The Queens Comrade; the Life and Times of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Volume II

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Politics and War in Churchill’s Life of the Duke of Marlborough

Sarah did not share Anne's deep interest in religion, a subject she rarely mentioned, although at their last fraught interview she did warn Anne that she risked God's vengeance for her unreasoning cruelty to Sarah; the queen did not want this difference to come between them; but Sarah, always thinking of her husband, wanted Anne to give more support to the Whigs, which she was not prepared to do.

Sarah was called to Cambridge in , where her only surviving son, John, Marquess of Blandford , was taken ill with smallpox ; the Duke of Marlborough was recalled from the war and was at his bedside when he died on 20 February After the death of Anne's husband, Prince George of Denmark in , Sarah arrived, uninvited, at Kensington Palace to find Anne with the prince's body, she pressed the heartbroken queen to move from Kensington to St James's Palace in London , which Anne bluntly refused, and instead commanded Sarah to call Abigail Masham to attend her.

Aware that Abigail was gaining more influence with Anne, Sarah disobeyed her, and instead scolded her for grieving over Prince George's death. Although Anne eventually submitted and allowed herself to be taken to St James's Palace, Sarah's insensitivity greatly offended her and added to the already significant strain on the relationship. Sarah had previously introduced her impoverished cousin, then known as Abigail Hill , to court, with the intention of finding a role for her.

Abigail, the eldest daughter of Sarah's aunt, Elizabeth Hill Jennings , was working as a servant to Sir John Rivers of Kent when Sarah first learned of her existence; because Sarah's grandfather, Sir John Jennings, had fathered twenty-two children, she had a multitude of cousins and did not know them all. Out of kindness and a sense of family solidarity, she gave Abigail employment within her own household at St Albans , and after a tenure of satisfactory service, Abigail was made a Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Anne in Sarah later claimed in her memoirs that she had raised Abigail "in all regards as a sister", though there were implications that she only assisted her cousin out of embarrassment of her difficult circumstances.

Abigail was also a second cousin, on her father's side of the family, to the Tory leader Robert Harley , later first Earl of Oxford and Mortimer.

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Flattering, subtle and retiring, Abigail was the complete opposite of Sarah, who was dominating, blunt and scathing. Not only was Abigail happy to give the queen the kindness and compassion that Anne had longed for from Sarah, she also never pressured the queen about politics. Sarah was completely oblivious to any friendship between Anne and Abigail, and was therefore surprised when she discovered that Abigail frequently saw the queen in private. Despite being Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sarah had been unaware of any such payment.

On the way to the thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral , Sarah engaged in a furious argument with Anne about the jewels Anne wore to the service, and showed her a letter from the Duke of Marlborough which expressed hope that the queen would make good political use of the victory; the implication that she should publicly express her support for the Whigs offended Anne; at the service Sarah told the queen to "be quiet" after Anne continued the argument, thus offending the queen still further.

Anne's next letter to Sarah was an exercise in chilling hostility, referring sarcastically to the "command" Sarah had given her to be silent; as a result Sarah, who rarely admitted that she was in the wrong, for once realised that she had gone too far and apologised for her rudeness, but her apology had little effect.

The Life of the Duke of Marlborough

Anne wrote to Marlborough, encouraging him not to let her rift with Sarah become public knowledge; but he could not prevent his wife's indiscretion. Sarah continued vehemently supporting the Whigs in writing and speaking to Anne, with the support of Godolphin and the other Whig ministers; the news of the public's support for the Whigs reached Marlborough in letters from Sarah and Godolphin, which influenced his political advice to the queen.

Anne, already in ill health, felt used and harassed and was desperate for escape, [3] she found refuge in the gentle and quiet comfort of Abigail Masham.

SARAH CHURCHILL, DUCHESS of MARLBOROUGH - WikiVidi Documentary

Anne had explained before that she did not wish the public to know that her relationship with Sarah was failing, because any sign that Sarah was out of favour would have a damaging impact on the Duke of Marlborough's authority as Captain-General. Sarah was kept in all of her offices — purely for the sake of her husband's position as Captain-General of the army — and the tension between the two women lingered on until early in ; [51] this year was to see the end of their relationship for good. Sarah had always been jealous of Anne's affection for Abigail Masham , after she learned of it.

Together with the Duke of Marlborough and most of the Whig party, she had tried to force Anne to dismiss Abigail. All these attempts failed, even when Anne was threatened with an official parliamentary demand from the Whigs, who were suspicious of Abigail's Tory influence with Anne, for Abigail's dismissal; [52] the whole scenario echoed Anne's refusal to give up Sarah during the reign of William and Mary; but the threat of Parliamentary interference exceeded anything tried against Anne in the s.


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Anne was ultimately triumphant; she conducted interviews with high-ranking politicians of both political parties and begged them "with tears in her eyes" to oppose the motion; [31] the general view was that the Marlboroughs had made themselves look ridiculous over a trivial matter — since when, it was asked, did Parliament address the queen on whom she should employ in her bedchamber? The passion she showed for Abigail, and the stubborn refusal to dismiss her, angered Sarah to the point that she implied that a lesbian affair was taking place between the two women.

Sarah's last attempt to re-establish her friendship with Anne came in when they had their final meeting. An account written by Sarah shortly afterwards shows that she pleaded to be given an explanation of why their friendship was at an end, but Anne was unmoved, coldly repeating a few set phrases such as "I shall make no answer to anything you say" and "you may put it in writing".

Sarah was so appalled by the queen's "inhuman" conduct that she was reduced to tears, and, most unusually for a woman who rarely spoke of religion, ended by threatening the queen with the judgment of God. Anne replied that God's judgment on her concerned herself only, but later admitted that this was the one remark from Sarah which hurt her deeply. After hearing this, the Duke of Marlborough, realising that Anne intended to dismiss them, begged her to keep them in their offices for nine months until the campaign was over, so that they could retire honourably.

However, Anne told Marlborough that "for her [Anne's] honour" Sarah was to resign immediately and return her gold key — the symbol of her authority within the royal household — within two days. Abigail was made Keeper of the Privy Purse ; this broke a promise Anne had made to distribute these court offices to Sarah's children. The Marlboroughs also lost state funding for Blenheim Palace , and the building came to a halt for the first time since it was begun in Now in disgrace, they left England and travelled in Europe; as a result of his success in the War of the Spanish Succession, the Duke of Marlborough was a favourite among the German courts and with the Holy Roman Empire, and the family was received in those places with full honours.

Sarah, however, did not like being away from England, and often complained that they were received with full honours in Europe, but were in disgrace at home.

Sarah found life travelling the royal courts difficult, remarking that they were full of dull company, [59] she took the waters at Aachen in Germany on account of her ill health, corresponded with those in England who could supply her with political gossip, and indulged in her fascination with Catholicism. Sarah and Queen Anne never made up their differences, although one eyewitness claimed to have heard Anne asking whether the Marlboroughs had reached the shore, leading to rumours that she had called them home herself.

The new reign was supported by the Whigs , who were mostly staunch Protestants ; [65] the Tories were suspected of supporting the Catholic Pretender James Francis Edward Stuart. King George also had a personal friendship with the Marlboroughs; the Duke of Marlborough had fought with him in the War of the Spanish Succession , and John and Sarah made frequent visits to the Hanoverian court during their effective exile from England.

Sarah was relieved to move back to England; the Duke of Marlborough became one of the king's close advisers, and Sarah moved back into Marlborough House , where she flaunted her eldest granddaughter, Lady Henrietta Godolphin , in the hope of finding her a suitable marriage partner.


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Henrietta eventually married Thomas Pelham-Holles , first Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne , in April and the rest of Sarah's grandchildren went on to make successful marriages. Sarah's concern for her grandchildren briefly came to a halt when in her husband had two strokes , the second of which left him without the ability to speak. Sarah spent much of her time with him, accompanying him to Tunbridge Wells and Bath , and he recovered shortly afterwards. Even after his recovery, Sarah opened his correspondence and filtered the letters Marlborough received, lest their contents precipitate another stroke.

Sarah had a good relationship with her daughter, Anne Spencer , although she later became estranged from her daughters Henrietta, Elizabeth and Mary. Similarly heartbroken when her favourite daughter Anne died in , Sarah kept her favourite cup and a lock of her hair and adopted the Sunderlands' youngest child, Lady Diana , who would later become her favourite granddaughter.

John Churchill died at Windsor in , and Sarah arranged a large funeral for him, [71] their daughter, Henrietta , became duchess in her own right. Sarah became one of the trustees of the Marlborough estate, and she used her business sense to distribute the family fortune, including the income for her daughter Henrietta. The Duchess of Marlborough was a capable business manager, unusual in a period when women were excluded from most things outside the management of their household, her friend Arthur Maynwaring wrote that she was more capable of business than any man.

The Duchess of Marlborough fought against anything she thought was extravagant, she wrote to the Duke of Somerset, "I have reduced the stables to one third of what was intended by Sir John [ Vanbrugh ] yet I have room for fourty [ sic ] fine horses". These detailed inspections extended to her smaller land purchases. After buying the Wimbledon estate which she described as "upon clay, an ill sod, very damp and Sarah never lost her good looks and, despite failing popularity, received many offers of marriage after the death of her husband, including one from her old enemy, Charles Seymour , the sixth Duke of Somerset.

Sarah continued to appeal against court decisions which ruled that funding for Blenheim should come from the Marlboroughs' personal estate, and not the government; this made her unpopular; as a trustee of her family's estate, she could easily have afforded the payments herself. She was surprised by the grief she felt following the death of her eldest living daughter in Sarah lived to see her enemy Robert Walpole fall in , and in the same year attempted to improve her reputation by approving a biographical publication titled An Account of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough from her first coming to Court to the year , she died at the age of 84, on 18 October , at Marlborough House ; she was buried at Blenheim.

Sarah believed that she had a right to enforce her political advice, whether Anne personally liked it or not, and became angry if she stubbornly refused to take it, [88] she seems to have underestimated Anne's strength of character, continuing to believe she could dominate a woman whom foreign Ambassadors noted had become "very determined and quite ferocious". Apart from her notorious bad temper, Sarah's main weakness has been described as "an almost pathological inability to admit the validity of anyone else's point of view".

Modest and retiring, she promoted the Tory policies of her cousin Robert Harley. During her lifetime, Sarah drafted twenty-six wills , the last of which was only written a few months before her death; and had purchased twenty-seven estates.

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Much of the money left after Sarah's numerous bequests was inherited by her grandson, John Spencer , with the condition that he could not accept a political office under the government, he also inherited the remainder of Sarah's numerous estates, including Wimbledon. Marlborough House remained empty for 14 years, with the exception of James Stephens, one of her executors, before it became the property of the Dukes of Marlborough upon Stephens's death. In , it became a royal residence, and passed through members of the British Royal Family until it became the Commonwealth Secretariat in Today, much of St Albans is named after the Marlboroughs because of Sarah's influence.

The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough's children who survived childhood married into the most important families in Great Britain : [92]. In her own time, Sarah Churchill was satirized by many well-known writers in the period, such as Delarivier Manley in her influential political satire, The New Atalantis , [93] and also by Charles Gildon in the first fully-fledged it-narrative in English, The Golden Spy; or, A Political Journal of the British Nights Entertainments , [94] to name just a few.

She was played by Susannah York in the comedy Yellowbeard. William inherited the principality of Orange from his father, William II, who died a week before William's birth, his mother, was the daughter of King Charles I of England. In , William married his fifteen-year-old first cousin, the daughter of his maternal uncle James, Duke of York. Many Protestants heralded him as a champion of their faith. In , William's Catholic uncle and father-in-law, became king of England and Ireland.

James's reign was unpopular with the Protestant majority in Britain. William, supported by a group of influential British political and religious leaders, invaded England in what became known as the Glorious Revolution.

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On 5 November , he landed at the southern English port of Brixham. James was deposed and William and his wife became joint sovereigns in his place.


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William and Mary reigned together until Mary's death on 28 December , after which William ruled as sole monarch. William's reputation as a staunch Protestant enabled him to take power in Britain when many were fearful of a revival of Catholicism under James. William's victory at the Battle of the Boyne in is still commemorated by loyalists in Northern Ireland and Scotland, his reign in Britain marked the beginning of the transition from the personal rule of the Stuarts to the more Parliament-centred rule of the House of Hanover.

Eight days before William was born, his father died of smallpox. A conflict ensued between his mother and paternal grandmother, Amalia of Solms-Braunfels , over the name to be given to the infant. Mary wanted to name him Charles after her brother, but her mother-in-law insisted on giving him the name William to bolster his prospects of becoming stadtholder.

William II had appointed his wife as his son's guardian in his will. William's mother showed little personal interest in her son, sometimes being absent for years, had always deliberately kept herself apart from Dutch society. William's education was first laid in the hands of several Dutch governesses, some of English descent, including Walburg Howard and the Scottish noblewoman , Lady Anna Mackenzie.

From April , the prince received daily instruction in the Reformed religion from the Calvinist preacher Cornelis Trigland, a follower of the Contra-Remonstrant theologian Gisbertus Voetius. The ideal education for William was described in Discours sur la nourriture de S. In these lessons, the prince was taught that he was predestined to become an instrument of Divine Providence , fulfilling the historical destiny of the House of Orange-Nassau.

From early , William spent seven years at the University of Leiden for a formal education, under the guidance of ethics professor Hendrik Bornius. While residing in the Prinsenhof at Delft , William had a small personal retinue including Hans Willem Bentinck , a new governor, Frederick Nassau de Zuylenstein , his paternal uncle. Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt and his uncle Cornelis de Graeff pushed the States of Holland to take charge of William's education and ensure that he would acquire the skills to serve in a future—though undetermined—state function.