Birth of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough: June 5th, 1660

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Birth of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough: June 5th, 1660


Her life began a week after Charles II rode in triumph through the streets of London on his way to regain the Stuart throne. The Stuarts would have a powerful influence on the baby Sarah and she, in time, on them. The name was later spelled Jennings, but she was born Sarah Jenyns to an impoverished family of Hertfordshire gentry based at Holywell House on the southern edge of St Albans. In 1663 her father's efforts to recover a family estate in Kent brought him in touch with Charles II's brother, James, Duke of York, who made Sarah's elder sister Frances (another future duchess) a maid of honour to his wife, Anne Hyde. Ten years later, he appointed young Sarah a maid of honour to his second wife, Mary of Modena. If not as ravishing to look at as her sister, Sarah was considered attractive, with reddish-gold hair, blue eyes and a precociously well-developed figure. She also had a precociously well-developed mind, a sharp tongue and a fierce temper.

Sarah soon met the Duke of York's daughter, Anne, and the two of them became friends. By the time she was 15 she had met a young man named John Churchill, a promising army officer 10 years her senior, who fell in love with her.'l was last night at the ball,' he wrote to her at one point, 'in hopes to have seen what I love above my own soul . …

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