|Two tiny sapphires, two rubies and one diamond set into the coronet.
|This necklace was created by John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough for his wife Frances, c.1875.
At first glance, this beautiful necklace with its wonderfully intricate design and superb craftsmanship, is just that, a beautiful necklace. On closer examination however, this necklace reveals its historic significance and unique provenance – one that links aristocracy, Royalty, politics, social history, Blenheim Palace, an American heiress or two and at the same time carries a message of deeply personal sentiment and familial love.
What was originally a sentimental gift from a husband to a wife has, over time, become a unique heirloom symbolic of the story of one family and the extraordinary web of famous people it connects. These include some of the greatest figures in 19th and 20th Century British history including Queen Victoria, The Duke of Wellington and Winston Churchill.
It was created circa 1875 by John Spencer-Churchill for his adored wife Frances in honour of their children whose initials decorate the lockets forming the piece. John was the 7th Duke of Marlborough and Frances the daughter of the 3rd Marquess and Marchioness of Londonderry. The latter’s portrait hangs at the entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum’s jewellery gallery, where she stands resplendent in red robes, bedecked in the Londonderry jewels for the coronation of William IV. The family had close links with the Royal family and Frances was a childhood friend of Queen Victoria as well as being the goddaughter of the Duke of Wellington. She grew up in luxury, the second of six children and married into the Spencer-Churchill family in 1843.
Fourteen years later John succeeded to the title Duke of Marlborough in 1857 and he and Frances took over the running of the family seat, Blenheim Palace. Frances is credited with transforming Blenheim into both a comfortable family home as well as a centre of political and social importance. The couple had eleven children, five sons and six daughters, seven of them are immortalised here in this necklace. Frances remained a close friend of Queen Victoria’s and her son Randolph was part of Edward, the Prince of Wales’ social set. In fact, it was the prince who introduced Randolph to his future wife, the American heiress Jennie Jerome and the couple would go on to become the parents of Winston Churchill, Britain’s war time Prime Minister. When Frances passed away Winston described her as “a woman of exceptional capacity, energy and decision”.
The Spencer-Churchill family are related to the Spencer family of Althorp and thereby connected to the late Diana Princess of Wales and to our future King, Prince William, both families being descended from John Churchill 1st Duke of Marlborough.