Austria was under intense military pressure from France and Vienna was facing attack.
In an effort to maintain Austria's support in an alliance that also included the Dutch, Marlborough led a combined force with Prince Eugene of Savoy against a French and Bavarian army of 60,000.
Despite having fewer numbers Marlborough was determined to attack his foe and marched his troops 250 miles in five weeks to reach the Danube river in Bavaria.
He used misinformation and fake pontoons to fool his enemy into thinking his target was Alsace, and when he arrived at Blenheim the French, led by the Count of Tallard, were not expecting his attack.
This lack of preparedness meant that Tallard's troops were organised as two independent armies, with an unsupported cavalry holding the ground in the middle.
Marlborough and Eugene split their forces to occupy both sides. Lord John Cutts led two attacks on the French at Blenheim. They were unsuccessful, but Tallard was forced to commit more troops to his defences here, further weakening his centre.
Marlborough spotted his opportunity and launched an attack on the centre, taking charge of his troops in the heat of battle and being supported by a cavalry corps supplied by Eugene.
Despite fierce resistance they drove through the middle of the French force and divided the two armies. Marlborough wheeled left and drove Tallard's forces into the Danube, where 3,000 drowned. The rest were pinned down in Blenheim.
Tallard was captured and his infantry surrendered, bringing about the first defeat of the French army in 50 years, and signalling a partnership between Marlborough and Eugene that would go on to save Europe from French domination.
Find out more about the Duke of Marlborough’s campaigns against the French with our tour, Marlborough’s Victories in Belgium, led by James Falkner, a specialist on the Wars of Spanish Succession.
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Picture credit: The Duke of Marlborough accepts the French surrender at Blenheim, 1704 by Lambert de Hondt (II) / Public domain
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