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11th Duke of Marlborough laid to rest in funeral

October 24, 2014
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The 11th Duke of Marlborough, John George Vanderbilt Henry Spencer-Churchill, was laid to rest in a private funeral in Woodstock, Oxfordshire on Friday. The late Duke, who was 88-years-old, passed away peacefully in his sleep last Thursday, with a spokesperson for Blenheim Palace confirming the sad news in a statement. His fourth wife Lily Mahtani and his eldest child from his first marriage James – who will inherit the home and is now styled as the 12th Duke of Marlborough – led mourners from the palace to St Mary Magdalene's church.

The Duke's fourth wife Lily Mahtani and his eldest son James led mourners

Lily and her stepson James walked arm-in-arm, following the horse-drawn carriage that bore the Duke's coffin that was draped in a flag bearing the family crest. The pair were joined by other relatives as well as members of the public who lined the streets of the small town to bid their final farewell to the Duke. Estate gamekeepers in brown plus fours then carried the coffin into the church. During the morning service that started at 11:30am, James and his siblings Lady Henrietta, Lord Edward and Lady Alexandra gave readings. Rev Canon Adrian Daffern, the Rector of the Benefice of Blenheim, paid tribute to the late Duke, calling him a "man of authority" who "loved the estate" and "this county".The Duke's coffin was taken back to the palace, with heir James stood at the front of the procession.

The 11th Duke of Marlborough was 88 when he passed away last Thursday

A flag flew half-mast at Blenheim Palace – the birthplace of Winston Churchill and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the formal gardens were closed for the day, the surrounding parkland remained open to the public and entrance fees were waived to allow mourners to pay their respects. On the day of the Duke's death on 16 October, the palace was open as usual "as per his wishes". The Duke had made it his life's work to preserve the estate for future generations, which is considered one of the country's most notable tourist attractions. The Duke was distantly related to the late Princess Diana and a generational cousin of former prime minister Sir Winston. He is survived by his wife Lily and his four children from his first and third marriages.

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