Churchill, Arabella 1648-1730, mistress of James II, was the eldest daughter of Sir Winston Churchill [qv.] of Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, the father of John, first duke of Marlborough [qv.]. Her mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Drake of Ashe, Devonshire. She was born in March 1648, rather more than two years before her brother John. After the Restoration Sir Winston Churchill's loyalty to the house of Stuart marked his family out for royal favour, and Arabella, soon after the Duke of York's marriage to Anne Hyde, was appointed maid of honour to the duchess, while her brother John was page to the duke. In this situation between 1665 and 1667 she won the affections of James. If we may believe the malicious report of the Count de Grammont, she was far from handsome. He describes her as a tall creature, pale-faced, nothing but skin and bone, and as an ugly skeleton; but says that the duke was so charmed by the graces displayed by her during an accident in the hunting-field, that he sought and obtained her for his mistress. Arabella became the mother by the Duke of York of (1) Henrietta (1667-1730), who in 1684 married Sir Henry Waldegrave of Chewton, ancestor of the present earls of Waldegrave; (2) James Fitzjames (1671-1734), afterwards the famous Duke of Berwick; (3) Henry Fitzjames (1673-1702), who was created Duke of Albemarle by his father after the revolution of 1688, and had also the title of grand prior of France; (4) another daughter, Arabella, who became a nun. When Arabella's connection with James II came to an end, she had a pension on the Irish establishment and married Colonel Charles Godfrey, who became, by the influence of the Duke of Marlborough, clerk controller of the green cloth and master of the jewel office in the reigns of William III and Anne, in which capacity Swift made acquaintance with him at Windsor (see Journal to Stella, 20 Sept. 1711, &c.). By him she had two daughters, Charlotte, a maid of honour to Queen Anne, who married the first Viscount Falmouth, and Elizabeth, who married Edmund Dunch. Surviving to the age of eighty-two (1730) she lived to see her royal lover die an exile at the court of the French monarch against whom her famous brother was commanding, while her no less famous son, the Duke of Berwick, was serving the same monarch in Spain. A portrait by Lely belongs to Earl Spencer.
Coxe's Life of the Duke of Marlborough, p. 34
Memoir of the Count de Grammont, Eng. ed. 1846, pp. 274-82
Pepys's Diary, 12 Jan. 1669
Contributor: E. S. S. [Evelyn Shirley Shuckburgh]