Women in History-Jennie Churchill

Jennie Churchill was the wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and the mother of the famous (and infamous!) Winston Churchill. She's one of the most fascinating women in British history, and in many ways, a lesson to us all.

Jennie Churchill was born in Brooklyn,New York, USA, the daughter of Leonard and Clara Jerome. Her father was a financier; he was reputed to be the natural father of American opera singer Minnie Hauk. (More on her, later.) On her mother's side, she may have been one-eighth Iroquois Indian; she also was the granddaughter of New York State Assemblyman Ambrose Hall. Her father, who was very successful in his speculations, purchased the Bathgate Mansion; he built the Jerome Park Racetrack on the site. Jennie loved horseback riding, and was an expert equestrienne.

Jennie Jerome was a famous beauty, as a debutante. She took the fashionable world by storm. She was both famous and notorious for collecting influential lovers; including The Prince of Wales, a Hungarian Count Charles Kinsky, and Lord d'Abernon.

Jennie married her first husband, Lord Randolph Churchill, who was the second son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. They had two sons, Winston Churchill being the eldest. Winston was born less than 8 months after the marriage of Jennie and Randolph. Some say that Winston Churchill was not, in truth, Lord Randolph's son, but rather the son of "Star" Boscawen, the 7th Viscount Falmouth, with whom Jennie had a major fling. Look at the two pictures below, of Winston and his father Randolph. I see such a resemblance that I seriously doubt that Winston was not Lord Randolph's son:


Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Lord Randolph Churchill
Lord Randolph Churchill

Lady Randolph, as Jennie Churchill was styled after her marriage to Lord Randolph, continued to take influential lovers to her bosom after her marriage. Society didn't frown so severely on this--on the contrary, Jennie's relationship with King Edward VII of England helped to advance her son Winston's career. Edward's wife, Alexandra, knew of the relationship and was a deep admirer of Jennie's, anyway. Apparently no one in society at that time expected fidelity in a marriage.

Jennie Churchill did everything she could to advance Winston Churchill's political interests. I doubt he would have been the statesman and leader he later became, without his mother's help, support and influence. Winston's early career was not marked with glory; on the contrary, he made quite a few enemies and very few friends. He was an "arrogant, ambitious and opportunistic young man", who, as an officer-in-training at Aldershot, had a disgraceful record of pranksterism, race-fixing, and hazing. One of the hazing incidents led to a lawsuit. Winston was a very courageous soldier, however. He was criticized, and possibly unjustly, for being a "glory hound", a "medal-hunter"; Winston was also either brave enough or foolhardy enough to criticize his superiors' military strategies in his newspaper dispatches; for that I give him credit rather than otherwise.

Back to Jennie: she was definitely the power behind Winston in his rising political career. She was also the merry widow: Lord Randolph died in 1895; in 1900, Jenny at the age of 46 years, married George-Cornwallis-West, who was the same age, about, as Winston. ( I believe Winston was 16 days older than George, and the two did NOT get along!) Jenny also:

  • Started a literary magazine in 1898
  • Got, funded and outfitted a hospital ship for the men wounded in the Boer war
  • Wrote a memoir and several plays, the first play, "His Borrowed Plumes", made its debut in the Globe theatre.
  • Developed an Elizabethan Theme Park in the middle of London, complete with a full-size replica of Drake's ship.

She divorced George in 1913, and in 1918, Jennie went on to marry an even younger man--this man was three years younger than Jennie's oldest son, Winston. Jennie was 64 years old; the man, Montague Porch, was just about 40 years old. Good for Jennie!

Jennie, ever a slave to fashion, had to try out the new Italian high-heeled shoes. It was the death of her. While wearing her fancy new shoes, Jennie slipped and fell down a staircase, breaking her leg. The leg became gangrenous and was amputated; but to no avail. Jennie died of a hemorrhage at the age of 67, on June 9, 1921. She is buried next to her first husband, Lord Randolph Churchill, in Bladon, Oxfordshire, at the Churchill family plot.

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Comments 24 comments

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 weeks ago from Philippines

I love this article. It would be fair to say that she was part of her son's achievements and the way he changed the world for the better. Jennie Churchill was truly her own woman.


Jodie English 4 months ago

sorry to say but i'm pretty sure that picture is not Lord Randolph churchill.

He died at a young age, that actually looks like Winston himself. A good read though


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment. I'm afraid I'm always a little biased in the woman's favor. Women of that period got such a raw deal, generally speaking. I admire women who can turn the situation around, even a little bit. I'm sorry that Winston wasn't more loved an nurtured by her as a child. Every child deserves a loving mother.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment. I'm afraid I'm always a little biased in the woman's favor. Women of that period got such a raw deal, generally speaking. I admire women who can turn the situation around, even a little bit. I'm sorry that Winston wasn't more loved an nurtured by her as a child. Every child deserves a loving mother.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I've just started reading yet another biography of Winston and the Churchill family. Jenny Jerome's father's fortunes rose and set nearly as often as the sun and moon. If memory serves, at the time of her marriage to Randolph Churchill, Jerome was nearly penniless...again...and the marriage was more an "alliance" to restore the family fortune (by Jenny becoming a member of the aristocracy) than a love match.

In the same vein, Jenny was not all that attentive to Winston as a child. He never forgot that while he was in boarding school, he rarely heard from or saw her. Only after he was nearly grown and showing the first glimmer of greatness did she become his greatest, life-long supporter.

Still, what a fascinating woman! Ahead of her time in many respects. ;D


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, Suzie Cat. Love your stuff, too! I've only read a couple of things, but enough to know, you can REALLY WRITE!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

My kind of Hub - enjoyed the read - thanks.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment. I really enjoyed writing this one.


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Wow! that was a piece of history that I had no knowledge about. A die hard slave to fashion -eh??. LOL The woman behind the man... Great work as always Paradise.


bilboburgler 5 years ago

infamous? Galipoli?


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

Wow...what a beautiful and forward-thinking woman! I had no idea Winston Churchill's mother was so accomplished. Voted up and awesome. Tragic the way she died, though. Slave to fashion for sure.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Robwrite, and you're welcome.


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Very interesting. I didn't know much about Churchill's mom. Thanks for the information.

rob


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Gypsy Rose Lee. Yes, we often forget the power behind the throne, so to speak. She really was a remarkable woman.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Interesting to finally find out who Winston Churcill's mom was. It's funny but sometimes when we read or find out about great men we don't always think about their families just about them.He had a wonderful woman for a mom.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comments, DR and Phil. I like this woman, in spite of her wild love life. She really went after things; she had no fear.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

It is quite the striking image of her that you found. That marriage infidelity was so looked over at that time says a lot about how it is revered today. Another great and well written hub, thanks for sharing, voted up and interesting.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I feel that way about you, too, Paradise - particularly your Women in History series. Jennie was an amazing woman - sort of the Cougar of her time. You gave us some genuine insight into her life with this hub - thank you.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, epi. Enjoy the lake while summer lasts! And yes, I'm also an ardent fan of HELLO HELLO and DRBJ.


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...just love your 'women in history' series - they are important and essential in letting us know about these chapters in history, particularly for the female gender - no doubt you are aware of HELLO HELLO and DRBJ - two other hub greats which share this type of passion that you have for enlightening us as readers and fans.

You make up for quite a holy hub trinity the three of you and as is my pleasure I will post this grand hub subject to my Facebook page with a direct link back here

lake erie time 1:29pm

and for my first dip into the lake after a couple cups of coffee at this most bittersweet time of year - only two weeks (shudder) until September.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Chuck. Praise from Ceasar is praise indeed!


Chuck profile image

Chuck 5 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

Great and very interesting Hub. I grew up in Rochester, New York and I remember the newspaper periodically mentioning Winston Churchill's connection to America through his mother and, thanks to this Hub, I now know that the connection was to both the U.S. and New York state where we lived.

Good work! Thanks


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, Marellen, for being the first to comment! I agree, she got away with a lot of infidelities, but her partners were unfaithful, too. I know, two wrongs don't make a right--still, I have to give her credit for not meekly sitting down under her husbands.


marellen 5 years ago

She was a beauty and so unfaithful and got away with it. Sounds like a women way ahead of her times. I agree that Randolph and Winston are definitely, Father and Son. I love these history lessons. Bravo on this one too.

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