Biography of The Duke of Marlborough

Portrait of the 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: Marlborough joins 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: He serves in Tangier.

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

1674: He is appointed Colonel of the English Regiment by the French King Louis the Fourteenth and serves 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 is kept a secret for many months. Sarah was an aide to Princess (later Queen Anne).

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

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

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

1689: Marlborough fights successfully for the King in Ireland.

1691: He is again in Ireland however at the end of the year he is suddenly removed from all his appointments.

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

1698: He becomes Governor of the Duke of Gloucester.

1701: He is 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 reaffirms his position and promotes him to a Dukedom after his first successful campaign at Kaiserswerth. He becomes 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 is the victor at the Battle of Blenheim on August 13th over the forces of the French King Louis the Fourteenth’s army. On his return to the Netherlands he takes the towns of Trier and Trarbach and now France is for the first time firmly on the defensive. He is 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 will not let him press home his advantage.

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

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

1709: The Battle of Malplaquet takes place on 11 September where the French recover ground.

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

1711: Marlborough captures Bouchain from the Duc de Villars after a siege from the 9th of August to the 12th of September. He is 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 retires abroad and takes no further part in the affairs of the nation.

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

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

1715: Marlborough advises 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 of a heart attack.

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.

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