| Landed gentry |
then noble family
|Founder||Sir John Spencer|
|Current head||James Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough|
|Motto||Dieu défend le droit (French for 'God defends the law')|
|Estate(s)|| Althorp |
The Spencer family is an aristocratic family in the United Kingdom. From the 16th century, its members have held numerous titles including the dukedom of Marlborough, the earldoms of Sunderland and Spencer, and the Churchill barony. Two prominent members of the family during the 20th century were Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The House was founded in the 15th century by Henry Spencer (died c. 1478), from whom all members descend. In the 16th century, the claim arose that the Spencers were a cadet branch of the ancient House Le Despencer, though this theory has since been debunked, in particular by J. Horace Round in his essay The Rise of the Spencers. The Spencers were first granted a coat of arms in 1504, "Azure a fess Ermine between 6 sea-mews' heads erased Argent," but this bears no resemblance to the arms used by the family after c. 1595, which were derived from the Despencer arms, "Quarterly Argent and Gules in the second and third quarters a Fret Or overall on a Bend Sable three Escallops of the first" (the scallops standing for the difference as a cadet branch). Round argued that the Despencer descent was fabricated by Richard Lee, a corrupt Clarencieux King of Arms.  Citing Round, The Complete Peerage dismissed the alleged Despencer descent as an "elaborate imposture" which "is now incapable of deceiving the most credulous."   
A close relative of Henry Spencer (died c. 1478) was John Spencer, who in 1469 had become feoffee (trustee) of Wormleighton in Warwickshire and a tenant at Althorp in Northamptonshire in 1486. His nephew, Sir John Spencer (died 1522), first made a living by trading in livestock and other commodities and eventually saved enough money to purchase both the Wormleighton and Althorp lands. Wormleighton was bought in 1506, the manor house was completed in 1512. In 1508, Spencer also purchased the estate of Althorp with its moated house and several hundred acres of farmland.  He had grazed sheep here from the 1480s. Impressed by the quality of the land, he eventually bought it and rebuilt the house in 1508.  At that time, his estate and mansion in Warwickshire were considerably larger, and the house in Wormleighton was four times the size of Althorp.  In 1511, he made further purchases to acquire the villages of Little Brington and Great Brington as well their parish church of St Mary the Virgin, from Thomas Grey, 2nd Marquess of Dorset.  By putting down roots at Althorp, Spencer provided what was to become a home for the next 19 generations.  In 1519, he was knighted by King Henry VIII, died three years later and was buried in the new family chapel at Great Brington. 
The Spencers rose to opulent prominence during the 16th century. Sir John Spencer's grandson Sir John Spencer (d. 1586) was a Knight of the Shire for Northamptonshire. The Spencers' administration of their Northamptonshire and Warwickshire estates was admired and often emulated by gentlemen all over England. Sheep from their pastures were purchased for breeding and it is probable that the family's success as farmers was rarely equalled in the century. 
In the late 16th century, the latter Sir John Spencer's grandson Sir Robert Spencer (1570–1627) represented Brackley in Parliament. In 1601, he was made a Knight of the Garter, and created Baron Spencer, of Wormleighton, in the Peerage of England in 1603. During the reign of King James I he was reputed to be the richest man in England. The humble origins of the Spencers as sheep farmers once caused a heated exchange of words between wealthy yet then upstart Spencers with the more established Howards whose FitzAlan ancestors had been the Earls of Arundel since the 13th century. During a debate in the House of Peers, Lord Spencer was speaking about something that their great ancestors had done when suddenly the Earl of Arundel cut him off and said "My Lord, when these things you speak of were doing, your ancestors were keeping sheep". Lord Spencer then instantly replied, "When my ancestors as you say were keeping sheep, your ancestors were plotting treason." 
Robert Spencer, 1st Baron Spencer, was succeeded in his peerage and estates by his eldest surviving son, William. He had previously represented Northamptonshire in Parliament. Two of his sons received additional peerages: His eldest son, Henry (1620–1643), succeeded as 3rd Baron Spencer in 1636 and was created Earl of Sunderland in the Peerage of England in 1643. The younger son, Robert (1629–1694), sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1679 and was created Viscount Teviot in the Peerage of Scotland in 1685.
The senior branch of the Spencers (later known as the Spencer-Churchill family) is currently represented by Jamie Spencer-Churchill, 12th Duke of Marlborough, direct descendant via the eldest male-line of Sir John Spencer, who was knighted by King Henry VIII in 1519 while the cadet branch of the family, the Spencers of Althorp who descends via the male-line from the younger son of the 3rd Earl Sunderland is represented by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.
Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland, was Lord President of the Council from 1685 to 1688 and a Knight of the Garter. His son Charles, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, was Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Privy Seal, Secretary of State for both the Northern and Southern Departments, Lord President of the Council, First Lord of the Treasury and a Knight of the Garter. His second wife was Lady Anne Churchill, the second daughter of the distinguished soldier John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. After Churchill's death in 1722, the Marlborough titles first passed to his eldest daughter Henrietta (1681–1733), then to Anne's second son, Charles. After the death of his elder brother, Robert, in 1729, Charles Spencer had already inherited the titles of 4th Earl of Sunderland and Baron Spencer of Wormleighton as well as the Spencer family estates. In 1733, he succeeded to the Churchill family estates and titles and became the 3rd Duke of Marlborough as well as a Knight of the Garter, while the Spencer estates in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire (including Althorp) and Warwickshire passed to his younger brother John (1708–1746).
In 1815, Francis Spencer, the younger son of George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, was created Baron Churchill, of Wychwood in the County of Oxford, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. In 1902, his grandson, the 3rd Baron, was created Viscount Churchill, of Rolleston in the County of Leicester, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.
In 1817, George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough, obtained permission to assume and bear the additional surname of Churchill in addition to his own surname of Spencer, in order to perpetuate the name of his illustrious great-great-grandfather. At the same time he received Royal Licence to quarter his paternal arms of Spencer with the coat of arms of Churchill.  The modern Dukes of Marlborough thus originally bore the surname "Spencer". The double-barrelled surname of "Spencer-Churchill" as used since 1817 has remained in the family to this day, though some members have preferred to style themselves merely "Churchill". The 7th Duke of Marlborough was the paternal grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965), the British prime minister. The latter's widow, Clementine (1885–1977), was created a life peeress in her own right as Baroness Spencer-Churchill in 1965.
The family seat of the Dukes of Marlborough is Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Most Spencer-Churchills are interred in the churchyard of St Martin's Church, Bladon, a short distance from the palace; only the Dukes and Duchesses are buried in the Blenheim Palace chapel.
In 1761, John Spencer (1734–1783), a grandson of the 3rd Earl of Sunderland, was created Baron Spencer of Althorp and Viscount Spencer in the Peerage of Great Britain by King George III. In 1765, he was further created Viscount Althorp and Earl Spencer, also in the Peerage of Great Britain. In 1755, he had privately married Margaret Poyntz (1737–1814) in his mother's dressing room at Althorp. They had five children, including the 2nd Earl Spencer, who later became Home Secretary from 1806 to 1807 and a Knight of the Garter. His older son, the 3rd Earl Spencer was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne from 1830 to 1834. The 2nd Earl's youngest son George (1799–1864) converted from Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic Church, became a priest and took the name of Father Ignatius of St Paul. He worked as a missionary and is a candidate for beatification. His older brother, who eventually became the 4th Earl Spencer, was a naval commander, courtier and Whig politician. He initially served in the Royal Navy and fought in the Napoleonic Wars and the Greek War of Independence, eventually rising to the rank of Vice-Admiral, and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1849. His son, the 5th Earl Spencer, who was known as the "Red Earl" because of his distinctive long red beard, was a close friend of prime minister William Ewart Gladstone. He served twice as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and was made a Knight of the Garter in 1864. He was succeeded in 1910 by his half-brother, the 6th Earl Spencer, who had been made Viscount Althorp, of Great Brington in the County of Northamptonshire, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, in 1905 and served as Lord Chamberlain from 1905 to 1912. He became a Knight of the Garter in 1913, and was succeeded in the earldom and estates by his son, the 7th Earl Spencer, in 1922. His son, the 8th Earl Spencer, succeeded to the earldom and estates in 1975. He married Frances Ruth Roche in 1954 and had a daughter, Diana, who married Prince Charles in 1981.
The family seat of the Earl Spencer is Althorp in Northamptonshire, their traditional burial place is the parish church of St Mary the Virgin Church, Great Brington. The family estate includes significant land holdings in other parts of the country, including the village of North Creake in Norfolk.
This now extinct line descended from two younger sons of Sir John Spencer (1524–1586) and his wife Katherine Kitson:
This line of the family descends from Francis Spencer, younger son of the 4th Duke of Marlborough. In 1902, his grandson, the 3rd Baron, was created Viscount Churchill. Holders of these titles include
Many members of the Spencer family have also been knights or dames of the Order of the Garter. The following is a list is of all Spencer members of this order, across all branches of the family, along with their year of investiture.
Baron Spencer of Wormleighton
Earls of Sunderland
Dukes of Marlborough
Dukes of Marlborough
Barons and Visconts Churchill
|Thomas Spencer||William Spencer||Nicholas Spencer|
|Elizabeth Empson||William Spencer|
|Spencer of Hodnell||Sir John Spencer of Snitterfield|
|Sir John Spencer|
|Isabel Graunt||Jane Spencer||Stephen Cope||Thomas Spencer|
|Anthony Spencer||Jane Spencer||Richard Knightley||Sir William Spencer|
|Susan Knightley||Spencer of Badby (emigrated to America in XVII century)|
|Katherine Kitson||Sir John Spencer|
|altre 5 figlie|
|Anne, lady Mounteagle|
|Elizabeth, lady Hunsdon|
|George Carey, II barone Hunsdon|
| Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby |
|Sir John Spencer|
|Sir Richard Spencer|
|Helen Elinora Brocket||Sir William Spencer|
|Spencer of Offley (extinct in 1699)||Spencer of Yarnton (extinct in 1741)|| Robert Spencer, I Baron Spencer of Wormleighton |
From here descends Spencer, Baron Spencer of Wormleighton, earl of Sunderland
Robert Spencer, I Baron Spencer of Wormleighton
1590–1610 a Blois
Richard SpencerMember of Parliament
Edward SpencerMember of Parliament
William Spencer, II Baron Spencer of Wormleighton
Henry Moore, 1st Earl of Drogheda
William Spencer of Ashton
Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury
Robert Spencer, visconte Teviot
Jane Spencer of Yarnton
Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland
George Savile, 1st Marquess of Halifax
Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland
James Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton
Donough MacCarthy, IV Earl of Clancarty
Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland
Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle
Robert Spencer, 4th Earl of Sunderland
William Bateman, I visconte Bateman
Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
Dukes of Marlborough
|Dukes of Marlborough Spencer-Churchill family tree of the|
DUKES OF MARLBOROUGH
| John Winston Spencer-Churchill,|
7th Duke of Marlborough
| George Charles Spencer-Churchill,|
8th Duke of Marlborough
| Lord Randolph (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill,|
9th Duke of Marlborough
| Sir Winston (Spencer-)Churchill |
P.M. 1940–45, 1951–55
| John (Spencer-) Churchill |
| John Albert William Spencer-Churchill,|
10th Duke of Marlborough
| Diana (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Randolph (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Sarah (Spencer-) Churchill |
| Marigold (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Mary Soames, Baroness Soames|
| John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill,|
11th Duke of Marlborough
| Winston (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Arabella (Spencer-)Churchill |
| Charles James Spencer-Churchill,|
12th Duke of Marlborough
|Randolph Leonard (Spencer-)Churchill|
|John Gerard Averell "Jack"|
| George John Godolphin Spencer-Churchill,|
Marquess of Blandford
For the Earls Spencer from John Spencer to present see: Family Tree of the Earls Spencer.
|Male-line family tree, Barons Churchill and Viscounts Churchill.|
Duke of Marlborough is a title in the Peerage of England. It was created by Queen Anne in 1702 for John Churchill, 1st Earl of Marlborough (1650–1722), the noted military leader. In historical texts, unqualified use of the title typically refers to the 1st Duke. The name of the dukedom refers to Marlborough in Wiltshire.
Althorp is a Grade I listed stately home and estate in the civil parish of Althorp, in West Northamptonshire, England of about 13,000 acres (5,300 ha). By road it is about 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the county town of Northampton and about 75 miles (121 km) northwest of central London, situated between the villages of Great Brington and Harlestone. It has been held by the prominent aristocratic Spencer family for more than 500 years, and has been owned by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer since 1992. It was also the home of Lady Diana Spencer from her parents' divorce until her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales.
Earl Spencer is a title in the Peerage of Great Britain that was created on 1 November 1765, along with the title Viscount Althorp, of Althorp in the County of Northampton, for John Spencer, 1st Viscount Spencer. He was a member of the prominent Spencer family and a great-grandson of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. Previously, he had been created Viscount Spencer, of Althorp in the County of Northampton, and Baron Spencer of Althorp, of Althorp in the County of Northampton, on 3 April 1761.
John Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl Spencer,, styled Viscount Althorp from 1783 to 1834, was a British statesman. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne from 1830 to 1834. Due to his reputation for integrity, he was nicknamed "Honest Jack".
Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, KG, PC, known as Lord Spencer from 1688 to 1702, was an English statesman and nobleman from the Spencer family. He served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1714–1717), Lord Privy Seal (1715–1716), Lord President of the Council (1718–1719) and First Lord of the Treasury (1718–1721).
John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, styled Earl of Sunderland from 1822 to 1840 and Marquess of Blandford from 1840 to 1857, was a British Conservative cabinet minister, politician, peer, and nobleman. He was the paternal grandfather of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer,, styled Viscount Althorp from 1765 to 1783, was a British Whig politician. He served as Home Secretary from 1806 to 1807 in the Ministry of All the Talents. He was also the father of The Venerable Father Ignatius Spencer, a Roman Catholic convert to the priesthood.
Earl of Sunderland is a title that has been created twice in the Peerage of England. The first creation came in 1627 in favour of Emanuel Scrope, 11th Baron Scrope of Bolton. The earldom became extinct on his death in 1630 while the barony became either extinct or dormant. The second creation came in 1643 in favour of the Royalist soldier Henry Spencer, 3rd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton. The Spencer family descended from Sir John Spencer who acquired the Wormleighton estate in Warwickshire and the Althorp estate in Northamptonshire. His grandson Sir John Spencer was a Knight of the Shire for Northamptonshire. The latter's grandson Sir Robert Spencer represented Brackley in Parliament in the late 16th century. In 1603 Sir Robert was raised to the Peerage of England as Baron Spencer of Wormleighton. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, William, the second Baron. He had previously represented Northamptonshire in Parliament. His eldest son was the aforementioned third Baron. In July 1643 he was created Earl of Sunderland in the Peerage of England. Lord Sunderland was killed at the Battle of Newbury in September of the same year. He was succeeded by his two-year-old only son, Robert, the second Earl. He later gained great distinction as a statesman and notably served four times as Secretary of State for the Southern Department.
George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough,, styled Marquess of Blandford until 1758, was a British courtier, nobleman, and politician from the Spencer family. He served as Lord Chamberlain between 1762 and 1763 and as Lord Privy Seal between 1763 and 1765. He is the great-great-great grandfather of Sir Winston Churchill.
Charles Robert Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer,, styled The Honourable Charles Spencer until 1905 and known as Viscount Althorp between 1905 and 1910, was a British courtier and Liberal politician from the Spencer family. An MP from 1880 to 1895 and again from 1900 to 1905, he served as Vice-Chamberlain of the Household from 1892 to 1895. Raised to peerage as Viscount Althorp in 1905, he was Lord Chamberlain from 1905 to 1912 in the Liberal administrations headed by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and H. H. Asquith. In 1910, he succeeded his half-brother as Earl Spencer. He was married to Margaret Baring, a member of the Baring family.
John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer was a British peer and politician.
Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland, 3rd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton, known as The Lord Spencer between 1636 and June 1643, was an English peer, nobleman, and politician from the Spencer family who fought and died in the English civil war on the side of the Cavaliers.
Francis Almeric Spencer, 1st Baron Churchill DCL FRS was a British peer and Whig politician from the Spencer family.
Spencer is a surname, representing the court title dispenser, or steward. An early example is Robert d'Abbetot, who is listed as Robert le Dispenser, a tenant-in-chief of several counties, in the Domesday Book of 1086. In early times, the surname was usually written as le Despenser, Dispenser or Despencer—notably in works such as the Domesday Book and the Scottish Ragman Rolls of 1291 and 1296, but gradually lost both the "le" article and the unstressed first syllable of the longer surname to become Spencer.
John Spencer was a British nobleman and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1732 to 1746.
Anne Spencer, Countess of Sunderland, was an English court official and noble. She held the office of Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Anne from 1702 to 1712.
William Spencer, 2nd Baron Spencer of Wormleighton was an English nobleman, politician, and peer from the Spencer family.
Sir John Spencer was an English nobleman, politician, landowner, sheriff, knight, and MP from the Spencer family.
Sir William Spencer was an English nobleman, politician, knight, landowner, and High Sheriff from the Spencer family.
Sir John Spencer was an English nobleman, politician, sheriff, knight, merchant and landowner.
So it was Clarencieux King of Arms who foisted this pedigree on Sir John Spencer in 1595. The family had, by that time, largely increased its wealth, for Sir John's mother was a daughter of the well-known Sir Thomas Kytson, who had acquired a great fortune as a mercer in London. Lee, to whom Queen Elizabeth said that "if he proved no better" than his predecessor Cooke, Clarencieux, "yt made no matter yf hee were hanged," must have felt that it was Sir John's duty to "pay, pay, pay" for a new pedigree and coat. For a hungry King of Arms he was a marked man. Now we can understand how it was that the monument erected in or after 1596 displays the Despencer coat, while those already existing in the interesting Spencer chapel became bedecked, right and left, with the fruits of Lee's discovery. When the heralds next visited the county (1617-8), the new baronial pedigree was entered in all its splendour. The shepherd peer was now of the stock of "ye Earles of Winchester and Glocester." A year later he had soared higher; he was in direct male descent from "Ivon Viscount de Constantine," who had married, even before the Conquest, a sister of the "earl of Brittany." And now let me once more insist on the modus operandi of Clarencieux Lee, the original rascal and the "onlie begetter" of this precious pedigree. He took from the records Spencers and Despencers wherever he could lay hands on them, fitted them together in one pedigree at his own sweet will, rammed into his composition several distinct families, and then boldly certified the whole as gospel truth. It is needless, after this exposure, to pursue further. We are, once more, simply dealing with one of those lying concoctions hatched within the walls of the Heralds' College, certified by its Kings of Arms, and still "on record" among its archives. This, be it observed, is no case of a tradition rashly or credulously accepted. Clarencieux compiled the pedigree, as he said he had done, from records; but, with these records before him, he deliberately and fraudulently invented a descent which their evidence proves to be false. He knew, therefore, perfectly well that what he officially certified to be true was a lie of his own invention. Recorded by Vincent at the Visitation of 1617, accepted by Garter Segar, certified by Garter Heard: even in the present century, this impudent concoction is an instance of what we owe to the College of Arms. The pedigrees with which it is hardest to deal are those in which fact and fiction are cunningly intertwined. Here, for instance, it is perfectly true that John le Despencer married Joan, daughter (and heiress) of Robert le Lou (Lupus), who brought him the manor of Castle-Carlton, Lincolnshire. This we learn from the Lincolnshire Inquest taken after his death, which proves that Joan died without surviving issue, and that John held the manor, by the courtesy of England, until his death. John himself had inherited the manor of Martley, Worcestershire, which had been granted to his father by Henry III. The heralds must have seen the difficulty caused by its not descending to his alleged sons, but being, on the contrary, afterwards found in the hands of the Hugh Despencers. For they "doctored" the pedigree accordingly. But their real crime was providing John with a wholly fictitious second wife, in order to make him the father of men with whom he had nothing to do.
In 1504, John Spencer, an innovative and entrepreneurial yeoman, considered himself sufficiently successful to justify petitioning for a grant of arms. He was awarded Azure a fess Ermine between 6 sea-mews' heads erased Argent and could thenceforward be accounted a gentleman. (He was subsequently knighted by Henry VIII. ) At this time English society was still restructuring itself after the turmoil of the Wars of the Roses, and the gentry and the peerage were being restocked with new families seeking gentility. If at this time, 1504, John Spencer had any thought that he might be descended from the great mediaeval family of the Despencers, if there had been any legend among his kinsmen that this could be so, if there had been any chance that the suggestion would be taken seriously by the heralds, then he must have asked for arms similar to those of the Despencers and a note of his request and of its grounds would have been made in the records. As it was, the arms he was awarded could hardly be more dissimilar from those of the Despencers (here on the right), and there is no note. The arms granted in 1504 were used at least as late as 1576, and probably remained so in use until 1595, the year Richard Lee, Clarenceux King of Arms, visited the Spencer seat at Althorpe and "discovered" the family's descent as cadets of the great Despencers. The consequences of this visit included a monument to the memory of his host's father being erected with the ancient Despencer arms (with the addition of three escallops in bend) displayed instead of the Spencer arms, and an earlier monument to the 1504 grantee, the first Sir John Spencer, having the 1504 Spencer arms removed and replaced with the Despencer arms. This rewrote history.
in Parliament 1621: Lord Arundel, "My Lord, when these things you speak of were doing, your ancestors were keeping sheep." Spencer instantly replied,"when my ancestors (as you say) were keeping sheep, yours were plotting treason."
See entry for Churchill, 3rd Baron