Two volumes of the life of the dynamic wife of a great soldier
John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough was without question one of the finest military commanders the British Isles has ever produced. He was singular in several ways, but he was also fortunate in those about him. In Eugene of Savoy he had a military man of such capability and stature that it is incredible that the two men were contemporaries, let alone allies. He had close relations with Godolphin and was a prized confident of Queen Anne. But in his marriage he was doubly blessed. Sarah Churchill was not only his wife but the love of his life and their mutual affection and commitment to each other endured beyond the flush of youth. Additionally Sarah Churchill was not made of the material that readily prepared an aristocratic lady made for a life of idleness. Hers was a volatile strong willed personality and she was, in many ways, centuries ahead of her time. She aided Godolphin and her husband in support of the Queen and campaigned vigorously for the Whig party never shrinking from confrontations which often threw her out of favour with the powerful and influential. Always she was her husbands agent on the home front as he engaged in the memorable battles of the War of Spanish Succession. These two volumes chronicle the life of this remarkable woman and provide essential detail and context to students of the life and campaigns of the Duke of Marlborough himself. Available in soft cover or hard cover with dust jacket.
This was at Dr. Sacheverell’s trial, where I waited upon the Queen the first time she went thither, and having stood above two hours, said to the vice-chamberlain, that when the Queen went to any place incognito (as she came to the trial, and only looked from behind a curtain) it was always the custom for the ladies to sit down before her; but Her Majesty had forgot to speak to us now; and that since the trial was like to continue very long every day, I wished he would put the Queen in mind of it: to which he replied very naturally, ‘Why, madam, should you not speak to the Queen yourself, who are always in waiting?’<br>
This I knew was right, and therefore I went up to the Queen, and stooping down to her as she was sitting, to whisper to her, said, ‘I believed Her Majesty had forgot to order us to sit, as was customary in such cases.’ Upon this, she looked indeed as if she had forgot, and was sorry for it, and answered in a very kind easy way, ‘By all means, pray sit;’ and, before I could go a step from her chair, she called to Mr. Mordaunt, the page of honour, to bring stools, and desire the ladies to sit down, which accordingly we did—Lady Scarborough, Lady Burlington, and myself. But as I was to sit nearest to the Queen, I took care to place myself at a good distance from her, though it was usual in such cases to sit close to her, and sometimes at the basset table, where she does not appear incognito; but, in a place of ceremony, the company has sat so near her as scarce to leave her room to put her hand to her pocket.<br>
Besides this, I used a further caution, of showing her all the respect I could in this matter, by drawing a curtain behind me in such a manner, betwixt her and me, as to appear to be as it were in a different room from Her Majesty. But my Lady Hyde, who stood behind the Queen when I went to speak to her, (and who I observed, with an air of boldness more than good breeding, came up then nearer to hear what I said,) continued to stand still in the same manner, and never came to sit with the rest of us that day, which I then took for nothing else but the making show of more than ordinary favour with the Queen.<br>
The next day the Duchess of Somerset came to the trial, and before I sat down I turned to her, having always used to show her a great deal of respect, and asked her if her grace would not be pleased to sit; at which she gave a sort of start back, with the appearance of being surprised, as if she thought I had asked a very strange thing, and refused sitting. Upon this I said it was always the custom to sit before the Queen in such cases, and that Her Majesty had ordered us to do so the day before, but that her refusing it now looked as if she. thought we had done something that was not proper. To which she only answered, that she did not care to sit; and then she went and stood behind the Queen, as Lady Hyde had done the day before, which I took no farther notice of then, but sat down with my Lady Burlington as we did before.<br>
But when I came to reflect upon what these two ladies had done, I plainly perceived that, in the Duchess of Somerset especially, this conduct could not be thought to be the effect of humility, but that it must be a stratagem that they had formed in their cabal, to flatter the Queen by paying her more respect, and to make some public noise of this matter that might be to my disadvantage, or disagreeable to me.<br>
And this I was still the more confirmed in, because it had been known before that the Duchess of Somerset, who was there with her lord, was to act a cunning part between the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The Whigs and Tories did not intend to come to the trial.<br>
As, therefore, it was my business to keep all things as quiet as possible till the campaign was over, and preserve myself in the mean while, if I could, from any public affront, I resolved to do what I could to disappoint these ladies in their little design; and in order to this, I waited upon the Queen the next morning, before she went to the trial, and told her that I had observed, the day before, that the Duchess of Somerset had refused to sit at the trial, which I did not know the meaning of, since Her Majesty was pleased to order it, and it was nothing more than what was agreeable to the constant practice of the court in all such cases; but however, if it would be in any respects more pleasing to Her Majesty that we should stand for the future, I begged she would let me know her mind about it, because I should be very sorry to do anything that could give her the least dissatisfaction. To this she answered, with more peevishness than was natural to her, in these words: ‘If I had not liked you should sit, why should I have ordered it?’<br>
This plainly showed that the cabal had been blowing her up, but that she could not, however, contradict her own order. What she had now said was still a further confirmation of it, and made it more difficult for the cabal to proceed any farther in this matter, and therefore the next day the Duchess of Ormond and Lady Fretchwell came to the trial, and, to my great surprise, sat down amongst the rest of us. and thus this matter ended; only that the Duchess of Somerset used some little arts afterwards, which are not worth mentioning, to sweeten me again, and cover her design, which I suppose now she was ashamed of.