The first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) was a soldier of such genius that a lavish palace, Blenheim, was built to honor his triumphs. Succeeding generations of Churchills sometimes achieved distinction but also included profligates and womanizers, and were saddled with the ruinous upkeep of Blenheim. The family fortunes were revived in the nineteenth century by the huge dowries of New York society beauties Jennie Jerome (Winston's mother) and Consuelo Vanderbilt (wife to Winston's cousin). Mary S. Lovell brilliantly recounts the triumphant political and military campaigns, the construction of great houses, the domestic tragedies, and the happy marriage of Winston to Clementine Hosier set against the disastrous unions of most of his family, which ended in venereal disease, papal annulment, clinical depression, and adultery. The Churchills were an extraordinary family: ambitious, impecunious, impulsive, brave, and arrogant. Winston-recently voted "The Greatest Briton"-dominates them all. His failures and triumphs are revealed in the context of a poignant and sometimes tragic private life.