The story of Britain’s greatest general…as told by Britain’s greatest military historian.
John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, was a man whose strategic genius and commanding personality transformed European history.
In this remarkable book by the outstanding English military historian of his generation the individual behind the heroic victor of the Battle of Blenheim is bought vividly to life.
In masterly detail, Correlli Barnett examines the forces that shaped the one European of the era able to challenge the glory of France’s Sun King, and by so doing to deflect the course of history.
The emphasis of the narrative is on the character and personality of John Churchill himself rather than on the general historical events of his life. By focusing on Marlborough’s own reactions – to failure and success, to difficulty and disappointment, to the hazards of battle and political intrigue – the author presents him as his contemporaries and intimates knew him, in his roles of commander, diplomat, colleague, husband and father. A leading theme of the book is the Duke’s relationship with his wife Sarah – a union that was both fascinating in itself and hugely significant for his career.
The course of Marlborough’s war leadership is narrated with the clarity, colour, pace and immediacy with which the author made his reputation in classic books such as ‘The Desert Generals’ and ‘The Swordbearers’, avoiding detailed technicalities, yet rendering Marlborough’s talents and achievements explicable in terms of the military art of his time.
The background of the book is the Europe of the early 1700s, an immensely exciting era, brilliant with new ideas, turbulent with rivalry and ambition, splendid with great architecture such as Blenheim Palace, the memorial of Marlborough’s triumphs.
For England it was the time of her rise to national greatness: a greatness resting equally on seapower, on commercial success and on her victorious armies on the continent of Europe, Throughout the book the contrast is made between this buoyant England, more and more Parliamentary in its government, prizing the liberty of the subject above the authority of monarchs, and the all-embracing autocratic state apparatus of Louis XIV’s France, which, under Marlborough’s leadership, England fought and defeated.