Southern Anthology

Families on the Frontiers of the Old South

George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC, FRS

George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC, FRS[1]

Male 1739 - 1817  (78 years)

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  • Name George Spencer 
    George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough
    George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough
    Artist, George Romney (17341802)
    Suffix 4th Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC, FRS 
    Born 26 Jan 1739 
    Gender Male 
    Title 12 Dec 1768  Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Knight of the Garter 
    KG Arms of the George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough
    KG Arms of the George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough
    Died 29 Jan 1817  Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • SPENCER, GEORGE, fourth Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817), born 26 Jan. 1739, was the eldest son of Charles, third duke [q. v.] He obtained an ensigncy in the Coldstream guards on 14 June 1755, and on 12 June 1756 was gazetted captain of the 20th foot. On succeeding to the peerage two years later he left the army.

      He shook off the influence of his father's leader, Henry Fox [q. v.], and 'flung himself totally on Lord Harcourt to direct his conduct in the county of Oxford' (Grenville Papers, i. 297?8), of which he was named lord lieutenant in March 1760. At the coronation of George III, on 22 Sept. 1761, he was bearer of the sceptre and cross. On 22 Nov. of the following year he was appointed lord chamberlain and sworn of the privy council. In the Grenville ministry, though still under thirty, he held office as lord privy seal from April 1763 to July 1765. On 27th inst., after some delay, which was thought ?rather extraordinary,? he and his brother, Lord Charles Spencer, resigned their offices (Hist. MSS. Comm. 10th Rep. ii. 391?3; Grenville Papers, iii. 210). In November 1766 he assured his uncle, the Duke of Bedford, that he should not join Lord Temple, and for the present did not desire office. He was, however, ambitious of obtaining the Garter, and Bedford obtained from Chatham the promise of it on the next vacancy (Bedford Correspondence, iii. 356, 357, 358). But Cumberland was given the next, in order to spite the Bedfords (Walpole to Mann, 25 Dec. 1767), and Marlborough did not obtain the coveted honour till 12 Dec. 1768, and was not instituted till 25 July 1771.

      On 29 Jan. 1779 Walpole told Mann that Marlborough and Pembroke had declared against ?the first [sic] lord of the admiralty? (Sir Hugh Palliser) in the celebrated politico-naval dispute which followed Keppel's action off Ushant. He even forbade his son, Lord Henry Spencer, to attend parliament during Keppel's trial (Last Journals, December 1778). Marlborough took but little part in political affairs after his early years, and for the most part lived quietly at Blenheim. In 1762 he had purchased most of Zanetti's gems at Venice. Walpole entertained the duke and duchess (whom he described as inseparable) at Strawberry Hill in June 1784.

      Marlborough was created D.C.L. of Oxford on 6 July 1763, and high steward on 23 Nov. 1779. He presented to the university a large telescope and fine copies of Raffaelle's cartoons. In 1766 he was made high steward of Woodstock, and became an elder brother of the Trinity House in 1768, and master on 22 May 1769. He was also ranger of Wychwood Forest, a governor of the Charterhouse, and F.R.S. He continued the income given by his father to Jacob Bryant [q. v.] He was found dead in bed at Blenheim on 29 Jan. 1817. On his death Marlborough House, St. James's, reverted to the crown, according to the terms of the original grant. The duke was remarkable in youth for personal beauty, but looked clumsy in his robes. There are portraits at Blenheim by John Smith, after Reynolds, and by Romney of the duke and duchess.

      Marlborough married, on 23 Aug. 1762, Lady Caroline Russell, only daughter by his second wife of John, fourth duke of Bedford. She died 26 Nov. 1811. By her the duke had three sons and five daughters. Of the latter, Lady Caroline (b. 1763) married Henry, second lord Mendip; Anne (b. 1773), the Hon. Cropley Ashley, brother of Lord Shaftesbury; Amelia (b. 1785), Henry Pytches Boyce, esq.; Elizabeth, her cousin Hon. John Spencer; and Charlotte, Edward Nares [q. v.], regius professor of modern history at Oxford. The portrait of Lady Caroline and Lady Elizabeth as Music and Painting, executed by Romney, was bought by Mr. C. Wertheimer for 10,500 guineas in 1896 (Globe, 11 June 1896).

      The eldest son, George Spencer, fifth Duke of Marlborough (1766?1840), born on 6 March 1766, took the additional name of Churchill by royal license in 1817. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford, graduating M.A. in 1786 and D.C.L. 20 June 1792. He was M.P. for Oxfordshire from 1790 to 1796 and for Tregony from 1802 to 1804, and was a lord of the treasury from August 1804 till February 1806. On 12 March 1806 he was called to the upper house as Baron Spencer of Wormleighton. He spent great sums on his gardens and his library at White Knights, near Reading. In 1812 he gave 2,260l. for Valdarfen's edition of the ?Decameron? at the Duke of Roxburghe's sale, and in 1817 bought from the library of James Edwards the celebrated Bedford missal (now in the British Museum). Most of his collections were dispersed during his lifetime, and his extravagance compelled his retirement during his later years. He died at Blenheim on 5 March 1840. He married, in 1791, Susan, second daughter of John Stewart, seventh earl of Galloway, by whom he was father of George Spencer-Churchill, sixth duke of Marlborough (1793?1857), besides three other sons and two daughters (Ann. Reg. 1840, App. to Chron. p. 155). His grandson, John Winston Spencer-Churchill [q. v.], seventh duke, is noticed separately [s.v. Churchill].

      Lord Henry John Spencer (1770?1795), second son of the fourth duke, was born on 20 Dec. 1770, and educated at Eton and Oxford, where he gave great promise. He entered public life before he was of age as secretary to Lord Auckland, ambassador at The Hague. He was left for some months in sole charge of the embassy at a critical period, and established so high a reputation for discretion and vigour that on 7 April 1790 he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the Netherlands. In July 1793 he went to Sweden as envoy extraordinary. In 1795 he was appointed envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Prussia, but died of fever at Berlin on 3 July, in his twenty-fifth year (Gent. Mag. 1795, ii. 618). A portrait of Lord Henry Spencer with his sister Lady Charlotte, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, is inscribed 'The Fortune-tellers.' It has been engraved by J. Jones, S. W. Reynolds, and H. Dawe.

      The youngest son, Lord Francis Almeric Spencer (1779?1845), born in 1779, was M.P. for Oxfordshire from 1801 to 1815, and a member of the board of control from 13 Nov. 1809 to July 1810. In August 1815 he was created a peer as Baron Churchill of Wychwood. He married Lady Frances Fitzroy, fifth daughter of the Duke of Grafton. He died in March 1845 (Foster, Peerage).

      [Doyle's Baronage; G. E. C.'s Peerage; Eccles's New Blenheim Guide, 14th edit. pp. 26, 28, 31, 32; H. Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, iii. 300, 436, 438, 476, iv. 50, 69, 380, v. 78, vii. 167, viii. 485, ix. 249, 284?7; Memoirs of George III, ed. Barker, i. 69, 163, 207, ii. 99, 139; Grenville Papers, iii. 210, 308; Gent. Mag. 1817, i. 179?80, 175; Evans's Cat. Engr. Portraits.]

      G. Le G. N. [2]
    Person ID I25113  Dickinson
    Last Modified 24 Nov 2019 

    Father Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough, KG, PC,   b. 22 Nov 1706,   d. 20 Oct 1758  (Age 51 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Mother Elizabeth Trevor, Dcss of Marlborough,   b. ca. 1713,   d. 7 Oct 1761  (Age ~ 48 years) 
    Relationship Birth 
    Married 23 May 1732 
    Family ID F7812  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Caroline Russell, Dcss of Marlborough,   b. 13 Jan 1743,   d. 26 Nov 1811  (Age 68 years) 
    Married 23 Aug 1762  Bedford House in Bloomsbury, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
     1. Caroline Spencer, Viscountess Clifden,   b. 27 Oct 1763,   d. 23 Nov 1813, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 50 years)  [Birth]
     2. Elizabeth Spencer,   b. 1764,   d. 1812  (Age 48 years)  [Birth]
    +3. George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough, FSA,   b. 6 Mar 1766,   d. 5 Mar 1840, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years)  [Birth]
     4. Charlotte Spencer,   b. 1769,   d. 1802  (Age 33 years)  [Birth]
     5. Henry John Spencer,   b. 20 Dec 1770,   d. 3 Jul 1795, Berlin, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 24 years)  [Birth]
     6. Anne Spencer, Ctss of Shaftesbury ,   b. 1773,   d. 1865  (Age 92 years)  [Birth]
     7. Amelia Spencer,   b. 1774,   d. 1829  (Age 55 years)  [Birth]
    +8. Francis Almeric Spencer, 1st Baron Churchill DCL FRS,   b. 26 Dec 1779,   d. 10 Mar 1845  (Age 65 years)  [Birth]
    Last Modified 5 Nov 2019 
    Family ID F7813  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 23 Aug 1762 - Bedford House in Bloomsbury, London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsTitle - Knight of the Garter - 12 Dec 1768 - Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 29 Jan 1817 - Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Sources 
    1. [S336470] Wikipedia, (Online:, "George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough" at

    2. [S336351] Dictionary of National Biography, 63 volumes, Sir Sidney Lee, ed., (New York: McMillan and Company, 1885-1900), Public Domain., "Spencer, George (1739-1817)" by Gerald le Grys Norgate, 53: 354-5 and at