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:
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.