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The First Churchills was a BBC mini-series from 1969 about the life of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and his wife, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. It starred John Neville as the duke and Susan Hampshire as the duchess, was written and produced by Donald Wilson, and was directed by David Giles. The miniseries presents the lives of John and Sarah Churchill from their meeting in 1673 until a time shortly before the first duke's death in 1722, and shows, along the way, much of the context of English politics at the same time. Like many BBC miniseries of the era, it was made on a low production budget, with sound studio sets, and generally avoided battle and crowd scenes out of inability to stage them in a convincing manner. The series is based on the Marlboroughs' famous descendant Winston Churchill's life of his ancestor the Duke, and as such presents a very favourable portrait of the Marlboroughs.
|S01E01||The Chaste Nymph||27/09/1969||At the court of Charles II, young John Churchill advances his career by serving the king’s bastard son, Monmouth, in the field of battle, and by bedding the king’s mistress, the Duchess of Cleveland. Young Sarah Jennings is also advancing at court, by befriending the king’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of York, and teaching the York princesses, Mary and Anne, the art of gambling. At a court masque, the two meet, and sparks fly.|
|S01E02||Bridals||04/10/1969||In 1675 a masque was performed at the Court of Charles II at Whitehall. There the young soldier John Churchill, Groom of the Bedchamber to the King's brother, fell in love with a pretty lady-in-waiting, Sarah Jennings.|
|S01E03||Plot Counter-Plot||11/10/1969||John and Sarah have married. Lord Shaftesbury has threatened Charles with rebellion. To appease his Protestant Parliament, Charles has arranged a marriage between Mary and the Prince of Orange.|
|S01E04||The Lion and the Unicorn||18/10/1969||The rage against Popery in England continues. James, Duke of Monmouth, has become the protégé of Shaftesbury who plans to make him King. But Churchill has refused to support Monmouth. Charles has resisted all pressure to disinherit his brother James.|
|S01E05||Rebellion||25/10/1969||Charles has been forced to send James into exile and to dissolve his factious parliament at Oxford. The Princess Anne has married George, Prince of Denmark, and has chosen Sarah to be one of her Ladies of the Bedchamber.|
|S01E06||The Protestant Wind||01/11/1969||Monmouth, the hope of the Protestant rebels, was defeated by John Churchill at Sedgemoor.|
|S01E07||Trial of Strength||06/11/1969||John Churchill owed much to James II. But the King was clearly determined to destroy the Protestant religion and the laws of England, so John decided to support William of Orange and the Revolution of 1688.|
|S01E08||The Queens Command||15/11/1969||William III, with Churchill's help, has defeated James' attempted invasion of Ireland. John has been suspected of treason and dismissed from Court. Princess Anne has refused to obey her sister Mary and part with Sarah.|
|S01E09||Reconciliation||22/11/1969||In an atmosphere of national panic John, falsely accused of Jacobite treachery, has been imprisoned for a time in the Tower. After Mary's death, William receives Anne at Court.|
|S01E10||A Famous Victory||29/11/1969||Before he died William III recognised Marlborough as his successor in the task of defeating France. With the accession of Anne, John and Sarah have risen to a position of pre-eminence.|
|S01E11||Breaking the Circle||06/12/1969||To save the Holy Roman Empire from French invasion Marlborough led his allied troops into Germany and defeated the French at the Battle of Blenheim.|
|S01E12||Not Without Honour||13/12/1969||Marlborough continues his success in the war against France, but his prestige at home and with Anne has been impaired by the devious backstairs intrigue of Robert Harley.|