1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Marlborough, Earls and Dukes of
MARLBOROUGH, EARLS AND DUKES OF. The earldom of Marlborough was held by the family of Ley from 1626 to 1679. James Ley, the 1st earl (c. 1550–1629), was lord chief justice of the King’s Bench in Ireland and then in England; he was an English member of parliament and was lord high treasurer from 1624 to 1628. In 1624 he was created Baron Ley and in 1626 earl of Marlborough. The 3rd earl was his grandson James (1618–1665), a naval officer who was killed in action with the Dutch. James was succeeded by his uncle William, a younger son of the 1st earl, on whose death in 1679 the earldom became extinct.
In 1689 John Churchill was created earl and in 1702 duke of Marlborough (see below). After the death of his only son Charles in 1703 an act of parliament was passed in 1706 settling the duke’s titles upon his daughters and their issue. Consequently when he died in June 1722 his eldest daughter Henrietta (1681–1733), wife of Francis Godolphin, 2nd earl of Godolphin, became duchess of Marlborough. She died without sons and was succeeded by her nephew Charles Spencer, 5th earl of Sunderland (1706–1758), a son of the great duke’s second daughter Anne (d. 1716). Although at this time Charles handed over the Sunderland estates to his younger brother John, the ancestor of the earls Spencer, he did not obtain Blenheim until Sarah, the dowager duchess, died in 1744. His eldest son George Spencer, the 4th duke (1739–1817), left three sons. The eldest, George Spencer, the 5th duke (1766–1840), was summoned to the House of Lords as Baron Spencer of Wormleighton in 1806, and in 1817, after succeeding to the dukedom, he took the name of Spencer-Churchill. The 4th duke’s second son was Lord Henry John Spencer (1770–1795), envoy to Sweden and to Prussia; and his third son was Lord Francis Almeric Spencer (1779–1845), who was created a peer as Baron Churchill of Whichwood in 1815. His grandson Victor Albert Francis Charles Spencer (b. 1864) succeeded his father as 3rd Baron Churchill in 1886, and was raised to the rank of a viscount in 1902.
The 7th duke of Marlborough, John Winston Spencer-Churchill (1822–1883), a prominent Conservative politician, was lord-lieutenant of Ireland 1876–1880, and when marquess of Blandford (the courtesy title borne by the duke’s eldest son in his father’s lifetime) was responsible for the act of 1856 called the “Blandford Act,” enabling populous parishes to be divided for purposes of Church work. In 1892 his grandson Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill (b. 1871) became 9th duke of Marlborough.