Portal:Biography/Selected article/June 24

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Portrait of Sarah by Charles Jervas.

Sarah Churchill (née Jenyns, spelt Jennings in most modern references), Duchess of Marlborough (5 June 1660 (old style) – 18 October 1744) rose to be one of the most influential women in British history, as a result of her close friendship with Queen Anne of Great Britain.

Sarah's friendship and influence with Princess Anne was widely known, and leading public figures often turned their attentions to her in the hope that she would influence Anne to comply with requests. As a result, by the time Anne became queen, Sarah’s knowledge of government, and intimacy with the queen, allowed her to become a powerful friend and a dangerous enemy, the last in the long line of Stuart favourites.

In an age when marriage was principally for money, not love, Sarah enjoyed an unusually close relationship with her husband, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, whom she married in 1677. Sarah acted as Anne's agent after James II, Anne's father, was deposed during the Glorious Revolution; and she promoted her interests during the rule of James's successors, William III and Mary II. When Princess Anne came to the throne after William's death in 1702, the Duke of Marlborough, together with Sidney Godolphin, the first Earl of Godolphin, rose to head the government, partly as a result of Sarah's friendship with Anne. She died in 1744 at the age of eighty-four. (Read more...)