Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough

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The word CHURCH had never any charm for me, in the mouths of those who made the most noise about it; for I could not perceive that they gave any other distinguishing proof of their regard for the thing than a frequent use of the word, like a spell to enchant weak minds; and a persecuting zeal against Dissenters and against those real friends of the Church who would not admit that persecution was agreeable to its doctrine.

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, Princess of Mindelheim, Countess of Nellenburg (née Jenyns, spelled Jennings in most modern references; 5 June 1660 (Old Style) – 18 October 1744), was an English courtier who rose to be one of the most influential women of her time through her close friendship with Anne, Queen of Great Britain.

Quotes[edit]

  • The word CHURCH had never any charm for me, in the mouths of those who made the most noise about it; for I could not perceive that they gave any other distinguishing proof of their regard for the thing than a frequent use of the word, like a spell to enchant weak minds; and a persecuting zeal against Dissenters and against those real friends of the Church who would not admit that persecution was agreeable to its doctrine. And as to Affairs of State: Many of these Churchmen seem to me to have no fixed principles at all, having endeavored during the last reign, to undermine that very government which they had contributed to establish.

Quotes about Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough[edit]

  • Lady Anne Egerton, the deceased Lady Bridgewater's only daughter, married first Wriothesley Duke of Bedford, and secondly to Lord Jersey. This lady inherited such a share of her grandmother's imperial spirit, as to match her pretty fairly, and insure daggers' drawing as soon as it should find time and opportunity to display itself. But, ere the stormy season set in, the grandame had acquired her picture; which she afterwards made a monument of vengeance, in no vulgar or ordinary mode. She did not give it away; nor sell it to a broker; nor send it up to a lumber-garret; nor even turn its front to the wall. She had the face blackened over, and this sentence, She is much blacker within, inscribed in large characters on the frame. And thus, placed in her ususal sitting-room, it was exhibited to all beholders.
    • Lady Louisa Stuart, 'Biographical Anecdotes of Lady M. W. Montagu', The Letters and Works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Vol. I., ed. Lord Wharncliffe (1837), pp. 78-79
  • It is to her the the Duke is chiefly indebted for his greatness and his fall; for above twenty years she possessed, without a rival, the favours of the most indulgent mistress in the world, nor ever missed one single opportunity that fell in her way of improving it to her own advantage. She hath preserved a tolerable court-reputation, with respect to love and gallantry; but three furies reigned in her breast, the most mortal enemies of all softer passions, which were sordid avarice, disdainful pride, and ungovernable rage; by the last of these often breaking out in sallies of the most unpardonable sort, she had long alienated her sovereign's mind, before it appeared to the world. This lady is not without some degree of wit, and hath in her time affected the character of it, by the usual method of arguing against religion, and proving the doctrines of Christianity to be impossible and absurd. Imagine what such a spirit, irritated by the loss of power, favour, and employment, is capable of acting or attempting, and then I have said enough.
    • Jonathan Swift, The History of the Four Last Years of the Queen (1758), pp. 16-18
  • Let me correct a story relating to the great duke of Marlborough. The duchess was pressing the duke to take a medicine, and with her usual warmth said, "I'll be hanged if it do not prove serviceable." Dr. Garth, who was present, exclaimed, "Do take it then my lord duke; for it must be of service, in one way or the other."
  • Bishop Burnet's absence of mind is well known. Dining with the duchess of Marlborough, after her husband's disgrace, he compared this great general to Belisarius. "But," said the Duchess, eagerly, "how came it that such a man was so miserable, and universally deserted?"—"Oh, madam (exclaimed the distrait prelate), he had such a brimstone of a wife!"
  • I am told that the secret letters between Queen Anne and the Duchess of Marlborough, in the first glow of their passion, are still extant in a certain house in the Green Park. They used to correspond under feigned and romantic names. When this intense friendship abated, the duchess was certainly more in fault than the queen. Such was the equality produced by their intimacy, that almost the sole remaining idea of superiority remained with her who had the advantage in personal charms—and in this there was unfortunately no comparison. The duchess became so presumptuous that she would give the queen her gloves to hold, and on taking them again would affect suddenly to turn her head away, as if her royal mistress had perspired some disagreeable effluvia!
  • The beauty of the Duchess of Marlborough had always been of the scornful and imperious kind, & her features and air announced nothing that her temper did not confirm; both together, her beauty & temper, enslaved her heroic Lord. One of her principal charms was a prodigious abundance of fine fair hair. One day at her toilet in anger to him she cut off these commanding tresses and flung them in his face. Nor did her Insolence stop there; nor stop till it had totally estranged and worn out the patience of the poor Queen her Mistress. The duchess was often seen to give her Majesty her fan & gloves & turn away her own head, as if the Queen had offensive smells.
    • Horace Walpole, Reminiscences Written by Mr Horace Walpole in 1788 For the Amusement of Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry Now first printed in full from the original MS. With Notes and Index, ed. Paget Toynbee (1924), pp. 86-87
  • Incapable of due respect to superiors, it was no wonder she treated her children & inferiors with supercilious contempt. Her eldest Daughter, & She were long at variance & never reconciled. When the younger Duchess exposed herself by placing a monument & silly epitaph of her own composition & bad spelling to Congreve in Westminster abbey, her Mother, quoting the words, said, "I know not what pleasure She might have in his company, but I am sure it was no honour." With her youngest daughter the Duchess of Montagu old Sarah agreed as ill—"I wonder, said the Duke of Marlborough to them, that you cannot agree, you are so alike!" Of her grand-daughter the Duchess of Manchester daughter of the Duchess of Montagu, She affected to be fond. One day she said to her, "Dss of Manchester, you are a good creature & I love you mightily—but you have a mother!" "and She has a Mother!" answered the Manchester, who was all Spirit, justice, and honour, & could not suppress sudden truth.
    • Horace Walpole, Reminiscences Written by Mr Horace Walpole in 1788 For the Amusement of Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry Now first printed in full from the original MS. With Notes and Index, ed. Paget Toynbee (1924), pp. 87-88
  • Lady Bateman struck the first stroke, and persuaded her Brother to marry a handsome young Lady, who unluckily was daughter of Lord Trevor, who had been a bitter enemy of his Grandfather the victorious Duke. The Grandam's rage exceeded all bonds. Having a portrait of Lady Bateman She blackened the face and wrote on it, "now her outside is as black as her inside". The Duke She turned out of the little Lodge in Windsor park, and then pretending that the new Duchess & her female cousins, eight Trevors, had stripped the house and garden, She had a puppet-show made with waxen figures representing the Trevors tearing up the Shrubs, and the Duchess carrying off the chicken-coop under her arm.
    Her fury did but increase when Mr Fox prevailed on the Duke to go over to the Court. With her coarse intemperate humour She said, "That was the Fox that had stolen her Goose". Repeated injuries at last drove the Duke to go to law with her. Fearing that even no Lawyer would come up to the Billingsgate with which She was animated herself, She appeared in the court of justice, and with some wit and infinite abuse treated the laughing public with the spectacle of a Woman who had held the reins of empire metamorphosed into the Widow Blackacre. Her Grandson in his suit demanded a sword set with diamonds given to his Grandsire by the Emperor. "I retained it said the Beldame, lest he should pick out the diamonds and pawn them."
    • Horace Walpole, Reminiscences Written by Mr Horace Walpole in 1788 For the Amusement of Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry Now first printed in full from the original MS. With Notes and Index, ed. Paget Toynbee (1924), pp. 89-90
  • I asked her [Lady Suffolk] about the Queen's loving to see the Duchess of Marlboro—She said, as I have heard from others too, that the Latter always behaved rudely & yet making Court by abusing queen Anne. Lady Suffolk says she was so disgusted with this meanness, that She said to the Queen, "now, Madam, woud it be worse, if all these Stories were mere Invention?" She says, the Duchess was persuaded that by the very time Queen Anne came to the Crown, She had lost her favour, & only governed Her by her Timidity. Towards the end of her life, Queen Anne had had an operation in her back—the Duchess used to wait in the outward room, and say, I will not go in till that Nasty Thing is over—no wonder with so many Enemies, this was reported to the Queen.
    • Horace Walpole, 'Notes of Conversation with Lady Suffolk by Horace Walpole Now first printed from the original MS.', Reminiscences Written by Mr Horace Walpole in 1788 For the Amusement of Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry Now first printed in full from the original MS. With Notes and Index, ed. Paget Toynbee (1924), pp. 116-117
  • The Duchess...made court at the accession of the present family, by abusing Queen Anne to the Princess of Wales (afterwards Queen Caroline). One day relating her violent quarrel with her mistress, She said to the Queen, "then, Madam, you mean to bring over your Brother!" The Queen replied, "I wish I was sure her was my Brother!"—This implied two things, that She doubted whether he was genuine; & that if he was, She would bring him over. "And yet, continued the Duchess, the Creature (Caroline was shocked at such an expression used about a Queen—and might have been shocked more at the ingratitude of the Woman who used it), notwithstanding her letters, knew he was her brother." The Princess asked what She meaned by notwithstanding her letters—She meaned those the Queen had writ, and as She owned by her advice, as it was her then beleif, to persuade the Prince and Princess of Orange that Queen Mary of Este was not with child—which after King William came over, they found so much reason to doubt—enough, it is plain, to convince the Duchess that the Cheavlier was King James's Son.
    • Horace Walpole, 'Notes of Conversation with Lady Suffolk by Horace Walpole Now first printed from the original MS.', Reminiscences Written by Mr Horace Walpole in 1788 For the Amusement of Miss Mary and Miss Agnes Berry Now first printed in full from the original MS. With Notes and Index, ed. Paget Toynbee (1924), pp. 135-136

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