Spencer-Churchill, Charles Richard John

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First Name(s): 
Charles Richard John
Person Title: 
9th Duke of Marlborough
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Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill was styled Earl of Sunderland until 1883, and Marquess of Blandford between 1883 and 1892. He was often known as "Sunny" after his courtesy title of Earl of Sunderland. Born at Simla, India, Marlborough was the only son of George Spencer-Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, and Lady Albertha Frances Anne, daughter of James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn. He was a nephew of Lord Randolph Churchill and a first cousin of Sir Winston Churchill. He was educated at Winchester College and Trinity College, Cambridge. Marlborough entered the House of Lords on the early death of his father in 1892. From 1899 to 1902, he was appointed Paymaster-General, and between 1903 and 1905 he became Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. In 1899 he was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council. Between 1917 and 1918 he served as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries in David Lloyd George's coalition government. Marlborough was invested as a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 30 May 1902. He was Mayor of Woodstock between 1907 and 1909, and Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire from 1915 to his death. He served in the South African War. During World War I he led a yeomanry regiment, and served as a Lieutenant-Colonel on the General Staff in France. Marlborough was married twice. He married his first wife the American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, in New York City on 6 November 1895. The marriage was a mercenary one, rescuing his near-bankrupt dukedom. They had two sons, John Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, eventually the 10th Duke of Marlborough, and Lord Ivor Spencer-Churchill. The Vanderbilt dowry, worth $2,500,000, was used to restore Blenheim Palace and to replenish its furnishings and library, as many of the original contents had been sold in the nineteenth century. Consuelo was deeply unhappy, evident from her candid biography The Glitter and the Gold. In 1906 she shocked society and left her husband. The couple were divorced in 1921 and the marriage was annulled by the Vatican five years later. She died in 1964, having lived to see her son become Duke of Marlborough. Gladys Deacon, another American, became the Duke’s second wife on 25 June 1921 in Paris. The new Duchess had enlarged images of her startling blue-green eyes painted on the ceiling of the main portico of Blenheim Palace, where they remain today. It was said that later in their unhappy, childless marriage, she kept a revolver in her bedroom to prevent her husband's entry. As her behaviour became increasingly erratic, most noticeably following the Duke's conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1927, the couple began drifting apart. Finally, the Duke moved out of the palace, and two years later evicted her. The couple separated, but were never divorced.
Seat / Residence(s): 
Blenheim Palace