Marlborough by Corelli Barnett
Published by Endeavour Press, UK
John Churchill, the future 1st Duke of Marlborough, started life with very little. His father, Sir Winston, was a Royalist during the Protectorate and had to pay ruinous fines, so John was on his own. Dazzlingly handsome when he arrived at court—indeed, dazzling in so many ways for his entire life—he became the lover of Barbara Villiers, sharing her with Charles II, during the same time his sister was the mistress of James, Duke of York. 'Scandalmongers of the period and priggish and prurient historians since have suggested, their breath indrawn with disapproval, that Marlborough owed his commission to the fact that his elder sister Arabella was the Duke of York's mistress; if true, it was fortunate for England and Europe that the Duke found her person so agreeable.'
It was indeed.
But the moment John Churchill saw Sarah Jennings, no other woman ever interested him. And the two of them as an indissoluble team went on to incredible fame and fortune.
John Churchill fought for, and then against, both the Duke of Monmouth and James of York—at that time, James II. Churchill rode out on James' side, then rode off to join Dutch William. And the list of his others battles rings through history: Blenheim. Ramilles. Oudenarde. Malplaquet.
Corelli Barnett brings out both the private and the public man in Marlborough with style and grace and depth. The private man is clear in his deep and abiding love and passion for his wife; Marlborough wrote to Sarah from the continent, saying ''I doe assure you that your letters are soe welcome to mee that if thay shou'd come in the time I were expecting the enemy to charge mee, I cou'd not forbear reading them.' The public man was just as obvious; some time before it was even suspected that the Hanovers might come over to take the place of the Stuarts, the Electress Sophia said about Marlborough: 'He is skilled as a courtier as he is brave as a general.'
A dazzling and brilliant man deserves a dazzling and brilliant book about his life. Corelli Barnett has provided us one.