11th Duke of Marlborough
John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill
(13th April 1926 - 16th October 2014 - died age 88)
John Spencer-Churchill, often called "Sunny" because of his courtesy title of Earl of Sunderland, inherited his father's title "Duke of Marlborough" on 10th March 1972. He made it his life's work to preserve Blenheim Palace for future generations.
With this purpose, he opened Blenheim fully to the general public, increasing visitor attendance and, in 1987, securing its status as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
It was a difficult task balancing the needs of the modern day visitor with the necessity of maintaining a World Heritage site. He once said: "Although the Battle of Blenheim was won in 1704, the battle for Blenheim continues."
The 11th Duke of Marlborough introduced the Pleasure Gardens, the railway, the giant hedge maze and the butterfly house. He set up the Churchill Exhibition in the Palace and restored his father's private Secret Garden in 2004 as part of the tercentenary celebrations of the Battle of Blenheim. He also hosted many popular sporting, cultural and charity events.
In addition to his work at the Blenheim Palace Estate, he also supported local communities and charities, spending time trying to improve the lives of others and the surrounding areas.
The Duke said that his dearest wish was "to ensure that my heir finds the Palace in the best possible state of repair and the estate in good order."
The Duke is succeeded to the Marlborough title by his eldest son James, Marquess of Blandford, who was born in 1955.