments, and was made earl of Marlborough. In the subsequent disputes between William and Anne he sided with the latter. He was sent in 1689 to command the British forces in the Low Countries, and repulsed the French at Walcourt. The next year he led an army to Ireland, and took Cork and Kinsale. He early began a correspondence with the exiled king, and completely deceived him.
His object was not to aid James, but to overthrow William III., place Anne at the head of the nation, and rule her and England through his wife. In 1692 he was dismissed from his employments, and sent to the tower, where he remained for some time. He sent to James an account of the expedition against Brest, which enabled the French to defeat the English with great slaughter, one of his objects being to ruin Talmash, a military rival, who lost his life on the occasion. After the death of Queen Mary, Marlborough was restored to favor, and made governor to the duke of Gloucester, Anne's son. At the beginning of the war of the Spanish succession he was appointed commander of the forces in Holland, and ambassador to that country. He was very successful as a diplomatist, and the king, in anticipation of his death, recommended him to Anne as one most competent to advise and command. When Anne became queen remnant (1702), Marlborough was made captain general and master of the ordnance, and a knight of the garter. Lady Marlborough received several valuable appointments in the royal household, and two of her daughters were made ladies of the bedchamber.
Through his own influence with Godolphin, tho prime minister, who was his son-in-law, and that of his wife with the queen, Marlborough now practically ruled the kingdom. As amba-dor to Holland, he completed the arrangements for the declaration of war against France, and was appointed generalissimo of the armies of the grand alliance, when he entered upon a surprising career of victory. After various successes, the campaign of Blenheim, in cooperation with Prince Kugene, took place in the summer of 1704, and on Aug. 13 the battle of that name was won. He had previouslv been made a duke, and now the manor and honor of Woodstock were conferred upon him, and the queen ordered that a palace should be there built for him, to be called Blenheim. He was successful in the operations of 1705 when the German emperor conferred upon him the lordship of Mindelheira, with the title of prince. The battle of Ramillies was won May 23, 1706. Other successes marked this campaign, and the duke received a pension of £5,000, and other rewards. The campaign of 1707 was marked by no striking event where Marlborough commanded; but on July 11, 1708, he won the battle of Oudenarde. Lille was taken the same year.
Efforts to restore peace having failed, the war was resumed, and on Sept. 11, 1700, Marlborough, aided by Eugene, won the battle of Malplaquet, the most sanguinary and hardly contested of all his victories. His last campaign, in 1711, when he captured the fortress of Bouchain, was the most brilliant and effective of all. In the mean time great changes had taken place in England. The war had been commenced by a tory ministry, though it was to support whig views. Gradually everything changed. Godolphin became a whig, and the great of-fices passed into whig hands. In 1707 the change was complete, though the queen's sympathies were with the tories. The duchess of Marlborough, who was a whig at the time her husband was a tory, bent all her energies to the support of the ministry, and if her tact had equalled her talent that ministry might have lasted through the queen's life. But the queen at length became weary of her imperious swav, and Mrs. Masham, a cousin of the duches. whom she had placed in the service of the queen, was used by Robert Harley as a tool to effect her downfall.
The ministry of Godolphin was overthrown (1710), the duchess was dismissed, and Harley, as earl of Oxford, became the head of a tory cabinet (1711). This was followed by the removal of Marlborough from all his offices (Jan. 1, 1712). It was even intended to proceed against him legally on a charge of embezzling the public money. Government ceased to pay the cost of "building Blenheim, and that palace was completed out of the funds of the duke. The German government treated him with equal ingratitude, as his principality had been lost through the restoration of the elector of Bavaria. At the close of 1712 he left England, and visited Flanders and Germany, residing principally at Aix-la-Chapelle, Frankfort, and Antwerp. The ill treatment he had received from the tories caused him to become a firm friend of the Hanoverian succession. He corresponded witli the elector, offered him a large loan, and used his influence with Holland in behalf of the Protestant succession. He returned to England on the very day of the accession of the house of Hanover, and was well received by the people, the nobility, and the army. He was appointed a privy councillor, and on the arrival of George 1. was made captain general of the army and master of the ordnance.
He was prompt in his measures during the rebellion of 1715; but it is said that he sent money to the pretender. His health was now on the decline, and he experienced more than one paralytic shock. Still his mental powers were not affected. He attended parliament even in the last year of his life, and also performed his various military duties. He offered to resign his offices, but the king would not hear of it. He was seized with palsy in June, 1722, at Windsor lodge, and died eight days before the completion of his 72d year. He had a magnificent funeral, and his body was deposited in Westminster abbey, whence it was removed to Blenheim, and placed in a noble mausoleum, the work of Rysbrack. The duke left no son, and his title passed to his eldest daughter, Henrietta, countess of Godolphin, from whom it descended to her nephew, Charles Spencer, earl of Sunderland. He left enormous wealth, his income at the time of his death being £70,000, exclusive of what he drew from royal gifts. He was doubtless the most adroit statesman and most successful commander of his time. - The duchess survived him 22 years.
Though there is much exaggeration in the ordinary accounts of her violence and quarrels, it is undeniable that her life was not of that dignified character which would have been becoming in one of her station. She could be liberal, and aided Child, the banker, whom the bank of England was seeking to ruin, by giving him an order on that institution for £100,000. She gave Hooke £5,000 for assisting to write her "Account" of her conduct while at court. She died Oct. 18, 1744, in her 85th year. Her immense wealth was left principally to Charles, duke of Marlborough, and to his brother, John Spencer. Among her bequests was one of £20,000 to Lord Chesterfield, and another of £10,000 to the elder Pitt. - In 1845-'6 the " Letters and Despatches of the Duke of Marlborough " were published in 5 vols. 8vo, edited by Sir George Murray. The best biographies of the duke of Marlborough are by Coxe, " Memoirs of John, Duke of Marlborough " (3 vols. 4to, London, 1817-'19, and 3 vols. 8vo, 1848), and Alison, "Life of John, Duke of Marlborough" (2 vols., London, 1847). The "Life of the Duchess of Marlborough" has been written by Mrs. A. T. Thomson (2 vols., London, 1839), and by Miss Costello, in vol. iv. of "Eminent Englishwomen" (1844).