John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough

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The Duke of Marlborough

11th Duke of Marlborough Allan Warren.jpg
Portrait in 1984 by Allan Warren
Member of the House of Lords
as Duke of Marlborough
In office
10 March 1972 – 11 November 1999
Preceded byThe 10th Duke of Marlborough
Succeeded byHouse of Lords Act 1999
Personal details
John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill

(1926-04-13)13 April 1926
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
Died16 October 2014(2014-10-16) (aged 88)
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
ResidenceBlenheim Palace

John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, JP, DL (13 April 1926 – 16 October 2014) was a British peer. He was the elder son of The 10th Duke of Marlborough and his wife, The Hon. Alexandra Mary Hilda Cadogan. He was known as "Sunny" after his courtesy title of Earl of Sunderland.

He was a relative of the Duke of Devonshire and a first cousin, twice removed, of the wartime Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He was also a distant relative of Diana, Princess of Wales, as both belonged to the Spencer family, and of the Vanderbilt family through his paternal grandmother, Consuelo Vanderbilt.

His principal seat was Blenheim Palace, in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. He was ranked 224th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2004, with an estimated wealth of £185 million. His death was announced on 16 October 2014 by Blenheim Palace.[1]

Life and work[edit]

He was educated at Eton College and served seven years in the Life Guards, in which he achieved the rank of Captain. In 1972, on inheriting the Dukedom of Marlborough, he took over the management of Blenheim Palace and the Blenheim estate.

In order to fund the maintenance of the house, he opened it to visitors and as a film set, and established a number of businesses, including a garden furniture company and a water bottling plant.[2]

He was also active in a range of organisations, including the Thames and Chilterns Tourist Board and Oxford United Football Club. He served as Vice President of the Witney Conservative Association, the local party of David Cameron.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Marlborough was married four times and had a total of six children, two of whom died in infancy.[3]

Firstly, he married Susan Mary Hornby (1929–2005), daughter of Michael Charles St John Hornby and Nicolette Joan Ward, on 19 October 1951.[4] They divorced in 1961 after having three children:

Secondly, on 23 October 1961, he married Athina Onassis (née Livanos), former wife of Aristotle Onassis, and daughter of Stavros Livanos. They were divorced in March 1971 and had no children.

Thirdly, on 20 May 1972, he married Countess Rosita Douglas-Stjernorp, daughter of ambassador Count Carl Douglas-Stjernorp and Ottora Haas-Heye. They had three children and were divorced on 15 May 2008:[6]

  • Lord Richard Spencer-Churchill (born and died 1973)
  • Lord Edward Albert Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1974) Married to Kimberly Hammerstroem [7]
  • Lady Alexandra Elizabeth Spencer-Churchill (born 1977)

Finally, at the age of 82, Marlborough married Lily Mahtani (née Sahni; born c. 1954-57 in Iran) November/3 December 2008 in the Private Chapel at Blenheim.[8] She was formerly the wife of Ratan Mahtani, a wealthy Indian expatriate businessman, by whom she had three children.[9] There were no children from this marriage.


Titles and appointments[edit]




Coat of arms of John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough
Coat of arms of the duke of Marlborough.png
1817 by the 5th Duke of Marlborough
The coronet of a Duke
1st: a lion couchant guardant Argent supporting a banner Gules charged with a dexter hand couped Argent (Churchill)
2nd: out of a ducal coronet Or a griffin's head between two wings expanded Argent gorged with a collar gemel and armed Gules (Spencer)
Quarterly: 1st and 4th, Sable a lion rampant Argent, on a canton of the second a cross Gules (Churchill); 2nd and 3rd, quarterly Argent and Gules a fret Or, over all on a bend Sable three Escallops of the first (Spencer); over all in the centre chief point (as an augmentation of honour) an escutcheon Argent charged with the cross of Saint George surmounted by an inescutcheon Azure charged with three fleurs-de-lys Or, two over one
On either side, a wyvern wings elevated Gules


  1. ^ "Duke of Marlborough dies". Blenheim Palace.
  2. ^ "The Duke of Marlborough obituary". Guardian. 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ "-John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  4. ^ "Blandford wedding 1951". British Pathe.
  5. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Godchildren". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. ^ "It's a Sunny day to get divorced". Mail Online. 15 May 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Richard Kay. "A Sunny day to get married" Daily Mail, 4 December 2008.
  9. ^ Elizabeth Sanderson "How a Persian beauty reunited the grumpy Duke with black sheep son he disinherited" Daily Mail 17 August 2008. According to this article, the former Lily Sahni is the Persian-born daughter of an Indian businessman associated with the Hinduja family. In 1987, she married Ratan Mahtani, a Nigeria-based Indian industrialist, and divorced him more than ten years before, after having three children with him. Until her relationship with Marlborough, she was best known for her lawsuit against Sarah, Duchess of York for repayment of a loan made in 1994. According to other reports in the Daily Mail, she brought about a reconciliation between her future husband and his eldest son Jamie Blandford, who attended his father's fourth wedding ceremony. More details at the 11th Duke and his marriages Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]

Peerage of England
Preceded by
John Spencer-Churchill
Duke of Marlborough
Succeeded by
Jamie Spencer-Churchill