The Library of CongressExhibitionsChurchill Exhibition
Churchill and the Great Republic
Interactive Exhibition About the Exhibition Read More About It Acknowledgements Text Version
  Forebears and Family
Warrior for Empire
Visits to America
American Presidents
The Communicator
The Politician
World War II
Cold Warrior
The Long Sunset
Forebears and Family
The Great Duke
Churchill's ancestor John Churchill (1650-1722), first Duke of Marlborough, was one of the most successful generals in English history. Never defeated on the battlefield in any major engagement, his greatest triumphs came on the European continent during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). However, he was alternately in and out of favor with his sovereigns. In spite of his many military victories, he eventually lost power and was dismissed from all of the offices he held.
Related Objects
Adriaen van der Werff. Ritratto del duca Giovanni de Marlborough
Thomas Starling. Drawings of annual guild days of Norwich, England, ca. 1706
John Churchill to Sarah Churchill, May 24, 1706
A British Aristocrat and an American Beauty
Winston's parents gave him a heritage in both Great Britain and the United States. Randolph Churchill was the son, though not heir, to the Duke of Marlborough, as he had an older brother to succeed to the title. His wife Jennie was christened "Jeannette" and was the second daughter of Leonard Jerome, the New York entrepreneur and founder of the American Jockey Club. Though born in Brooklyn, she was educated largely in Paris. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, their first child, was born on November 30, 1874.
Related Objects
Studio portrait of Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill, ca. 1874
Lord Randolph Churchill to Miss Jennette Jerome, August 14, 1873
Randolph Churchill
Winston's father, Randolph Churchill, had a brilliant, if brief, career in British Parliamentary politics in the 1880s. He became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886, at the age of thirty-seven, but soon resigned in the course of a party dispute. By 1894, at age forty-five, Randolph Churchill's political career was over and his health was deteriorating. He died in January 1895. The impact of his death on Winston cannot be overstated. He had lost the opportunity to prove himself to his father and now found himself the head of the family.
Related Objects
Randolph Churchill, ca. 1888
Lord Randolph Churchill to Winston Churchill, August 21, 1894
Lord Randolph Churchill, ca. 1894
Lady Churchill and Her Two Sons
A great beauty and social figure, Lady Randolph was a dominating if distant presence in Winston's childhood. In his own account of his early life, he compares her to a "fairy princess" and the Evening Star, and admits, "I loved her dearly--but at a distance." John, Winston's brother, was his junior by six years, but the two were always very close. John, known as Jack, is described as the "baby" in some of Winston's earliest letters to his mother and father. Lacking his older brother's political ambitions, Jack had a good brain for business.
Related Objects
Portrait of Lady Randolph Churchill with her two sons, 1889
Jennie Jerome Churchill to Helen Mills Reid, January 8, 1900
"Lady Randolph Churchill's Engagement," [Philadelphia] Public Ledger, July 21, 1900
Winston's Childhood
As was the prevailing custom in upper-class British circles, Winston and Jack were entrusted to the care of a nanny and were sent to a succession of boarding schools. Churchill's parents were occupied with high society and did not spend a great deal of time with their sons. Young Winston was sometimes rebellious and often in trouble. He was not as bad a pupil as he subsequently claimed, but neither was he particularly distinguished academically.
Related Objects
Winston Churchill to Lady Randolph Churchill, May 1882
School report for Winston Churchill issued by St. George's School, Ascot, November 1883
Winston Churchill, ca. 1880
Winston Churchill to Lady Randolph Churchill, June 12, 1887
Winston During Early Years, 1889
Winston met Clementine Hozier for the first time in 1904, but the flame of romance was ignited at their second meeting in April 1908. After this second encounter, Winston threw himself into a lightning courtship. Just four months later, on Tuesday August 11, 1908, he chose the grounds of Blenheim Palace as the backdrop for his proposal. They were married one month later at Saint Margaret's Church, Westminster, in London on September 12, 1908. The marriage was a lasting and happy one. Clementine created the stable home environment that allowed Winston to be so active. They wrote warmly to one another whenever apart but also had fiery arguments. Clementine was the critic Winston heeded above all others. Their letters often ended with drawings that illustrated their pet names. He was her "pug." She was his "cat."
Related Objects
Winston Churchill to Clementine Hozier, August 12, 1908
Clementine Hozier to Winston Churchill, August 12, 1908
Winston Churchill to Clementine Churchill, September 15, 1909
Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier, 1908
The Library of CongressExhibitionsChurchill Exhibition