This was the first and still my favorite presentation on Masterpiece Theatre. It was based on Winston Churchill's biography of his most noted ancestor, John Churchill First Duke of Marlborough. OF course with Winston writing it, John Churchill turns out to be something of a plaster saint.
Well, Marlborough may have been Great Britain's greatest land soldier, but a saint, no one but Winnie would think that.
What's not shown is Marlborough's political dexterity, his opportunism, his acquisitiveness. In the four volume life of the Duke, Winston gives some rather tortured explanations about certain incidents in his life. The series lightly glosses over them. Loyalty was not one of his bigger virtues.
A clearer picture is given of Sarah Jennings, the Duchess. She was close to Princess, later Queen Anne and through her really, was Marlborough able to rise to perform the great military deeds he did perform in the War of Spanish Succession. Another reviewer was dismayed how it showed that petticoat politics brought about his downfall. Yes, but petticoat politics enable him to rise in the first place.
Sarah was something of a shrew and could really wear on one's nerves. She certainly did with Queen Anne, who by all accounts was probably one of the most decent people ever to be monarch in England/Great Britain. That's what brought down the Marlborough hegemony of the first decade of the 18th century.
John Neville and Susan Hampshire will forever be enshrined in my mind as the perfect conception of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. Margaret Tyzack is also a perfect Queen Anne, in fact the whole cast seems like it stepped right out of the late Stuart era.
Someday we may get a more accurate and balanced picture of the Duke of Marlborough and his era to compare this with. Maybe one not written by a descendant who was interested in glorifying the most prominent branch on the family tree.
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