Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius

Marlborough England s Fragile Genius Best selling military historian Richard Holmes delivers an expertly written and exhilarating account of the life of John Churchill Duke of Marlborough Britain s finest soldier who rose from genteel

  • Title: Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius
  • Author: Richard Holmes
  • ISBN: 9780007225712
  • Page: 187
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Best selling military historian Richard Holmes delivers an expertly written and exhilarating account of the life of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, Britain s finest soldier, who rose from genteel poverty to lead his country to glory, cementing its position as a major player on the European stage and saviour of the Holy Roman Empire.John Churchill is, by any reasonableBest selling military historian Richard Holmes delivers an expertly written and exhilarating account of the life of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, Britain s finest soldier, who rose from genteel poverty to lead his country to glory, cementing its position as a major player on the European stage and saviour of the Holy Roman Empire.John Churchill is, by any reasonable analysis, Britain s greatest ever soldier He mastered strategy, tactics and logistics His big four battles Blenheim which saved the Holy Roman Empire , Ramilies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet were events at the very centre of the European stage He captured Lille, France s second city, overran Bavaria and beat a succession of French marshals so badly that one, the squat and energetic Bofflers, was rewarded by Louis XIV for only losing moderately.A coalition manager long before the phrase was invented, he commanded a huge polyglot army with centrifugal political tendencies and bending it to his will by sheer force of personality.He was also a politician on the domestic stage, intimate with two monarchs, James II and Queen Anne, and the prop of successive cabinets He had extraordinary strength and durability His family connections wove him into the fabric of Europe his sister Arabella was James II s mistress and their son, James, Duke of Berwick, was one of Louis XIV s most successful commanders Although the Marlboroughs lost their only son Jack to smallpox, both their daughters married Whig grandees, and their descendants include Sir Winston Churchill and Earl Spencer.Yet John Churchill was also deeply controversial He accepted a pension from one of Charles II s mistresses for services vigorously rendered He owed his rise and his peerage to James II yet, determined to be on the winning side, he deserted him in his hour of need in 1688 He maintained regular correspondence with the Jacobites while serving William and Mary and with the French while fighting Louis XIV He made money on a prodigious scale, but was notoriously tight fisted, long regretting an annuity given to a secretary whose quick wittedness saved him from capture But in the age when commissions were bought and sold, and commanders often owed their position to the hue of their blood, he never lost his soldiers confidence.

    One thought on “Marlborough: England's Fragile Genius”

    1. This book ends with the comment of Marlborough's opponent Bolingbroke, that the late duke had been such a great man that Bolingbroke preferred to forget his flaws. That seems to sum up Holmes' attitude as well. While his biography of John Churchill does mention the criticisms of his enemies, this is a deeply sympathetic work. In this it may be a bit unfair to the duke's contemporaries.It is a very enjoyable book. The War of the Spanish Succession and its campaigns are now in a distant and murky [...]

    2. When I was in high school I had a framed postcard from Blenheim on my bedroom wall. It was a painting of the Duke of Marlborough, looking bad-ass (to my, admittedly, somewhat peculiar sensibilities) in breastplate and periwig. My teenage admiration was solely for his rocking personal style - I knew next to nothing about him other than that he was Winston Churchill's great-great something, and that he'd been rewarded with a huge house for kicking some dastardly Continental butt. I've been meaning [...]

    3. A good and readable account of the life and military career of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Not surprisingly for a military historian, Holmes is better at describing military actions, military life, and the institutional, political, and administrative contexts for these than he is at presenting the personal aspects of his subject's life. You won't come away from this book with a terribly strong sense of who Marlborough was as a man (although Holmes doesn't ignore such issues, e [...]

    4. I felt I should have enjoyed this book much more than I did. Holmes recognises Marlborough's significance as a field commander and political figure, but delineates the former in such crushing detail that it's almost impossible for the lay reader to follow what's going on, while the latter and potentially more interesting strand is skimped. The book tells you as much as you could possibly want about the great battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplacquet, but is frustratingly shadowy [...]

    5. Richard Holmes portrays Marlborough as the greatest soldier that Britain has ever produced. Reading this fantastic biography, it is hard to disagree.

    6. Wasn't drawn in too much by this biography. I really enjoyed Holmes's 'Age of Wonders', but I was fascinated by Starkey's parallel biography of John and Winston Churchill.

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