General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

General John Churchill Marlborough

General John Churchill Marlborough

Marlborough’s career

as a soldier and statesman lasted five monarchs’ reigns. His greatest military achievement occurred later in his career; if he died before the age of 50, he would likely be forgotten today. His victories were the product of more than only his incredible military abilities; they were also the outcome of politics and patronage.

John Churchill (1650-1722)

the son of a gentry family, impoverished by the Civil War, enlisted in the army in 1667. During the Nine Years’ War, he ascended steadily, serving as second-in-command in the Battle of Sedgemoor (1685) and later commanding English troops in Flanders and Ireland (1689-97). But it was during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), when Britain fought alongside a coalition of European nations to stop French expansion, that he achieved his greatest success.

Marlborough was promoted to Captain-General of the Allies in 1702

Despite being one of England’s senior generals, he was not a natural choice, and some of his colleagues even thought he was irresponsible. He was soon to demonstrate that, unusually for a leader of his time, he was willing to maneuver in order to bring about a decisive fight and then was able to react quickly and decisively as the tactical situation changed. General John Churchill Marlborough

Marlborough marched his army 400 kilometers from Flanders to Bavaria

in 1704 to alleviate French pressure on his Austrian allies. He allied with the Imperial general Prince Eugene of Savoy there. Near the hamlet of Blenheim, their combined army encountered the French. Marlborough attacked despite being out manned and facing an opponent in a strong natural position. He shut down the French wings and then delivered a crushing blow against his enemy’s weakly defended center, realizing that the French stance did not allow men to maneuver quickly about the battlefield. General John Churchill Marlborough

With almost 30,000 losses and its commander-in-chief seized, the French army suffered its first significant defeat in 40 years.

Battle of Ramillies

At the Battle of Ramillies in 1706, Marlborough replicated the feat. After attacking the French left flank, he deftly shifted men to his center, out of sight of the French, where he subsequently struck and broke the opposing line.

Following this victory, he led four successful sieges, allowing the allies to take control of the entire Southern Netherlands. It was Marlborough’s most successful campaign to date. In 1708, Marlborough won a resounding victory at Oudenarde thanks to deft battlefield maneuvering. Despite heavy deaths among the allies in the protracted Battle of Malplaquet in 1709, French progress was finally halted. General John Churchill Marlborough

A new government had taken power

However, support for the war began to dwindle at home. A new government had taken power, and it was eager for peace. The Duchess of Marlborough had also been expelled from court by Queen Anne. Her husband was sacked at the end of 1711 due to his lack of influence. Marlborough was already ill when he was restored to favor by King George I. Until his death in 1722, he spent much of his time in retirement.

Personal bravery, broader organizational and political skills, a genius for logistical planning, and the ability to work successfully with his allies were all factors in Marlborough’s military victories. This was particularly true in the case of the Dutch. They supplied Marlborough’s army with the most troops and were largely responsible for keeping it supplied. Marlborough was always concerned about his men’s well-being and was able to acquire their faith and confidence as a result. His reputation as one of Britain’s greatest generals is based on these many traits. General John Churchill Marlborough

The Passport

General John Churchill Marlborough passport 1710
“John Duke & Earl of Marlborough, Prince of the Holy Empire, Marquess of Blandford, Baron Churchill of Aymouth & Sandridge […] We Hereby Order all Warriors under our Command, & pray to those to whom it will be up to, to want to let freely pass [secretary’s hand] the Duke Leopold Everard Prince of Montbeliard going from here to Holland, and from there to his Principality in Germany, with his Servants and Luggage, by any kind of car, with or without escort. This Passport valid for Two months […] “.

A rare and early passport in French valid for two months for Leopold Eberhard von Württemberg-Mömpelgard and entourage with or without escort for the journey through Holland and Germany to his principality, on a pre-printed document. Black wax seal and signature of Marlborough. Camp Donay – May 5th, 1710.

The back shows several damages and taping, unfortunately. Hence, the stiff price was not justified for me to acquire this passport, even if issued and signed by such a significant figure in British history.




incl. FREE guideline!

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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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