The Duchess of Marlborough
Sarah Churchill, first Duchess of Marlborough, spent as much of her life as she could in her favourite house: Holywell Hill in St Albans. She counted among her friends another local woman, Lady Mary Cowper, Lady in Waiting to the Princess of Wales, and she wrote frankly and wittily to her.
There follows in this section unabridged transcriptions of these letters sent by Sarah to Lady Mary and her husband, Lord Cowper. They sit in a red, bound letter book in the Panshanger collection in Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies and, while they have been referred to in various articles and books, this is the first publication in full. To make them more accessible they have been annotated, to help make sense of the context in which they were written. The quirky punctuation and spelling have also been made a little easier to read, but the letters are reproduced in full and have been faithfully transcribed. Where the words are so difficult to read that it is impossible to be sure, an informed guess has been made, but this is clearly indicated in the text.
To a large extent, biographical information comes first from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; the parliamentary references can be found in either the History of Parliamentary Online or British History Online. With a view to making them “live”, there is input from contemporary diaries, newspapers and commentators.
The letters give a snapshot of Sarah, dating from 1709 to 1721. It is hoped that they will give a flavour of the thoughts and feelings of a rich and powerful woman in the first half of the eighteenth century, when party politics and a credit economy were in their infancy, and she was engaged in both.