Biography of The Duke of Marlborough

Duke of Marlborough

John Churchill, The Duke of Marlborough was a seventeenth/eighteenth century military commander.

Where and When was he Born?

26th May 1650, Ashe, Devon, England.

Family Background:

John Churchill was the eldest son of Sir Winston Churchill, MP an impecunious Royalist who was Comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth and his wife Elizabeth from Devon.


St. Paul’s School, London. He became Page to the Duke of York.

Timeline of The Duke of Marlborough:

1667: He joined the Army at the age of seventeen with the assistance of his sister Arabella, then the mistress of the Duke of York, after an indifferent schooling.

1668: Served in Tangier.

1672: He served with the Allied fleet during the Third Dutch War but was defeated at Solebay on May 28th. In December he distinguished himself at Maastricht against the Dutch.

1674: He was appointed Colonel of the English Regiment by the French King Louis the Fourteenth and served at Enzheim.

1675: He meets the fifteen year old Sarah Jennings for the first time who would later become his wife.

1677: He marries Sarah Jennings (probably in 1677) although the marriage was kept a secret for many months. Sarah was an aide to Princess (later Queen Anne).

1682: He rose rapidly in the English army with the patronage of Princess Anne who was a confidant of his wife Sarah, Lady of the Bedchamber. He became Baron Churchill of Eyemouth.

1685: He helped see off the rebels led by the Duke of Monmouth at the Battle of Sedgemoor. The new King James the Second appointed him Lieutenant General which was effectively Commander in Chief.

1688: He showed his political skills by surviving the downfall of King James and shifted his allegiance to King William of Orange who was soon to be the new King. He was rewarded with the title of Earl of Marlborough and membership of the Privy Council.

1689: Marlborough fought successfully for the King in Ireland.

1691: Again in Ireland. At the end of the year he was suddenly removed from all his appointments.

1692: In May he was imprisoned in the Tower of London as he came under suspicion that he was part of a plot to restore King James. Although he was released later in the year he was never in favour again at Court.

1698: He became Governor of the Duke of Gloucester.

1701: He was appointed to command the English troops in Holland during the War of the Spanish Succession to fight now against the ambitions of the French King Louis the Fourteenth.

1702: The new Queen Anne reaffirmed his position and promoted him to a Dukedom after his first successful campaign at Kaiserswerth. He became known as a great diplomat holding together the alliance of smaller nations as well as a highly respected military commander by his troops.

1704: The Duke of Marlborough was the victor at the Battle of Blenheim on August 13th over the forces of the French Kings Louis the Fourteenth’s army. On his return to the Netherlands he took the towns of Trier and Trarbach and now France was for the first time firmly on the defensive. He was granted the Royal Manor of Woodstock for this victory by Act of Parliament, later to be the setting for Blenheim Palace.

1705: The Dutch and Austrians would not let him press home his advantage.

1706: He was victor at the Battle of Ramillies on 23 May where he narrowly missed losing his own life. French casualties were six times those of the Allies.

1708: Marlborough was the victor at the Battle of Oudenaarde on 30th June and foiled the Duc de Vendome’s attempt to recover Flanders. Marlborough and Sarah’s political ally Robert Harley, First Earl of Oxford was dismissed from his post.

1709: Battle of Malplaquet on 11 September where the French recovered ground.

1710: Sidney, Earl of Godolphin, a Tory and major political friend of the Marlborough’s and his Whig allies were dismissed at the General Election. Queen Anne disliked Whigs and disapproved of the Tories trying to work with them.

1711: Marlborough captured Bouchain from the Duc de Villars after a siege from the 9th of August to the 12th of September. He was called before Parliament on trumped up charges of embezzlement as his enemies wished to overthrow his position and dismissed from all of his appointments.

1712: He retired abroad and took no further part in the affairs of the nation.

1713: The Treaty of Utrech squandered nearly everything for which the war had been fought.

1714: With the advent of the new King George the First he was restored to favour but by now he was a sick man and not capable of military or political ambition.

1715: Marlborough advised the King over the Jacobite rebellion.

When and Where did he Die?

16th June 1722, the Great Lodge (now called Cumberland Lodge) Windsor Great Park, Near London, England.

Age at Death:



To Sarah Jennings probably in 1677 although the marriage was kept a secret for many months. Sarah was an aide to Princess (later Queen Anne).

Site of Grave:

The Chapel at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.

Places of Interest:


Marlborough House. (Built by Christopher Wren).


Blenheim Palace.


The South Wales Borderers and Monmouthshire Regimental Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales, The Barracks, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7EB.