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Duke of Marlborough (title)


Duke of Marlborough (title)

Duke of Marlborough (local ) is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created by Queen Anne in 1702 for John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough (1650–1722), the noted military leader. The name of the dukedom refers to Marlborough in Wiltshire. It is one of the few titles in the peerage which allows for suo jure female inheritance, and the only current dukedom to do so.


  • History of the Dukedom 1
  • Family seat 2
  • Succession to the title 3
  • Other titles of the Dukes 4
    • Subsidiary titles 4.1
    • Foreign titles 4.2
  • Coats of arms 5
    • Original arms of the Churchill family 5.1
    • Arms of the 1st Duke of Marlborough 5.2
    • Arms of the Spencer-Churchill family 5.3
    • Motto 5.4
  • List of title holders 6
    • Earls of Marlborough, second creation (1689) 6.1
    • Dukes of Marlborough (1702) 6.2
  • Family tree 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

History of the Dukedom

Churchill had been made Lord Churchill of Eyemouth (1682) in the Scottish peerage, Baron Churchill of Sandridge (1685), and Earl of Marlborough (1689) in the Peerage of England. Shortly after her accession to the throne in 1702, Queen Anne made Churchill the first Duke of Marlborough and granted him the subsidiary title Marquess of Blandford.

In 1678, Churchill married Sarah Jennings (1660–1744), a courtier and influential favourite of the queen. They had seven children, of whom four daughters married into some of the most important families in Great Britain;[1] one daughter and one son died in infancy. He was pre-deceased by his son, John Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, in 1703; so, to prevent the extinction of the titles, a special Act of Parliament was passed. When the 1st Duke of Marlborough died in 1722 his title as Lord Churchill of Eyemouth in the Scottish peerage became extinct and the Marlborough titles passed, according to the Act, to his eldest daughter Henrietta (1681-1733), the 2nd Duchess of Marlborough. She was married to the 2nd Earl of Godolphin and had a son who predeceased her.

When Henrietta died in 1733, the Marlborough titles passed to her nephew 4th Duke) was created Baron Churchill in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. In 1902, his grandson, the 3rd Baron Churchill, was created Viscount Churchill.

In 1817, the 5th Duke obtained permission to assume and bear the surname of Churchill in addition to his surname of Spencer, to perpetuate the name of his illustrious great-great-grandfather. At the same time he received Royal Licence to quarter the coat of arms of Churchill with his paternal arms of Spencer.[2] The modern Dukes thus originally bore the surname "Spencer": the double-barrelled surname of "Spencer-Churchill" as used since 1817 remains in the family, though some members have preferred to style themselves "Churchill".

The 7th Duke was the paternal grandfather of the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, born at Blenheim Palace on 30 November 1874.

The 11th duke, John Spencer-Churchill died in 2014, having assumed the title in 1972. The 12th and present duke is Charles James Spencer-Churchill.

Family seat

Burial place of most Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough in the chapel at Blenheim Palace.

The family seat is Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

After his leadership in the victory against the French in the Battle of Blenheim on 13 August 1704, the 1st Duke was honoured by Queen Anne granting him the royal manor of Woodstock, and building him a house at her expense to be called Blenheim. Construction started in 1705 and the house was completed in 1722, the year of the 1st Duke's death. Blenheim Palace has since remained in the Churchill and Spencer-Churchill family.

With the exception of the 10th Duke and his first wife, the Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough are buried in Blenheim Palace's chapel. Most other members of the Spencer-Churchill family are interred in St. Martin's parish churchyard at Bladon, a short distance from the palace.

Succession to the title

The dukedom is the only one in the United Kingdom that can still pass through a female line. However, unlike the remainder to heirs general found in most other peerages that allow male-preference primogeniture, the grant does not allow for abeyance and follows a more restrictive Semi-Salic formula designed to keep succession wherever possible in the male line. The succession is as follows:

  1. The heirs-male of the 1st Duke's body lawfully begotten;
  2. his eldest daughter and the heirs-male of her body lawfully begotten;
  3. his second and other daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten;
  4. his eldest daughter's oldest daughter and the heirs male of her body lawfully begotten;
  5. his eldest daughter's second and other daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten
  6. all other daughters of his daughters, in seniority, and the heirs-male of their bodies lawfully begotten;
  7. and other descendants into the future in like fashion, with the intent that the Marlborough title never become extinct.

Succession to the title under the first and second contingencies have lapsed; holders of the title from the 3rd Duke trace their status from the third contingency.

It is now very unlikely that the Dukedom will be passed to a woman or through a woman, since all the male-line descendants of Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland - including the line of the Earls Spencer and the Spencer-Churchill family - would have to become extinct. If that were to happen, the Churchill titles would pass to the Earl of Jersey, the heir-male of Anne Villiers, Countess of Jersey, daughter of Elizabeth Egerton, Duchess of Bridgewater, a younger daughter of the first Duke.

Other titles of the Dukes

Subsidiary titles

The Duke holds subsidiary titles: Marquess of Blandford (created in 1702 for John Churchill), Earl of Sunderland (created in 1643 for the Spencer family), Earl of Marlborough (created in 1689 for John Churchill), Baron Spencer of Wormleighton (created in 1603 for the Spencer family), and Baron Churchill of Sandridge (created in 1685 for John Churchill), all in the Peerage of England.

The title Marquess of Blandford is used as the courtesy title for the Duke's eldest son and heir. The Duke's eldest son's eldest son can use the courtesy title Earl of Sunderland, and the duke's eldest son's eldest son's eldest son (eldest great-grandson) the title Lord Spencer of Wormleighton (not to be confused with Earl Spencer).

The title of Earl of Marlborough, created for John Churchill in 1689, had previously been created for James Ley, in 1626, becoming extinct in 1679.

Foreign titles

The 1st Duke was honoured with land and titles in the Treaty of Utrecht, which returned it to Bavaria. He tried to obtain Nellenburg in Austria in exchange, which at that time was only a county ('Landgrafschaft'), but this failed, partially because Austrian law did not allow for Nellenburg being converted into a sovereign principality.[3] Some authors misread the name of the county as Mellenburg. The 1st Duke's principality title of Mindelheim became extinct either on the return of the land to Bavaria or on his death, as the Empire operated Salic Law, which prevented female succession.

Coats of arms

Arms of Sir Winston Churchill (1620–1688), father of the 1st Duke.

Original arms of the Churchill family

The original arms of Sir

  • Blenheim Palace - official website
  • Cracroft's Peerage page
  • European Heraldry website

External links

  1. ^
  2. ^ Paul Courtenay, The Armorial Bearings of Sir Winston Churchill The Armorial Bearings of Sir Winston Churchill (accessed 20 July 2013).
  3. ^ William Coxe, Herzogs Johann von Marlborough Leben und Denkwürdigkeiten, vol. 6, Vienna 1822, pp. 297-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m
  5. ^ a b Robson, Thomas, The British Herald, or Cabinet of Armorial Bearings of the Nobility & Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume I, Turner & Marwood, Sunderland, 1830, p. 401 (CHU-CLA).
  6. ^ a b Spencer-Churchill arms
  7. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p. 747, apparently contradicting Robson who states wyverns argent.
  8. ^


See also

The 1st Duke of Marlborough's Genealogy

Family tree

The George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford (b. 1992), eldest son of the 12th Duke.

Other titles (3rd Duke onwards): Earl of Sunderland (England 1643) and Baron Spencer of Wormleighton (England 1729)
Other titles: Marquess of Blandford (England 1702), Earl of Marlborough, in the county of Wiltshire (En 1689) and Baron Churchill of Sandridge, in the county of Hertford (England 1685)
Other titles (1st Duke): Lord Churchill of Eyemouth, in the county of Berwick (Scotland 1682)
Portrait of George Spencer-Churchill

Dukes of Marlborough (1702)

Other titles: Lord Churchill of Eyemouth, in the county of Berwick (Scotland 1682) and Baron Churchill of Sandridge, in the county of Hertford (England 1685)

Earls of Marlborough, second creation (1689)

List of title holders

The motto Fiel pero desdichado is Spanish for "Faithful though unhappy". "Desdichado" means without happiness or without joy, alluding to the first Duke's father, Winston, who was a royalist and faithful supporter of the king during the English Civil War but was not compensated for his losses after the restoration. Charles II created Winston Churchill and other Civil War royalists knights but did not compensate them for their wartime losses, thereby inducing Winston to adopt the motto. It is unusual for the motto of an Englishman of the era to be in Spanish rather than Latin, and it is not known why this is the case.[8]


These quartered arms, incorporating the two augmentations of honour, have been the arms of all subsequent Dukes of Marlborough.[4]

  • Escutcheon: quarterly 1st and 4th, Sable a lion rampant Argent on a canton of the second a cross Gules (Churchill); 2nd and 3rd, quarterly Argent and Gules, in the second and third quarters a fret Or, over all on a bend Sable three escallops of the first (Spencer); in chief, on an escutcheon Argent a cross Gules surmounted by an inescutcheon Azure charged with three fleurs-de-lys Or.[4][6]
  • Crests: first, a lion couchant guardant Argent supporting with its dexter forepaw a staff Or with a banner Gules charged with a dexter hand appaumée of the first (Churchill); second, out of a ducal coronet Or a griffin's head between two wings expanded Argent gorged with a collar gemel and armed Gules (Spencer).[4][6]
  • Supporters: two wyverns wings elevated Gules.[7]
  • Motto: Fiel pero desdichado (Spanish for "Faithful but unfortunate").[5]

The resulting heraldic achievement is:

Also in 1817, a further inescutcheon Azure, charged with three fleurs-de-lys Or, two over one. This inescutcheon represents the royal arms of France.[4]

[4] Paul Courtenay observes that "It would be normal in these circumstances for the paternal arms (Spencer) to take precedence over the maternal (Churchill), but because the Marlborough dukedom was senior to the Sunderland earldom, the procedure was reversed in this case."[4] The shield of the [4] In 1817, the 5th Duke received Royal Licence to place the quarter of Churchill ahead of his paternal arms of Spencer.

Arms of Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965), grandson of the 7th Duke, showing the combined Spencer-Churchill arms and both crests.

Arms of the Spencer-Churchill family

When the 1st Duke was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1705, two unusual features were added: the Imperial Eagle and a Princely Coronet.[4] His estates in Germany, such as Mindelheim, were represented in his arms by additional quarterings.

The motto was Fiel pero desdichado (Spanish for "Faithful but unfortunate").[5] The 1st Duke was also entitled to a coronet indicating his rank.[4]

Sir Winston's shield and crest were inherited by his son John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Minor modifications reflected the bearer's social rise: the helm was now shown in profile and had a closed grille to signify the bearer's rank as a peer, and there were now supporters placed on either side of the shield. They were the mythical Griffin (part lion, part eagle) and Wyvern (a dragon without hind legs).[4] The supporters were derived from the arms of the family of the 1st Duke's mother, Drake of Ash (Argent, a wyvern gules; these arms can be seen on the monument in Musbury Church to Sir Bernard Drake, d.1586).

Arms of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, with quarterings representing his estates in Germany.

Arms of the 1st Duke of Marlborough

[4] In recognition of Sir Winston's services to King Charles I as Captain of the Horse, and his loyalty to King Charles II as a Member of Parliament, he was awarded an

The Churchill crest is blazoned as a lion couchant guardant Argent, supporting with its dexter forepaw a banner Gules, charged with a dexter hand appaumée of the first, staff Or.[4]


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