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George, John and Arabella Churchill

Admiral George Churchill was buried in the centre part of the nave of Westminster Abbey, near the choir gate on 12th May 1710. Nearby in the south choir aisle is a large monument to him, by sculptor Grinling Gibbons. This consists of a gadrooned sarcophagus between two mourning cherubs and obelisks. In front of the semi-circular headed niche of the background is an urn. On the centrepiece is a shield of arms and crest (both repainted). His quarterly shield includes his arms: "sable, a lion rampant argent, a canton of St George". The Latin inscription can be translated:

Here lies interred George Churchill, second son of Sir Winston Churchill, Knight, of Dorsetshire, and worthy brother of John, Duke of Marlborough. From his early years trained to military affairs, and served with great honour by sea and land, under King Charles II and King James II. He was for the space of twenty years Gentleman of the Bedchamber to the most serene Prince George of Denmark, to whom his integrity, obsequiousness and virtue, rendered him dear and valuable. In the time of King William's reign, when the French navy was defeated and burnt by the English at The Hague (a day ever memorable) he behaved himself with that vigour of soul and bravery as became an English officer. Soon after he was, by that Prince (who was a true judge of merit), made one of the Commissioners of the Admiralty, in which station the sea affairs which he was master of, he daily managed and adorned. At length, when under the happy reign of Queen Anne, the war against the French (those turbulent foes of England) was renewed, he was chosen one of the Admirals, and of the Council to the most high Prince of Denmark, Admiralissimo of Great Britain; and was partaker with his master of all his care and fatigue, which he happily managed, until the broken power of France quitted the seas; afterwards adhering to that best of Princes to his last, he then performed all the offices of a grateful and generous soul. At length, broken with toil and diseases, amidst the embraces and tears of his family, dependants and servants, whom his humanity, services and liberality, made grateful, devoted and faithful to him, he, being unmarried, died like a pious, calm and cheerful man, the 8th of May 1710, aged 58 years

He was baptised on 17th March 1654, a son of Sir Winston and his wife Elizabeth (Drake). He served under Admiral Edward Montagu, Earl of Sandwich but then became a draper's assistant until returning to sea during the third Anglo-Dutch war. He also served as Member of Paliament for St Albans. He commanded many different ships until leaving service in 1693. He left an illegitimate son George.

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

His brother, the great Duke of Marlborough (born in Devon 26th May 1650, died 16th June 1722), was temporarily buried in a vault in Henry VII's chapel in the Abbey on 9th August. He is remembered as the hero of the battles of Blenheim and Malplaquet and he was also an ambassador, cabinet minister and master of the horse. He married Sarah Jenyns (or Jennings), attendant to the future Queen Anne. His funeral was one of the grandest of the century and the procession made its way from Marlborough House to the Abbey. The anthem When Saul was King by Italian composer Giovanni Bononcini was sung. Two of the banner staves used at the funeral still remain in the Abbey collection. His remains were moved to Blenheim Palace in November 1744 just before the burial there of his widow.

His daughter Henrietta, wife of Francis, Earl of Godolphin, was buried in the Abbey on 9th November 1733. (See the Godolphin entry on our website)

Arabella Churchill

Admiral Churchill's sister Arabella was buried in the Abbey on 10th May 1730 but has no memorial or gravestone. She was a maid of honour to Anne Hyde, Duchess of York and became the mistress of James, Duke of York (who was later King James II). By him she had several children. She married Colonel Charles Godfrey, master of the Jewel Office, and died aged 82 and was buried with George.

Her daughter Charlotte married Hugh Boscawen in the Abbey on 23rd April 1700 and had eighteen children, three of whom were also married in the abbey.

Further Reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 for George, John and Arabella Churchill

Order of the procession at the funeral of...John Duke of Marlborough, 1722

British Royal and State funerals.... by M. Range, 2016

Papers for John's funeral are at the College of Arms in London and the British Library. See also the London Gazette and the Daily Post.

Blenheim Palace is open to the public

Funeral

12th May 1710

Field

Politician; soldier; sailor

Location

Nave; Lady Chapel; South Choir Aisle

Memorial Type

Grave

Material Type

Marble

George, John and Arabella Churchill
George Churchill monument

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2018 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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