Biography of Marlborough


JOHN CHURCHILL, DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH, the greatest general and statesman of his time, was born June 24th, 1650, at Ashe, in Devonshire, of an old family, impoverished by the civil wars. Without having received much education, he became a page in the service of the Duke of York, who gave him a commission as ensign of Guards in his 16th year. He was present at the relief of Tangiers, and at a number of engagements with the Moors, and after his return to England, rose to the rank of Captain in a regiment which was sent to the Netherlands to the support of the French. In the campaign from 1672 to 1677, his brilliant courage gained for him the praise of the celebrated Turenne. On the conclusion of the war by the treaty of Nimeguen, Churchill, now a Colonel, returned to England. His advancement had been obtained, not merely on account of his own merits, but through the influence of his sister, the mistress of the Duke of York. His prosperity was afterwards still further secured by his marriage with Sarah Jennings, a lady as remarkable for her talents and imperious disposition, as for her beauty. When James II ascended the throne, Churchill was made Baron of Sundridge, and was raised to the military rank of general. He took an active part in suppressing Monmouth's rebellion, but on the landing of the Prince of Orange, he passed over to the side of the invader very unscrupulously. He was rewarded by being made Earl of Marlborough. He aided in reducing Ireland; and having received from William III the command of the troops employed against France in the Netherlands, displayed great abilities as a general in the campaigns of 1690 and 1691, and gained a great victory at Walcourt. But, entering into a treasonable correspondence with the Jacobites, he was on his return to England, suddenly arrested and thrown into the Tower.

On the commencement of the War of the Spanish Succession, he was entrusted with the command of the British army in the Netherlands. The death of William and the accession of Anne to the throne in March 1702, made Marlborough virtually regent although without the title. His wife governed the Queen, and he himself directed the minister Godolphin, who had married his daughter. A constant succession of victories strengthened his political power. In the campaign of 1702, he drove the French out of Spanish Guelders, in reward for which service the Queen raised him to the rank of duke; in 1703, he went to the support of the Emperor in Germany, and joined Prince Eugene of Savoy; in June, 1704, he stormed the French and Bavarian lines at Donauworth, and on the 13th of August, overthrew the French in the memorable and decisive battle of Blenheim. The parliament bestowed on him the estate of Woodstock, and the Queen caused Blenheim Palace to be built for him. During the year 1705, Marlborough was chiefly occupied with diplomatic negotiations; but in 1706, he resumed that career of victory by which Louis XIV was so completely humbled. In May of that year, the battle of Ramilles was fought, which compelled the French to evacuate the whole of Spanish Flanders. In the summer of 1708, an attempt made by the French under Vendome, to recover Flanders, brought on an engagement at Oudenarde, July 11th, which resulted in the total defeat of the French. On the 11th of September, 1709, he fought the bloody and unprofitable battle of Malplaquet; in 1710, his final campaign, he took from the French town after town, sometimes in the very sight of a superior French army. Meanwhile, however, important events took place at the English Court; the Queen shook off the tyranny of the Duchess of Marlborough, which had become intolerable to her; Godolphin and Sunderland ceased to be ministers, and the Earl of Oxford and the Tories came into power. Marlborough returned to London in May, 1711, He was accused of having embezzled the public money, and on the 1st of January 1712, he was deprived of his offices, but the charge against him was not prosecuted. On the accession of George I he was treated with distinction, and made Commander-in Chief of the forces But on the 8th of June 1716, he had a stroke of apoplexy, which reduced him to a state of imbecility. He lingered in this state till June 11th 1722, when he died. He left an immense fortune.