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Marlborough is above all in Britain and Europe the title bestowed on John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough (of the second creation). He was the pre-eminent general of his generation, leading the forces of the Grand Alliance in the War of the Spanish Succession. (He had already been created Earl of Marlborough at the coronation of William and Mary.) He commanded the crushing victory of Blenheim over the French armies of Louis XIV in 1704. He followed this up with the battles of Ramillies in 1706 Oudenarde 1708 and Malplaquet in 1709 - although Allied casualties in the last were very high. Marlborough's career was punctuated by intrigues, accusations of treachery and corruption, and political machinations, which do not appear justified. This was contributed to by the closeness of his wife, Sarah [née Jenyns], (1660-1744), to Queen Anne. They were very close until they fell out in 1710, when the Queen took a new favourite, Abigail Masham. In their correspondence, Sarah referred to herself as Mrs Freeman and Anne as Mrs Morley. Before 1710, the Queen treated her great general generously: in 1705 she gave him the former royal manor of Woodstock. Parliament also approved the queen's proposal that the grant of £5000 made in 1702 should be made permanent for the duke's lifetime; it also granted the funds to build a family seat which would be a national memorial commemorating and named after the battle of Blenheim. For rent Marlborough and his descendants were required to present annually to the sovereign at Windsor Castle, on the anniversary of the battle, a facsimile of the silk standard of the French royal household troops, the corps du roi. The Duchess is reported to have said "The Duke returned from the wars today and did pleasure me in his top-boots" ("oral tradition, attributed in various forms; I. Butler Rule of Three (1967) ch. 7" - Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.)

Winston Churchill, a great descendant of the first Duke who was born at Blenheim Palace, wrote a biography of him in 1935.
Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758), grandson of the first Duke inherited from his aunt, the 2nd Duchess Henrietta Godolphin (1681-1733). The 5th Duke of Marlborough (born George Spencer, took the surname Spencer-Churchill 1817. Many of his descendants preferred to be known simply as Churchill. The current (2010) Duke, the 11th, is John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, (b. 1926). The heir to the title bears the courtesy title of Marquess of Blandford: currently it is Jamie Spencer-Churchill, (b. 1955).
(The family name of Spencer is connected to the Earls Spencer, the current (2010) of whom is Charles Spencer, the 9th Earl (born 1964), the brother of the late Lady Diana Spencer, alias Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997).

The title is derived from the name of the town in Wiltshire. The town, the title and derivatives of both are pronounced 'MAWL-b'ruh', IPA: /ˈmɔːl brʌ (or ə)/ in RP, although Marlborough Avenue in Hull is locally realised as MAHL-b'ruh, IPA: /ˈmæl bərə/ or IPA: /ˈmɑːl bərə/. (See also Odd pronunciations of proper names - examples.) Many other places in the world have the same name, such as a wine-making area of New Zealand. There is also a well-known brand of cigarette called Marlboro, a common abbreviated way to write the name. There is a public school in the English town called Marlborough College.