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The First Churchills 

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The television dramatization of the lives of John Churchill (John Neville), the first Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah (Susan Hampshire).




Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
John Neville ...  John Churchill / ... 12 episodes, 1969
Susan Hampshire ...  Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough / ... 12 episodes, 1969
John Standing ...  Sidney Godolphin 12 episodes, 1969
Robert Robinson Robert Robinson ...  Louis XIV 11 episodes, 1969
Margaret Tyzack ...  Princess Anne / ... 9 episodes, 1969
Roger Mutton Roger Mutton ...  George of Denmark 8 episodes, 1969
John Ringham ...  Laurence Hyde / ... 8 episodes, 1969
Alan Rowe Alan Rowe ...  William, Prince of Orange / ... 7 episodes, 1969
John Westbrook ...  James, Duke of York / ... 6 episodes, 1969
James Kerry ...  James, Duke of Monmouth / ... 6 episodes, 1969
Lisa Daniely ...  Princess Mary / ... 6 episodes, 1969
Michael Culver ...  Charles Churchill 6 episodes, 1969
Job Stewart Job Stewart ...  Lord Shrewsbury 6 episodes, 1969
James Villiers ...  Charles II 5 episodes, 1969
Jill Balcon ...  Abigail Hill / ... 5 episodes, 1969
Polly Adams ...  Henrietta Godolphin / ... 5 episodes, 1969
Sheila Gish ...  Mary, Duchess of York / ... 5 episodes, 1969
Arthur Pentelow Arthur Pentelow ...  Earl of Danby / ... 5 episodes, 1969
John Humphry John Humphry ...  Sunderland 5 episodes, 1969
John Tordoff John Tordoff ...  Becket 5 episodes, 1969


The television dramatization of the lives of John Churchill (John Neville), the first Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah (Susan Hampshire).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

10 January 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The First Churchills See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(12 episodes)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This mini-series took place from 1673 to 1714. See more »


Warlike Consort: Trumpet Tune from King Arthur
By Henry Purcell
[Opening credits theme]
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User Reviews

The Adventures of Corporal John
29 May 2005 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

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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