Sunday, March 12, 2006

Queen Anne: 7 The Dismissal of Godolphin, Sarah and Marlborough

As war-weariness spread throughout the country, Marlborough’s stock waned and his Tory opponents grew more confident, accusing him of avarice and commenting on the enormous costs of building Blenheim. At some point in late 1709 Anne had decided upon a change in the ministry and that Harley would be the man to carry it out.

On 6 April 1710 Sarah had her last interview with the queen. In June Anne dismissed Sunderland. On 8 August she dismissed Godolphin telling him to break his white staff of office rather than hand it to her personally. A Tory administration was formed under Robert Harley (who became earl of Oxford in 1711). In September Anne dissolved Parliament (a year early), and the Whigs were routed in the general election of October 1710 (the Tories had a majority of 150). The new ministry was committed to securing a reasonable peace.

In January 1711 Sarah Marlborough was dismissed from her offices. By now Harley (Oxford) had reached his political apogee.

In the spring of 1711 the Emperor Joseph died and the empire passed to his brother, Charles, the allies’ claimant to the Spanish throne. This removed much of the rationale for the war: if Charles were to become king of Spain then Habsburg power in Europe would be dangerously enhanced. Now the Tories had no scruple in seeking peace.

In order to forestall Marlborough’s objections to a peace a concerted propaganda campaign was launched against him. In November 1711 Swift published The Conduct of the Allies, in which he questioned Marlborough’s motivation and claimed that he was out to aggrandize the Churchill family. On 31 December Marlborough was dismissed as Captain General and on 24 January the Commons voted by 265 to 155 that his conduct was ‘unwarranted and illegal’ (Robert Walpole was put in the Tower). Marlborough was replaced by the Tory Jacobite Duke of Ormond.
Between December and January Anne created twelve new (Tory) peers, including Samuel Masham, to ensure the passage of peace through the Lords. This was an unprecedented step, though not unconstitutional. The Marlboroughs soon afterwards went into voluntary exile.