Lady Randolph Churchill

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Lady Randolph Churchill
CI DStJ
Jenniejerome1854.jpg
Jennie Churchill
Born Jeanette Jerome
(1854-01-09)9 January 1854
Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died 29 June 1921(1921-06-29) (aged 67)
London, England
Cause of death
Haemorrhage
Resting place
St Martin's Church, Bladon
Nationality US/UK
Spouse(s) Lord Randolph Churchill
George Cornwallis-West
Montagu Phippen Porch
Children Sir Winston Churchill
John Strange Spencer-Churchill
Parents Leonard Jerome
Clarissa Hall

Lady Randolph Churchill, CI DStJ (9 January 1854 – 29 June 1921), born Jeanette Jerome, was the American-born English wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and the mother of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Early life[edit]

Jeanette "Jennie" Jerome was born in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn in 1854,[1] the second of four daughters (one died in childhood) of financier, sportsman, and speculator Leonard Jerome and his wife Clarissa (always called Clara[2]), daughter of Ambrose Hall, a landowner. She was raised in Brooklyn and other parts of what would become New York City. She had two surviving sisters, Clarita (1851-1935) and Leonie (born 1859). Another sister, Camille (1855-1863) died when Jennie was nine. Leonard Jerome was rumoured to also be the father of the American opera singer Minnie Hauk.[3]

The Jerome Mansion on Madison Avenue, New York City

There is some controversy regarding the time and place of her birth. A plaque at 426 Henry St. gives her year of birth as 1850, not 1854. However, on 9 January in 1854, the Jeromes lived nearby at number 8 Amity Street (since renumbered as 197). It is believed that the Jeromes were temporarily staying at the Henry Street address, which was owned by Leonard's brother Addison, and that Jennie was born there during a snowstorm.[4]

A noted beauty (an admirer, Lord d'Abernon, said that there was "more of the panther than of the woman in her look"[5] ) Jennie Jerome worked as a magazine editor in early life. Hall family lore insists that Jennie had Iroquois ancestry, through her maternal grandmother;[6] however, there is no research or evidence to corroborate this.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Lady Randolph was a talented amateur pianist, having been tutored as a girl by Stephen Heller, a friend of Chopin. Heller believed that his young pupil was good enough to attain 'concert standard' with the necessary 'hard work', which, according to Lovell, he was not confident she was capable of.[8]

First marriage[edit]

Jennie Jerome in the 1880s

Long considered one of the most beautiful women of the time,[citation needed] she was married for the first time on 15 April 1874, aged 20, at the British Embassy in Paris, to Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough and Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane.[9] Although the couple became engaged within three days of their initial meeting, the marriage was delayed for months while their parents argued over settlements.[10] By this marriage, she was properly known as Lady Randolph Churchill and would have been referred to in conversation as Lady Randolph.

The Churchills had two sons. Winston (1874–1965), the future prime minister, was born less than eight months after the marriage. According to his biographer William Manchester, Winston was most likely conceived before the marriage, rather than born prematurely. (A recent biography has stated that he was born two months prematurely after Lady Randolph "had a fall.")[11] When asked about the circumstances of his birth, he would reply, "Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it."[10] Lady Randolph's sisters believed that the biological father of the second son, John (1880–1947) was Evelyn Boscawen, 7th Viscount Falmouth.[12]

Lady Randolph is believed to have had numerous lovers during her marriage, including Karl Kinsky, the Prince of Wales, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and Herbert von Bismarck.[13]

Jennie Churchill with her two sons, John and Winston, 1889

As was the custom of the day, Lady Randolph played a limited role in her sons' upbringing, relying largely upon nannies, especially Elizabeth Everest. Winston worshipped his mother, writing her numerous letters during his time at school and begging her to visit him, which, however, she rarely did. He wrote about her in My Early Life: 'She shone for me like the evening star. I loved her dearly – but at a distance'.[14] After he became an adult, they became good friends and strong allies, to the point where Winston regarded her almost as a political mentor, more as a big sister than as a mother. She was well-respected and influential in the highest British social and political circles. She was said to be intelligent, witty, and quick to laughter. It was said that Queen Alexandra especially enjoyed her company, despite the fact that Jennie had been involved in an affair with her husband, King Edward VII, a fact that was well known by Alexandra.[15] Through her family contacts and her extramarital romantic relationships, Jennie greatly helped Lord Randolph's early career, as well as that of her son Winston. In 1909 when American impresario Charles Frohman became sole manager of the The Globe Theatre, the first production was His Borrowed Plumes, written by Lady Randolph Churchill. Although Mrs. Patrick Campbell produced and took the lead role in the play, it was a commercial failure. It was at this point that Mrs. Campbell began an affair with Lady Randolph's then husband, George Cornwallis-West.[16]

Later marriages[edit]

Lord Randolph died in 1895, aged 45. On 28 July 1900, Jennie married George Cornwallis-West (1874–1951), a captain in the Scots Guards who was the same age as her elder son, Winston. Around this time, she became well known for chartering a hospital ship to care for those wounded in the Boer War, and in 1908, she wrote The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. She separated from her second husband in 1912, and they were divorced in April 1914, whereupon Cornwallis-West married the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Jennie dropped the surname Cornwallis-West, and resumed, by deed poll, the name Lady Randolph Churchill. Her third marriage, on 1 June 1918, was to Montagu Phippen Porch (1877–1964), a member of the British Civil Service in Nigeria, who was three years Winston's junior. At the end of World War I, Porch resigned from the colonial service, and after Jennie's death returned to West Africa where his business investments had proven successful.[17]

Death[edit]

In May 1921, while Montagu Porch was away in Africa, Jennie slipped while coming down a friend's staircase wearing new high-heeled shoes, breaking her ankle. Gangrene set in, and her left leg was amputated above the knee on 10 June. She died at her home in London on 29 June, following a haemorrhage of an artery in her thigh (resulting from the amputation). She was 67 years old.[18]

She was buried in the Churchill family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, next to her first husband.

Legacy[edit]

According to legend, Jennie Churchill was responsible for the invention of the Manhattan cocktail. She allegedly commissioned a bartender for a special drink to celebrate the election of Samuel J. Tilden to the governorship in 1874. While the drink is believed to have been invented by the Manhattan Club (an association of New York Democrats) on that occasion, Jennie could not have been involved, as she was in Europe at the time, about to give birth to her son Winston later that month.[19]

Jennie Churchill was portrayed by Anne Bancroft in the film Young Winston (1972) and by Lee Remick in the British television series Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill (1974). She was also portrayed by Margaret Ann Bain in dramatic re-enactments during the 2009 Channel 4 documentary Lady Randy: Churchill's Mother.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ G. H. L. Le May, 'Churchill, Jeanette [Lady Randolph Churchill] (1854–1921)', rev. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006, accessed 18 September 2010
  2. ^ Lovell, Mary (2011). The Churchills in Love And War. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-393-06230-4. 
  3. ^ Anne Saba, American Jennie, Norton, 2008, page 13
  4. ^ "Winston Churchill's Mother Jennie Jerome Was Born in Cobble Hill, But in Which House?". Cobble Hill Association. 15 June 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Lovell, Mary (2011). The Churchills in Love And War. New York, NY: WW Norton & Company. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-393-06230-4. 
  6. ^ Ralph G. Martin Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill-The Romantic Years, 1854–1895
  7. ^ "Churchill Had Iroquois Ancestors". Winstonchurchill.org. 29 June 1921. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills, Little Brown, London, 2011, p.28.
  9. ^ Anita Leslie. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1969
  10. ^ a b William Manchester, The Last Lion, ISBN 0-440-54681-8
  11. ^ Johnson, Paul (2010). Churchill. New York, NY: Penguin. p. 4. ISBN 0143117998. 
  12. ^ Anne Sebba, American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill", Norton, 2008
  13. ^ Manchester, William, Winston Spencer Churchill, The Last Lion, Laurel, Boston, 1989 edition, p. 137, ISBN 0-440-54681-8.
  14. ^ Churchill, Winston., My Early Life, 1930, Touchstone, 1996 edition, p.28.
  15. ^ Edward VII at the Wayback Machine (archived 27 October 2009)
  16. ^ Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills, Little Brown, London, 2011, p.259.
  17. ^ Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills, Little Brown, London, 2011, p.332, ISBN 978-1-4087-0247-5.
  18. ^ Jenkins, Roy., Churchill, Pan Books, London, 2002 edition, pp.353–354, ISBN 0-330-48805-8.
  19. ^ "Jennie and the Manhattan". The New York Times. 23 December 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Anne Sebba. American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill (W.W. Norton, 2007) ISBN 0-393-05772-0
  • Lady Randolph Spencer Churchill. The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1908 (Autobiography)
  • Anita Leslie. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1969
  • Ralph G. Martin. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill – The Romantic Years, 1854–1895 (Prentice-Hall, Ninth printing, 1969)
  • R. Martin. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill – Volume II, The Dramatic Years, 1895–1921 (Prentice-Hall, 1971) ISBN 0-13-509760-6
  • R. Martin. Reissue of both volumes of Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, (Sourcebooks, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4022-0972-7

External links[edit]