In 1703, the 1st Duke of Marlborough lost his last surviving son to smallpox. This meant there was no longer a male heir to the Dukedom.
An Act of Parliament established that in the event of a lack of a male heir, the title could be passed down through the female line. The Duke of Marlborough’s eldest daughter, Henrietta, therefore inherited the title on her father’s death.
Henrietta left no male heir, so the title went to the family of her sister, Anne. Unfortunately, Anne died before Henrietta, leaving her son Charles Spencer as her only male heir. Charles became the 3rd Duke in 1733 upon Henrietta's death.
Sadly, this meant the Churchill name was lost, but it was later brought back to the family by the 5th Duke. By royal licence, he was allowed to change the family name to Spencer-Churchill.
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