Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough

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His Grace
The Duke of Marlborough
Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough.jpg
The Duke of Marlborough in 1900
In office
1899 – 11 March 1902
Monarch Victoria
Edward VII
Prime Minister The Marquess of Salisbury
Preceded by The Earl of Hopetoun
Succeeded by Sir Savile Crossley, Bt
Under-Secretary of State
for the Colonies
In office
22 July 1903 – 4 December 1905
Monarch Edward VII
Prime Minister Arthur Balfour
Preceded by The Earl of Onslow
Succeeded by Winston Churchill
Personal details
Born 13 November 1871 (1871-11-13)
Simla, British India
Died 30 June 1934 (1934-07-01) (aged 62)
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) (1) Consuelo Vanderbilt
(2) Gladys Deacon
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge

Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC (13 November 1871 – 30 June 1934), styled Earl of Sunderland until 1883 and Marquess of Blandford between 1883 and 1892, was a British soldier and Conservative politician. He was often known as "Sunny" Marlborough after his courtesy title of Earl of Sunderland.

Background and education[edit]

Born at Simla, India, Marlborough was the only son of George Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, and Lady Albertha Frances Anne, daughter of James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn. He was a nephew of Lord Randolph Churchill and a first cousin of Winston Churchill,[1] with whom he had a close and lifelong friendship. He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College, Cambridge.[2]

Political career[edit]

Photo c.1900

Marlborough entered the House of Lords on the early death of his father in 1892 and made his maiden speech in August 1895.[3] In 1899, he was appointed Paymaster-General by Lord Salisbury, a post he held until 1902. He was then Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies under Arthur Balfour between 1903 and 1905.[1] He was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council in 1899.[4]

He again held political office during the First World War, when he was Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries between 1917 and 1918 in David Lloyd George's coalition government.[1] He made his last speech in the House of Lords in December 1931.[3]

Marlborough was also Lord High Steward at the coronation of Edward VII in 1902, Mayor of Woodstock between 1907 and 1908, and Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire between 1915 and 1934.[1] In 1902, he was made a Knight of the Garter.[5]

The Toronto Marlboros hockey club is named after the Duke.

Military career[edit]

Marlborough was appointed a Lieutenant in the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars in 1897. After the outbreak of the Second Boer War, he was in January 1900 seconded for service as a Staff Captain in the Imperial Yeomanry serving in South Africa,[6] and received the temporary rank of Captain.[7] He was subsequently appointed Assistant Military Secretary to Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa.

He was mentioned in despatches and promoted to Major on 7 December 1901.[8] Following the war, he retired from the army, but he rejoined in the First World War, when he served as a Lieutenant-Colonel on the General Staff.[1]


Portrait by John Singer Sargent

Marlborough was married twice. His first wife was the American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, whom he married at Saint Thomas Church in New York City on 6 November 1895. They had two sons, John Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, eventually the 10th Duke of Marlborough, and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill. Their mother famously referred to them as "the heir and the spare".

The Vanderbilt dowry was used to restore Blenheim Palace and replenish its furnishings and library, as many of the original contents had been sold over the course of the 19th century. Many of the jewels worn by subsequent Duchesses of Marlborough also date from this period.

The 9th Duke employed the landscape gardener Achille Duchêne to create the water garden on the terrace at Blenheim.[9] The couple were divorced in 1921 and the marriage was annulled by the Vatican five years later.[1]

Marlbrough then married another American, Gladys Deacon, on 25 June 1921 in Paris. Later in their unhappy, childless marriage, she kept a revolver in her bedroom to prevent her husband's entry.[10] The couple separated but never divorced.[11]

At the time of his death, the 9th Duke reportedly was negotiating to enter a Catholic religious order in Italy, having converted to that religion late in life.[12]


In popular culture[edit]

He was played by David Markham in the BBC drama Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Sir Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough
  2. ^ "Churchill (Spencer-Churchill), Charles Richard John, Marquess of Blandford (CHRL890CR)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  3. ^ a b Mr Charles Spencer-Churchill
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27048. p. 681. 3 February 1899.
  5. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27442. p. 3833. 13 June 1902.
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27159. p. 691. 30 January 1900.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27155. p. 362. 19 January 1900.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27383. p. 8644. 6 December 1901.
  9. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus; Sherwood, Jennifer (1974). The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. pp. 459–475. ISBN 0-14-071045-0. 
  10. ^ Mackenzie Stuart, Amanda (2006). Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age. HarperCollins. 
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Gladys deacon.
  12. ^ The Catholic conversion is referenced by Stuart. Potential entry to a religious order is not. Mackenzie Stuart, Amanda (2006). Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age. HarperCollins. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Hopetoun
Succeeded by
Sir Savile Crossley, Bt
Preceded by
The Earl of Onslow
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies
Succeeded by
Winston Churchill
Preceded by
Sir Richard Winfrey
Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the
Board of Agriculture and Fisheries

with Sir Richard Winfrey
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Winfrey
The Viscount Goschen
Honorary titles
Title last held by
The Earl of Halsbury
Lord High Steward
Title next held by
The Duke of Northumberland
Preceded by
The Earl of Jersey
Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire
Succeeded by
Vivian Smith
Peerage of England
Preceded by
George Spencer-Churchill
Duke of Marlborough
Succeeded by
John Spencer-Churchill