Marlborough, John Churchill, 1st duke of: Power and Dismissal under Anne

In 1702, when Anne ascended the throne, Marlborough reached the fullness of his power. His military genius and remarkable gift for foreign diplomacy were given wide scope in the War of the Spanish Succession . His personal efforts long held together the anti-French alliance. He and Prince Eugene of Savoy together won such victories as Blenheim (1704), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709), and he alone is credited with Ramillies (1706) and countless other triumphs.

Marlborough, made a duke in 1702, also enjoyed political ascendancy, largely as a result of his wife's influence over the queen. Marlborough and his friend Sidney Godolphin , as well as the queen, although earlier bound by personal and religious ties to the Tories, turned to the Whigs, who favored the war while the Tories opposed it. They secured the dismissal of Robert Harley in 1708 and were momentarily paramount in politics. The duchess, however, quarreled with Anne, who came under the influence of Abigail Masham , Harley's cousin; the war was costly, and Marlborough was accused of prolonging it for his personal glory; the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell was unpopular; and in 1710 the Whigs fell, yielding power to Harley and Henry St. John (later Viscount Bolingbroke).

The duke was falsely charged with misappropriating public funds and was dismissed (1711) from office. He returned to England from self-imposed exile upon the accession of George I in 1714 and was given chief command of the army again, but he took little further part in public affairs.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies