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Famous Family History Winston Churchill Parents

About the family of famous English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, history of his father and mother.

SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965),

British prime minister

His Roots: In his first address to the U.S. Congress in 1941, Churchill joked, "If my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way 'round, I might have got here on my own."

His mother was descended from New England farmers who-according to persistent tradition-had had an infusion of Iroquois blood. Jennie Jerome (1854-1921), born in Brooklyn, was a stunningly beautiful woman whose first son, Winston, arrived seven months after her 1874 marriage to Lord Randolph Churchill. Jennie's vast capacity for delight in life did not include the joys of motherhood, so she turned the infant over to a nurse. In riding costume or splendidly bejeweled with a diamond star on her high, dark bouffant hairdo, Jennie "shone for me like the Evening Star," wrote her son. "I loved her dearly-but at a distance." After Lord Randolph's death, Jennie remarried twice-George Cornwallis-West (1874-1951), an English soldier and aristocrat, in 1900, and Montagu Porch (1877-1964), a colonial official, in 1918. ("He has a future and I have a past, so we shall be all right," she said of the latter.)

A direct descendant of England's first Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill (1849-1895) exhibited the worst traits of an English aristocracy gone to seed. He became chancellor of the exchequer in 1886, but resigned in a typical fury. Breathtaking vanity, a mean vindictive streak, and a vile temper-together with his bulging eyes, large lumpy head, and drooping mustache-combined to make him a favorite for political caricaturists. Often apoplectic about some real or imagined slight, he cultivated vast hates and plotted intrigues against his political foes. With the passage of years and a progressive debility caused by syphilis, his behavior became even more erratic until his death at age 45.

Winston formed a lifelong, obsessive hero worship of his father. "He seemed to own the key to everything... worth having. But if ever I began to show the slightest idea of comradeship, he was immediately offended... he froze me into stone." When Lord Randolph died, wrote Winston, "all my dreams of comradeship with him, of entering Parliament at his side and in his support, were ended. There remained for me only to pursue his aims and vindicate his memory." This the son proceeded to do during his own parliamentary career and in his two volume Lord Randolph Churchill (1906).

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