John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, is one of England's greatest military commanders and was responsible for turning the country into a world power during the 18th century.
Despite his incredible achievements, his reputation was muddied by his political enemies of the day and future detractors who felt his conflicts cost too much, both in terms of money and lives, and didn't meet their objectives.
We went to Blenheim Palace, which was given to Marlborough as a gift from a grateful nation, to meet James Falkner, one of the UK's leading authorities on Marlborough and the expert leading our tour Marlborough's Victories in Flanders, and he told us why the Duke should be remembered as one of England's greatest military leaders.
This is a transcript of James's comments:
"Marlborough was a great commander, self-evidently, because he defeated the Marshals of France, the most renowned soldiers of their day, on repeated occasions - Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde and Malplaquet.
"On each occasion he was successful, Malplaquet of course a very expensive battle, so it is a success rather than a victory, but there is no one that I can think of who had such a record of success over a period of time. In all, some 12 years between 1701 and 1713, or 1711 when he was dismissed by Queen Anne.
"In addition to his four great battles, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde and Malplaquet, he conducted no fewer than 27 sieges in this time, and on each occasion he was successful.
"It was said of him that: "He never road off a field except as victor, he never set down before a town he did not take, and no sooner was his guiding hand withdrawn, than the soldiers who had trusted and loved him so well, were led to defeat and disgrace by lesser men."
"That's very true.
“Marlborough's greatest victory, I believe, was at Ramillies on Whit Sunday, 23 May 1706.
“He engaged Marshal Villeroy, the French commander, who'd taken up a good defensive position on high ground near to the village of Ramillies, and in the course of three or four short hours that afternoon, deceived Villeroy into reinforcing his left flank, while at the same time Marlborough was moving his army around to attack the French right flank.
“By the time Villeroy knew what was happening it was too late for him to rectify matters and Marlborough's cavalry was able to sweep in and roll up the French army like a wet blanket.
“That I think was his greatest victory, and I can't think of another battle where skill, tactical skill by a field commander, is demonstrated to such effect.”
Find out more: Join our small group tour of Flanders to delve further into Marlborough’s Victories over the French, visiting the battlefields of Ramillies, Oudenaarde and Malplaquet. You’ll be led by James Falkner as you follow in the footsteps of Malborough, Prince Eugene and the soldiers who fought during the War of Spanish Succession.
Picture credit: the Duke of Marlborough, Godfrey Kneller. public domain via Wikimedia Commons
More articles about Marlborough in Flanders on Promenades Travel:
>> Malplaquet: the bloodiest battle of the 18th century
>> The Battle of Blenheim: France's invincible army defeated
>> Oudenaarde: a triumph for Britain's bold commander
>> Marlborough specialist talks history, tours and the thrill of being "there"
>> Marlborough in Ireland: the making of England's great military leader
>> A sense of place: James Falkner
>> How Marlborough used rivers to support his victories in Belgium
>> A reading list for Marlborough's Victories in Belgium