The first chapter traces the friendship of Godolphin and Marlborough from their early years at the Restoration court, through the Exclusion crisis until the Revolution of 1688. Both marry for love at a time when many men with no inherited fortune regard wives and families as encumbrances they cannot afford, but Margaret Godolphin dies early in childbirth. They share a diplomatic mission to William of Orange in 1678, and afterwards their friendship enables them to work in different ways towards his intervention to defeat the Catholicizing policies of James II, so that England can participate in a European alliance against the expansionism of Louis XIV. When James flees to France in 1688 both Churchill and Godolphin accept William and Mary as de facto monarchs, though their strongest loyalties are to Mary’s sister Anne, with whom Sarah Churchill has become a favourite.
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