Lady Randolph Churchill

Lady Randolph Churchill bigraphy, stories - U.S.-born British socialite and autobiographer

Lady Randolph Churchill : biography

09 January 1854 – 29 June 1921

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


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.

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 reenactments during the 2009 Channel 4 documentary Lady Randy: Churchill’s Mother.

Personal life

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.Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills, Little Brown, London, 2011, p.28.

First Marriage

Long considered one of the most beautiful women of the time, she was married for the first time on April 15, 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.Anita Leslie. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1969 Although the couple became engaged within three days of their initial meeting, the marriage was delayed for months while their parents argued over settlements.William Manchester, The Last Lion, ISBN 0-440-54681 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.") 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."William Manchester, The Last Lion, ISBN 0-440-54681 Lady Randolph’s sisters believed that the biological father of the second son, John (1880–1947) was Evelyn Boscawen, 7th Viscount Falmouth.Anne Sebba, American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill", Norton, 2008

Lady Randolph is believed to have had numerous lovers during her marriage, including Karl Kinsky, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of the United Kingdom) and Herbert von Bismarck.Manchester, William, Winston Spencer Churchill, The Last Lion, Laurel, Boston, 1989 edition, p. 137, ISBN 0-440-54681-8.

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’.Churchill, Winston., My Early Life, 1930, Touchstone, 1996 edition, p.28. 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. 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.Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills, Little Brown, London, 2011, p.259.