Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Lt General Sir Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, 5th Earl of Sunderland

Spencer, Lt Gen Sir Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough 
Sir Charles was the second son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, and Lady Anne Churchill, the second daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, and his wife Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

Charles inherited the Sunderland title from his older brother in 1729, becoming 5th Earl of Sunderland, and then the Marlborough title from his aunt, Henrietta, 2nd Duchess of Marlborough, in 1733.

An indifferent political career was counterbalanced by a profligate personal life involving gambling, hunting and building projects. His relationship with his paternal grandmother was tense - she preferred his younger brother, John, and found him "stolid and far from entertaining" - and, as a result of his marriage to Elizabeth Trevor, a member of an arch rival family, plus his abandoning the Opposition by going over to Walpole, she more or less cut him out of her will which resulted in a series of legal actions.

He was one of the original governors of London's Foundling Hospital, the foundation of which in 1739 marked a watershed in British child care advocacy and attitudes. He led the British expeditionary force on Continental Europe in the early part of the Seven Years' War, but died in 1758, leaving command to John Manners, Marquess of Granby.

Spencer Charles, 3rd Duke of Marlborough

Contemporary references to Marlborough were often disparaging. We do not have to accept the dowager duchess's view of her ‘ungrateful and very foolish grandson’ (Yorke, 1.219), since admiration did not come easily to her. Lord Shelburne, just beginning his army career when Marlborough commanded in Germany, described him later as:
an easy-going, good-natured, gallant man, who took a strange fancy for serving, to get rid of the ennui attending a private life, without any military experience or the common habits of a man of business, or indeed capacity for either, and no force of character whatever. (Life, ed. Fitzmaurice, 1.349)
Horace Walpole thought him personally brave, but inexperienced—‘capable of giving the most judicious advice and of following the worst … bashfulness and indistinctness in his articulation … confirmed a very mean opinion of his understanding’ (Walpole, Memoirs, 2.114; 3.24). Smollett was kinder: the duke was ‘brave beyond all question, generous to profusion, and good-natured to excess’ (Smollett, 3.8).

It seems to me that he was a typical upper class second son who was not expected to succeed to the title, wanting in intellect and living a lifestyle he could ill afford when he suddenly became heir and was thoroughly unprepared for the position. Normally aristocratic second sons went into the armed forces but he appears to have been a wastrel who only found a military career later in life - think Tim Nice-but-Dim!

No comments:

Post a Comment