CHURCHILL, SARAH, DUCHESS OF MARLBOROUGH (1660-1744). One of the most powerful women of her time due, in part to her friendship with Queen Anne. DS. (“S. Marlborough”). N.p., May 26, 1725, and CHURCHILL, JOHN, 1ST DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH. (1650-1722). English military commander and virtual regent of England from 1694 to 1711. CS. (“Marlborough”). 1p. Oblong 64mo. N.p., N.d. The document signed by Sarah, the “Duchess Dowager of Marlborough” acknowledges receipt of ₤5,000 paid to her and others via the Parliamentary “Act for Granting an Aid to His Majesty, by a Land-Tax in Great Britain, to be raised for the Service of the Year 1724.” Additionally signed by the English Nobleman and court official FRANCIS GODOLPHIN, 2nd EARL of GODOLPHIN (1678-1766) and the British politician WILLIAM CLAYTON (1671-1752). The document also refers to William Clayton, Baron Sundon (1671-1752) a close friend of the Marlborough’s and executor for the Duke; William Guidott (1671-1745) the Marlborough’s lawyer and executor, dismissed by the Duchess after embezzling funds from the couple’s estates and who the Duchess sued in 1725, the year of our document; and John Hanbury (1664-1734) who, through his second wife’s friendship with the Duchess became close to the Marlboroughs.
Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, the controversial power behind Queen Anne’s throne
Signed by Sarah Churchill and by John Churchill
The first Duke and Duchess of Marlborough were England’s “power couple” for almost two decades, through their influence over Queen Anne and the lord treasurer Sidney Godolphin, (father of the document’s co-signer, Francis) enriching themselves immensely in the process. As the queen’s keeper of the privy purse, the duchess controlled the Whig ministry and deducted a handsome pension for herself. Additionally, the duke had been rewarded with the manor of Woodstock for his 1704 military victory during the War of the Spanish Succession, using it to embark on the construction of Blenheim Palace at huge public expense. In 1711, their imperious and tactless behavior alienated the queen, and they were dismissed from their lucrative posts and charged with embezzlement. Funds for Blenheim were cut off and the Marlboroughs went into exile on the continent.
Following the Queen Anne’s death in 1714, they returned to England and royal favor, and helped to ensure a Protestant succession through King George I, with whom the duke fought during the War of the Spanish Succession and whom the couple frequently visited at the Hanoverian court during their exile. With his ascension to the throne, the duke was restored as captain-general of the army and work resumed on Blenheim, but at the couple’s own expense. After the duke’s death in 1722, the duchess devoted herself to overseeing work on the palace, completed in 1724. The couple’s famous descendants include Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.
Sarah Churchill is portrayed by British actress Rachael Weisz in the award-winning 2018 period film The Favorite, which examines Anne’s relationship with Sarah. In the film, Queen Anne is portrayed by Olivia Colman and John Churchill by Mark Gatiss.
The duke’s bold cut signature measures nearly 3¼” x 1” and is affixed to a stiff board and is in very good condition. The document signed by the duchess is trimmed with minor paper loss (barely affecting her signature) and a few closed tears along the left margin. Scattered toning and staining, but still in good condition. Signed on the document’s verso.