John Churchill (1650-1722) was the first Duke of Malborough and this ballad celebrates his victory at the Battle of Ramilles in 1706 when he commanded the Dutch, English and Danish forces against the French in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Despite the assertion in the song, the Duke was not on his death bed after the battle. Although the ballad appears to be contemporary with the events, no broadside print can be found until the 19th century. It has been collected several times from source singers and its longevity is attested by a version recorded in 1977 from the Norfolk singer Walter Pardon. Apart from the Williams version, the only other Gloucestershire version is a fragment collected by Cecil Sharp from an unidentified old man in Adlestrop in 1909.