TH2022 Ep11 John Churchill

Season 2022 – Talk 11 – John Churchill – the First Duke of Marlborough

In John Churchill – the First Duke of Marlborough David Simpson explains why many believe that he was Britain’s greatest general.

Click a thumbnail below to view the image gallery that accompanies the talk.


He is the second, and surviving, son of the first Sir Winston Churchill. His father backs the Royalists in the Civil War and has to pay a large fine. The family has little money. Their mother in law takes the family in although she is a staunch Parliamentarian!

The Restoration sees Winston becoming Member of Parliament for Weymouth and John’s eldest sister, Arabella, becomes maid of honour to the Duke of York’s wife. Arabella begins an affair with James, Duke of York which results in four children.

John becomes a page to the Duke and the becomes an Ensign in the Foot Guards.


John (allegedly) has an affair with Barbara Villiers, an ex-mistress of Charles II. It is possible that a child results from the affair but John never acknowledges this. John is getting to have powerful contacts.

Military career:

Churchill becomes a Captain in the Duke of York’s Admiralty Regiment. This is part of the British Brigade under the command of the Duke of Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II.

We hear of Churchill’s part in the abdication of King James II, his famous victories,  his difficult relationships with William and Mary, Queen Anne and George I.

Britain’s greatest general:

David concludes by giving his reasons as to why he, and many other historians, rate John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough, as Britain’s greatest general.

Listen to the podcast and hear David Simpson tell the full story of this great General.

About this podcast:

This is an edited recording of a talk given to the Farnham u3a World History  Group. Unfortunately there is, in places, some background noise from a keep fit class in another room in Farnham Maltings.

It is not possible to use some of the images in the original talk for copyright reasons.

The Farnham u3a site is here.

You can also listen using Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Castbox , Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify, Stitcher and Vurbl and others.

AKM Music licenses Media Magazine for use as the theme music.

© The MrT Podcast Studio and Farnham u3a World History Group 2018 – 2023