Marlborough, John Churchill, 1st duke of biographical name
(born May 26, 1650, Ashe, Devon, Eng.died June 16, 1722, Windsor, near London) British military commander. He served with distinction at Maastricht (1673), was promoted rapidly, and advanced at court, in part because his wife (see Sarah Jennings, duchess of Marlborough) was a confidant of Princess (later Queen) Anne. On the accession of James II in 1685, Churchill was made a lieutenant general and effective commander in chief. In 1688 he transferred his allegiance to William III, who rewarded him with the earldom of Marlborough and a succession of commands in Flanders and Ireland. His relationship with William deteriorated in the 1690s. Queen Anne appointed him commander of English and Dutch forces in the War of the Spanish Succession, and for his successes he was created duke of Marlborough (1702). His victory at the Battle of Blenheim (1704) helped change the balance of power in Europe. In gratitude, he was granted a royal manor, where Blenheim Palace was built. His outstanding military tactics continued to produce victories, notably at Ramillies (1706) and Oudenaarde (1708). His influence with Queen Anne and financial backing for the war were undermined by intrigue between Tories and Whigs. After his Whig allies lost the election of 1710, he was dismissed on charges of misuse of public money. He retired from public life, though he was restored to favour by George I in 1714. Considered one of England's greatest generals, he secured a reputation in Europe that was unrivaled until the rise of Napoleon.
John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, painting attributed to John Closterman; in the National
—Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London
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