1650 - 1722
First Duke of Marlboroughby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The first duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, is considered by many to be the greatest military tactician in the history of England. In his lifetime he reached great positions in both political and military careers. Indeed, his military genius was so great that Sir Edward Creasy is quoted to have said that "[he] never fought a battle that he did not win, and never besieged a place that he did not take."
John Churchill was born on May 26, 1650 to his mother, Elizabeth Churchill. He attended St. Paul's school in London as a young man. He took little interest in the subject which he was taught, and consequently commenced military service by entering England's navy. He experienced his first battles in the Anglo-Dutch wars, where he showed is military skill at Maastricht with the Duke of Monmouth. In 1672 he was promoted to Colonel of the English regiment. After a successful career in the navy, Churchill married Sarah Jennings, a friend and attendent to Queen Anne.
When Charles II died in 1685 James II came to power in England. Having once employed Churchill, James II promoted him to lietenant general.
Churchill also gained political power when James II came to power, as James made him a peer of the realm as well. Several rebellions cropped up
as a result of the change of power. For this reason, James made him a major-general, in command of his forces. Churchill, as usual, showed his
incredible military prowess in these battles, defeating those opposed to the king in decisive victories.
In 1688 another rebellion began with William of Orange's invasion of England. Due to the fact that James II was attempting to return absolute rule to England and Chuchill and the king's opposing religious beliefs, Churchill defected from James' side and went to William of Orange, taking a great part of James II's forces with him. With Churchill on his side, it did not take long before William of Orange overthrew the nation's government. As compensation for his help in the revolution, William of Orange (now William III) made him Earl of Marlborough.
Unfortunately, William III turned against him in 1691. He stripped him of all his political and military power and imprisoned him in the Tower of
London, on the grounds that he was involved with plans to restore James II to the throne. Though released approximately one year later from the
prison, he was not restored to his political and military positions. Churchill returned to the king's favor in 1698 with the death of Queen Mary.
William appointed him to the position of Governer over the Duke of Gloucester.
Churchill returned to the military affairs in 1701, with the War of the Spanish Succession. He distinguished himself greatly in this war, where he reached the zenith of his military career. King William died in 1702, and the successor to the throne, Queen Anne, was rather close to Churchill's wife. Through his wife, Churchill was able to achieve great military and political positions. Queen Anne made him Master-General of the Ordnance, knighted him as a member of the Order of the Garter, and promoted to captain-general of the military. At the end of the War for Spanish Succession Queen Anne promoted him even past this position, making him commander-in-chief of her military forces.
In the years that followed, Churchill went on a campaign against the French. Though his army was poorly disciplined and uncooperative, he managed to accomplish many great victories. One of the greatest battles he ever fought was at Ramillies, where he decisively defeated French forces in a fierce battle. He was appointed to the position of Duke of Marlborough in 1703 due to his great success in his military campaigns. His campaign ended in 1711, due to political changes taking place in England. With his return to England his political and military careers were nearly at an end. His death came in 1722, due to paralysis and other maladies.
David Nash Ford. "John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough". 7 June 2005
"John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough". Encyclopedia Britannica. 7 June 2005
"John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough". Wikipedia. 7 June 2005