Scipio or Crassus? The Contested Heroic Image of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)

16 Oct 2017

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) was arguably one of Britain’s most successful military leaders. The article explores how Marlborough was created a popular military hero and discusses the role of the British public sphere in this process. Apart from successfully establishing his own preferred image of himself, diverse themes were employed by different authors, from comparisons with ancient heroes to the distinct idea of a new Christian Hero. As a public figure involved in politics, he not only became the figurehead for the Whigs, but also a target for the Tories, who turned their propaganda machinery against him, as a political actor and a symbol. In the end, he emerged victorious as an icon of the Protestant Hanoverian Succession and due to the then established Whig supremacy he gained an overwhelmingly positive place in British popular culture, eternalized in art, hero merchandise, and his own mausoleum, named after his most important victory, Blenheim Palace.