Duchess of Marlborough, née Vanderbilt (1877-1964) with
her two sons Lord Ivor Charles Spencer-Churchill (1898-1956) and
John Albert Edward William Spencer-Churchill, later the 10th Duke
of Marlborough (1897-1972), dressed for the coronation of King
George V in June 1911.
the Duchess had been separated from her husband since 1906, she
was still required to attend the ceremony as one of the most important
peeresses of realm. Her sons acted as pages to the King.
Despite the separation, followed by divorce in 1921, Consuelo
was always close to her children. They were of opposite temperaments
– John (called Blandford after his courtesy title Marquess
of Blandford) was “audacious and wilful, for ever rebelling
against authority” whereas Ivor was “gentle and sensitive,
displaying a studious trend”. Their adult lives could not
had been more different.
Lord Ivor Churchill (as he preferred to be known) took after his mother in his interest in art and his love for France. His closeness to his mother was noted in a painting with his mother by Giovanni Boldini, where he is shown “burying his head in her elegant décolletage and pressing his body against hers in a sub-Freudian image of filial admiration.”
Ivor became a connoisseur, patron and collector of French modern paintings and sculpture. His collection included works by Ingres, Monet, Matisse, Bonnard and Cézanne. As Consuelo proudly noted in her autobiography: “Ivor had acquired both knowledge and taste. His controversies with the English art critic Roger Fry (1866–1934) may have been incomprehensible to all but the initiated, but the exhibitions of French contemporary art he arranged had won him a consensus of praise, and later his work for General de Gaulle brought him the Legion of Honour.”
John, on the contrary, was very much a man of public duties. He served in both world wars and was the mayor of Woodstock, the town next to Blenheim Palace. Upon succeeding to the title, he carried on his father’s task of preserving the magnificent Blenheim Palace for the family and nation. In 1950, to meet tax payments and secure the upkeep of the house, he opened his stately home to the public, and himself stood at the door selling guide books. His mother wrote: “His efforts have been crowned with success. Well over 100,000 tourists, with a price for adults of two shillings and sixpence [12.5p], visited Blenheim during the opening year”. In 1966, when a grant of £55,000 towards the restoration of the palace was made by the Government, the Duke contributed a similar amount.