John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough

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The Duke of Marlborough
Portrait in 1984 by Allan Warren
Member of the House of Lords
as Duke of Marlborough
In office
10 March 1972 – 11 November 1999
Preceded byThe 10th Duke of Marlborough
Succeeded byHouse of Lords Act 1999
Personal details
John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill

(1926-04-13)13 April 1926
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England
Died16 October 2014(2014-10-16) (aged 88)
Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England
Susan Mary Hornby
(m. 1951; div. 1961)
(m. 1961; div. 1971)
(m. 1972; div. 2008)
Lily Sahni
(m. 2008)
ResidenceBlenheim Palace

John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough, JP, DL (13 April 1926 – 16 October 2014) was a British peer. He was the elder son of the 10th Duke of Marlborough and his wife, the Hon. Alexandra Mary Hilda Cadogan. He was known as "Sunny" after his courtesy title of Earl of Sunderland.

His principal seat was Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. He was ranked 224th in the Sunday Times Rich List 2004, with an estimated wealth of £185 million. His death was announced on 16 October 2014 by Blenheim Palace.[1]

Life and work[edit]

He was educated at Eton College and served seven years in the Life Guards, in which he achieved the rank of captain. In 1972, on inheriting the Dukedom of Marlborough, he assumed the management of Blenheim Palace and the Blenheim estate.

To fund the maintenance of the house, he opened it to visitors and as a film set, and established a number of businesses, including a garden furniture company and a water bottling plant.[2]

He was also active in a range of organisations, including the Thames and Chilterns Tourist Board and Oxford United Football Club. He served as vice-president of the Witney Conservative Association, the local party of David Cameron.

Marriages and issue[edit]

Marlborough was married four times and had a total of six children, two of whom died in infancy.[3]

Firstly, he married Susan Mary Hornby (1929–2005), daughter of Michael Charles St John Hornby and Nicolette Joan Ward, on 19 October 1951.[4] They divorced in 1961 after having three children:

Secondly, on 23 October 1961, he married Athina Onassis (née Livanos), former wife of Aristotle Onassis, and daughter of Stavros Livanos. They were divorced in March 1971 and had no children.

Thirdly, on 20 May 1972, he married Countess Rosita Douglas-Stjernorp, daughter of ambassador Count Carl Douglas-Stjernorp and Ottora Haas-Heye. They had three children and were divorced in 2008.[6]

  • Lord Richard Spencer-Churchill (born and died 1973)
  • Lord Edward Albert Charles Spencer-Churchill (born 1974); married Kimberly Hammerstroem.[7] They had a civil ceremony at Mayfair Library in London on 4 July 2018, followed by a religious ceremony at Blenheim Palace on 7 July.[8] They have a child Phoenix Spencer-Churchill.
  • Lady Alexandra Elizabeth Spencer-Churchill (born 1977)

Finally, at the age of 82, Marlborough married Lily Mahtani (née Sahni; born c. 1954–57 in Iran) 3 December 2008 in the Private Chapel at Blenheim.[9] There were no children from this marriage.

Titles and appointments[edit]




Coat of arms of John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough
1817 by the 5th Duke of Marlborough
The coronet of a Duke
1st: a lion couchant guardant Argent supporting a banner Gules charged with a dexter hand couped Argent (Churchill)
2nd: out of a ducal coronet Or a griffin's head between two wings expanded Argent gorged with a collar gemel and armed Gules (Spencer)
Quarterly: 1 and 4th, Sable a lion rampant Argent, on a canton of the second a cross Gules (Churchill); 2 and 3rd, quarterly Argent and Gules a fret Or, over all on a bend Sable three Escallops of the first (Spencer); over all in the centre chief point (as an augmentation of honour) an escutcheon Argent charged with the cross of Saint George surmounted by an inescutcheon Azure charged with three fleurs-de-lys Or, two over one
On either side, a wyvern wings elevated Gules


  1. ^ "Duke of Marlborough dies". Blenheim Palace.
  2. ^ "The Duke of Marlborough obituary". The Guardian. 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ "-John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough". Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  4. ^ "Blandford wedding 1951". British Pathe.
  5. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Godchildren". Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  6. ^ "The Duke of Marlborough: Custodian of Blenheim Palace who preserved". 19 October 2014. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022.
  7. ^ "As fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni marries in Dior Couture, look back at the most stylish weddings of 2018 so far". The Telegraph. 9 July 2018. ISSN 0307-1235.
  8. ^ "$1 million dresses and 12-foot cakes, the most lavish society weddings". Evening Standard. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  9. ^ Reginato, James (18 October 2014). "The Duke of Marlborough, Savior of Blenheim Palace, Has Died at Age 88". Vanity Fair.

External links[edit]

Peerage of England
Preceded by Duke of Marlborough
Succeeded by