CHURCHILL, JOHN, Duke of Marlborough, the most successful general in English history, was the son of Sir Winston Churchill, and was horn at Ashe in De vonshire in 1650. The course of his early education has not been accurately recorded, and it is probable, that he had acquired little beyond the elements of learning, when his father was induced to carry him, at the early age of twelve, to court. The hereditary loyalty- of the family seemed to have paved the way for the appointment of young Churchill to those stations of which his years ad mitted, as he soon became a page to the Duke of York, and an ensign in the guards. His farther advancement was promoted by his comely person, his prepossessing manners, and, by a circumstance of less credit to his family, we mean, that of his sister being mistress to the Duke of York. She was the mother of the celebrated Duke of Berwick. Churchill's first opportunities of acquiring military knowledge were in the service of France, in which, in consequence of King Charles's un natural alliance in 1672, a body of English auxiliaries served under command of the king's natural son, the Duke of Monmouth. Churchill was then a captain, and distinguished himself by many acts of bravery. Turenne was commander in chief, and young a§ Churchill was, it is probable that the tactics of that distinguished leader furnished him with much matter of reflection. Being equally in favour with the Duke of Monmouth and the Duke of York, he attained, before the end of the war, the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After the peace of Ni meguen, his official duties kept him a great deal about court ; and though he was thought somewhat too free a speaker for that situation, he contrived to pass through those years of disquietude and civil dissension without committing himself with either party. Ills station was with the Duke of York ; hut, dependant as he was on his Royal Highness, he never thought of courting his fa vour by condescension on the score of religion.
In the year 1681 he became a married man, by espous ing Miss Sarah Jennings, one of the maids of honour to the Princess Anne. Miss Jennings was then about 21, highly beautiful, and in great favour with her young mistress. Appearances thus seemed to promise much advantage from the match ; and it is certain that Marl borough's ascendency over our councils in the early part of Queen Anne's reign, might have been less complete without the influence of his wife. But, on the other. hand, we cannot help thinking it, on the whole, matter of regret, that he interfered at all with the business of the court. Had he confined himself strictly to his pro fession, his country might have had equal benefit from his services, and his character might have been free from the serious charge of wilfully prolonging the war.
Certain it is, that his unfortunate failing, the love of money, was greatly aggravated by his wife's disposition ; for several of those acts which drew odium upon him, proceeded evidently from her interference. In 1681, he obtained a regiment of dragoons, and was next year created Baron of Eyinouth in Scotland. On James's accession in 1685, he was sent over on a short mission. to France, and made an English peer by the title of Baron Churchill. He appears to have acted a prudent part during the three years of this infatuated reign, adhering to his own principles, and taking no share in the king's obnoxious acts. He was one of those, who sent over
early an assurance of attachment to the Prince of Orange, and took an opportunity of joining him soon after he landed. On this occasion he thought proper to leave a letter to King James, lamenting the necessity of the step, ascribing it to the imperious dictates of conscience, and repeating, in the strongest terms, his attachment to the king personally.
After William's accession to the crown, Churchill was for some time in favour, being raised to the dignity of Earl of Marlborough, and entrusted, when William was in Ireland, with the command of the British auxili aries in Flanders. It was in this summer, at the battle of Walcourt, that Marlborough first taught the French what they were to expect in future from his talents. Prince Waldeck, the commander in chief, declared, that " Marlborough saw more into the art of war in a day, than some generals in a course of years." Next year he distinguished himself in Ireland by the capture of Cork and Kinsale ; acquisitions which tended to accelerate the conclusion of that miserable war. The year after 1691, he served under King William on the continent ; but early in 1692 he was subjected to a very sudden loss of favour, his several offices being taken from him and given to others. His dismissal was followed by a still stronger measure, that of his commitment to the Tower, from which he was not released for several months. No public charge was brought against him, and the matter is still involved in uncertainty. Before this time differ ences had arisen between Queen Mary and her sister the Princess Anne. The Earl and Countess of Marlborough being attached to the latter, were sharers in her loss of court favour. King William had been elevated, in the fervour of the Revolution, to the utter exclusion of James's son ; a step considerably beyond the calculatfons of those who called him over from Holland, and not ren dered acceptable by any thing inviting or pleasant in William's manner. His confidence and his favour seem-• ed to centre in foreigners, while. English officers and noblemen were kept at a great distance. Sympathy for the fallen king operated in concurrence with these cir cumstances ; and we accordingly- find from Dalrymple and .Macpherson's State Papers, that a secret correspon dence was carried on by Godolphin, Russel, Marlborough, and other men of consequence, with the court of St Ger mains. To some discovery of this nature, was probably owing the disgrace of Marlborough. That family pique entered likewise into it is apparent, from the circum stance of an approximation between him and King Wil liam after the death of Queen Mary. It was evidently William's policy to be in good terms with a person so. dear to the Princess Anne ; but it is farther apparent,. from the confidential business entrusted to Marlborough in the last three years of' his reign, that all distrust of him was banished from his mind. At the approach of death, William, with whom opposition to France was always uppermost, recommended Marlborough as the most proper person to be entrusted with the command of the army destined to protect the liberty of Europe.