Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough

The indomitable Duchess... Who was the real Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough?

From a young age, Sarah made friends in high places; aged ten, she had become a playmate of James II’s five-year-old daughter, Princess Anne – later Queen Anne.  The lonely young princess was desperate for friendship and, in this older girl, Anne found all the qualities she lacked – beauty, vibrancy, cool-headedness and ambition.

Sarah stood out from her contemporaries and her innate ability, business acumen and ambition complemented those of her husband perfectly.  John Churchill fought his battles overseas and emerged victorious; Sarah’s ambition saw her oversee the completion of Blenheim Palace as well as building and buying over 25 estates in various counties throughout the country.  She ensured that her four daughters and various grandchildren made advantageous marriages and her descendants are still to be found amongst the Bedfords of Woburn Abbey, the Montagus of Beaulieu, the Godolphins, the Egertons of Bridgwater and, perhaps most famously, the Spencers of Althorp. 

No woman had ever been so useful to her family… Sarah’s comment about herself in old age.
Did you know? At her death Sarah was worth £1m (the equivalent of approximately £90m today!)  She owned Blenheim Palace and over 25 other estates across the country...

She continued to demonstrate her remarkable powers of recall and memory for detail well into her old age and just four years before her death she made (accurately and from memory) an inventory of the contents of Blenheim Palace – from Van Dyck’s equestrian portrait of Charles I, right down to the 809 napkins and 93 tablecloths!

Sarah Churchill died aged 84 on October 18th 1744, at Marlborough House in London.  Her body eventually failed her, but her mind remained sharp until the very end. The battle to build Blenheim Palace, the monument to her husband’s military prowess had finally been won and it is here that their bodies now lie peacefully side by side, united in death just as they were in life.  

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