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Arabella Churchill
Born(1648-02-23)23 February 1648
Died30 May 1730(1730-05-30) (aged 82)
Known forMistress of James II and VII, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland
SpouseCharles Godfrey
PartnerKing James II and VII
ChildrenHenrietta, Countess of Newcastle
James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick
Henry FitzJames, 1st Duke of Albemarle
Arabella FitzJames
Francis Godfrey
Charlotte, Viscountess Falmouth
Elizabeth Dunch
Parent(s)Sir Winston Churchill
Elizabeth Drake

Arabella Churchill (23 February 1648 – 30 May 1730) was the mistress of King James II and VII, and the mother of four of his children (surnamed FitzJames, that is, "son of James").


Portrait of Winston and Arabella Churchill, children of Sir Winston Churchill by Peter Lely

Arabella was a daughter of Sir Winston Churchill and sister of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough; her other brothers were George Churchill, Admiral of the Blue and General Charles Churchill. The Churchills' loyalty to the royal household was ardent; their only feeling about Arabella's seduction by King James II "seems to have been a joyful surprise that so plain a girl had attained such high preferment".[1]

James, then Duke of York, began his adulterous affair with Arabella Churchill, around 1665, while he was still married to Anne Hyde. Churchill became the duchess's lady-in-waiting in that year, and gave birth to two children during Anne's lifetime. Churchill was described as a "tall creature, pale-faced, and nothing but skin and bone".

Courtiers cackled "at her appearance until she fell off her horse in front of a crowd, displaying her magnificent legs". One awestruck witness marvelled that "limbs of such exquisite beauty could belong to Miss Churchill's face".[2]

Charles II, who was baffled by his brother's predilection for plain women, joked that his confessor must impose them as a penance. She often displayed the quick wit and lively intelligence which bound James to her through ten years and four children.[2]

On 1 June 1680 at the Church of Holy Trinity, Minories, London,[3] she married Charles Godfrey and had three more children. They lived happily together for more than three decades.[4] Godfrey died in 1714, at the age of 67.[5] She survived him by 16 years, dying in 1730 aged 82.


Children with James II of England

  1. Henrietta FitzJames (1667 – 3 April 1730)
  2. James FitzJames, 1st Duke of Berwick (1670–1734)[6]
  3. Henry FitzJames, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1673–1702)
  4. Arabella FitzJames (1674 – 7 November 1704); became a nun

From her children Henrietta, Countess of Newcastle, and James, Duke of Berwick, she is an ancestor of the Earls Spencer and Diana, Princess of Wales as well as of the Dukes of Berwick, the later Dukes of Alba and of Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 18th Duchess of Alba, who at the time of her death was the person with the most noble titles in the world.

Children with Charles Godfrey

  1. Francis Godfrey
  2. Charlotte Godfrey, born before 1685, married Hugh Boscawen, 1st Viscount Falmouth
  3. Elizabeth Godfrey, married Edmund Dunch, son of Hungerford Dunch[7]


  1. ^ Macaulay Macaulay, Baron Thomas Babington (1898). The history of England, from the accession of James II, Volume 1. p. 347.
  2. ^ a b Herman, Eleanor (2004). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. Enchanting Ugliness: William Morrow, New York. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0060585439.
  3. ^ London Metropolitan Archives, Holy Trinity Minories, Register of marriages, 1676 - 1683, P69/TRI2/A/007/MS09242A
  4. ^ Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. The Business of Life: William Morrow. p. 219. ISBN 0060585439.
  5. ^ Fea, Allan (1908). James II. and his wives. University of California Libraries. p. 303.
  6. ^ Herman, Eleanor (2005). Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge. Pushed into War, Sold into Marriage: William Morrow. p. 190. ISBN 0060585439.
  7. ^ Shuckburgh, Evelyn Shirley (1887). "Churchill, Arabella" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 10. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

External links

1 Annotation

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

It interests me how Pepys loves to gossip about Charles II's mistresses, but he works for James and either turns a blind eye to the shenanigans he walks through a few times a week, or decides not to report on the gossip he must hear.

In 1665, Sir Winston Churchill's eldest daughter, Arabella Churchill, became Maid of Honor to Anne Hyde, Duchess of York. Arabella was 17, and her brother, John Churchill, joined his sister as page to Anne's husband, James, Duke of York a few months later.

Arabella later became one of the Duke of York's mistresses.

John Churchill often accompanied the Duke of York inspecting the troops in the royal parks, and decided to pursue a military career. On September 14, 1667, soon after his 17th birthday, John Churchill obtained a commission as ensign in the King's Own Company in the 1st Guards, later to become the Grenadier Guards.

In 1668, Ensign John Churchill sailed for Tangier, and stayed here for three years, gaining first-class tactical training and field experience skirmishing with the Moors. Chandler says details of this period are sketchy, but he appears to have also served aboard ship in the naval blockade of the Barbary pirate-den of Algiers.

Incidentally, John Churchill also attended St. Paul's School in London (after his father was recalled as Junior Clerk Comptroller of the King's Household at Whitehall in 1663). Pepys visited the school in 1664 -- I wonder if they met:…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.