From the Notebooks of Susan Holloway Scott

The Godolphin Barb

Saturday, February 03, 2007
Upper-class England was really a very small world during the lifetime of John and Sarah Churchill. A reader recently asked me if the Godolphin family mentioned in DUCHESS is the same one for whom the famous thoroughbred was named.

Godolphin_Arabian In fact the horse is named after Francis, the second earl. (Researching this brought back all sorts of very distant memories of Marguerite Henry “horse books” that I read as a child, where the horses were always heroic and noble. ) The Godolphin Barb was first a diplomatic gift to Louis XV from an Arab prince. Scorned as too small, the stallion demoted to a cart-horse in Paris, rescued by a English Quaker horse-lover, and eventually sold to the country stud of Francis Godolphin. There he became one of the “big three” founding fathers of modern thoroughbred horses, his qualities still much prized in racing bloodlines three hundred years later. This is his portrait, elegantly painted by George Stubbs.

Every English gentleman (including John, as well as King Charles and King James) aspired to having a noteworthy stable of horses, but very few were so lucky in their stallions as Francis Godolphin!

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