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Churchill family head passes away

Winston Churchill’s godson, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, has died at the age of 88.

LAKSHMAN MENON  London | 18th Oct 2014

The head of the Churchill family and Winston Churchill's godson, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, has died at the age of 88. John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill was the owner of Britain's most famous private home, Blenheim Palace, gifted by a grateful nation in the early 18th century to his ancestor, John Churchill, the first duke, for victory over the French. It is said that when Queen Victoria first visited Blenheim, she said enviously: "Now I know what a real palace is."

But if the Churchills had a magnificent house and ducal title, they were also controversial. In the 19th century, Gladstone famously said: "There never was a Churchill from John of Marlborough that had either morals or principles." The grandson of the American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, who brought much needed dollars to the failing family fortunes and produced the requisite heir and spare before her marriage acrimoniously ended, the Duke's own marital history was chequered. He was married four times, the first three of which ended in divorce: to the W.H. Smith heiress, Susan Hornby, Athina Onassis, Aristotle Onassis' former wife [who divorced the Duke to marry her sister's former husband, Satvros Niarchos], and Rosita Douglas. In 2008, he married his fourth wife, Lily, the 60-year old daughter of Narinder Sahni, a high profile Indian business executive and the former wife of tycoon Ratan Mahtani, who survives him.

The Dukedom now passes to his oldest son from his first marriage, the Marquess of Blandford, a former drug addict with a record of convictions for such diverse offences as burglary, drugs, assault and driving offences.

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