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

Early life

Jennie Jerome was born in Rochester, New Yorkmarker, the second of three daughters of financier, sportsman, and speculator Leonard Jerome and his wife Clara, daughter of Ambrose Hall, a landowner and sometime New York State Assemblyman. She was raised in Brooklyn, New Yorkmarker and New York, New Yorkmarker. She had two sisters, Clarita (a.k.a. Clara) and Leonie. Her father was rumored to be the father of the American opera singer Minnie Hauk (1851-1929), married Baron Ernest von Hesse-Waltegg).

An unsubstantiated legend has it that Leonard Jerome, a man who loved opera, named his second daughter after the Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, with whom he purportedly had an affair (doubtful, as Lind was highly moral). There is no evidence that Lind and Jerome ever met.

A noted beauty — an admirer said that there was "more of the panther than of the woman in her look" — Lady Randolph Churchill worked as a magazine editor in early life. There is a persistent rumor (often wrongly cited as fact) that she had a fashionable tattoo of a snake twined around her wrist, which she hid with a bracelet when required. . However, while this is certainly possible (since tattoos of the type were fashionable at the time, worn by fashionable women such as the 7th Marchioness of Londonderry, who had a snake tattooed on one of her legs in 1903), extensive searching has so far provided no evidence other than rumor. The historian Sir Martin Gilbert (Winston Churchill's official biographer) considers it very unlikely.

Hall family lore insists that Jennie had an Iroquois great-grandfather, but no evidence of any Native American ancestry has yet been uncovered, despite much genealogical digging. Moshe Kohn, in an article in The Jerusalem Post on 15 January 1993, alleged that the Jerome family name was originally Jacobson, and that Jennie's ethnic ancestry was, in fact, Jewish, at least on her father's side. However, there is no truth to this claim; the name of the family has always been Jerome since the family (in the person of a Huguenot immigrant named Timothy Jerome) first set foot in America about 1717.

It is alleged that both Jennie and her father Leonard had similar interests. Her father purchased the Bathgate Mansion and Estate, on the outer western edge of Old Fordham Village, Westchester Countymarker (now in the Bronxmarker), and built the Jerome Park Racetrack on the property. While living at the mansion, Jennie took to horseback riding, as her father took to betting. It was at the racetrack that she met and was later courted by her future husband, Spencer-Churchill.

Marriage and personal life

Jennie Jerome before she was married and became Jennie Churchill.
Long considered one of the most beautiful women of the time, she was married for the first time in 1874, at the British Embassy in Parismarker, to Lord Randolph Churchill (1849–1895), the second son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough. 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) born less than eight months after the marriage, and John (1880–1947). Jennie's sisters believed the latter's biological father was Evelyn "Star" Boscawen, 7th Viscount Falmouth. Lady Randolph had numerous lovers during her marriage, including Count Charles Andreas Kinsky and King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.

As was the custom of the day, Lady Randolph played a limited role in her sons' upbringing, relying largely upon nannies such as Winston's beloved Mrs. (Elizabeth) Everest. Winston completely worshipped his mother, writing her numerous letters during his time at school, begging her to visit him, which she rarely did. However, after he became an adult, she and he became good friends and strong allies, to the point where Winston regarded her almost as a political mentor, more as a sister than as a mother.

A strong personality, Jennie 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 Alexandra of Denmark especially enjoyed her company, despite the fact that Jennie had been involved in an affair with Alexandra's husband, 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 Theatremarker, the first production was His Borrowed Plumes written by Lady Randolph Churchill.

Later marriages

Five years after the death at age 45 of Lord Randolph, on July 28, 1900, she married George Cornwallis-West (1874–1951), a captain in the Scots Guards who was the same age as her elder son. Around this time, she became well-known for chartering a hospital ship to care for those wounded in the Boer War, and in 1908, she wrote The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. She separated from her second husband in 1912, and they were divorced in April 1914, whereupon Cornwallis-West married the famous actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Jennie then dropped the surname Cornwallis-West and resumed, by deed poll, the name Lady Randolph Churchill.

Her third marriage, on June 1, 1918, was to Montague Phippen Porch (1877–1964), a member of the British Civil Service in Nigeriamarker, who was three years Winston's junior. At the end of World War I, Porch resigned from the colonial service, and in 1921, he returned to Africa to find his fortune. Jennie Jerome met Randolph Churchill at a ball given for the future Czar of Russia on board the ship Ariadne. This occurred at Cowes, Isle of Wight.


In 1921, while her husband was in Africa, Jennie, aged 67, slipped while coming down a friend's staircase while wearing new high heeled shoes, breaking an ankle. Gangrene set in, and her left leg was amputated above the knee; soon afterward she died at her home in London following a haemorrhage of an artery in her thigh (resulting from the amputation).

She was buried in the Churchill family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladonmarker, Oxfordshire, next to her first husband.

In 1926, her widower, Montague Porch, married Donna Giulia Patrizi (died 1938), who was a daughter of the Marchese Patrizi della Rocca.


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. However, she was in England at the time of the 1874 election, about to give birth to her son Winston later that month.

Jennie Churchill was portrayed by Lee Remick in the British television series Jennie and by Anne Bancroft in the film Young Winston.

See also


  1. [1]
  2. Anne Sebba, American Jennie, Norton, 2008, page 13
  3. Ralph G. Martin Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill- The Romantic Years, 1854-1895
  4. He had Iroquois Ancestors - The Churchill Centre
  5. Anita Leslie. Lady Randolph Churchill: The Story of Jennie Jerome, 1968
  6. Anne Sebba, American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill", Norton, 2008
  7. EdwardVII

Further reading

  • Anne Sebba. "American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill" (W.W. Norton, 2007) ISBN 0-39-305772-0
  • Lady Randolph Spencer Churchill. The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1908 (Autobiography)
  • Anita Leslie. Lady Randolph Churchill: The Story of Jennie Jerome, 1968
  • Ralph G. Martin. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill - The Romantic Years, 1854-1895 (Prentice-Hall, Ninth printing, 1969)
  • Ralph G. Martin. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill - Volume II, The Dramatic Years, 1895-1921 (Prentice-Hall, 1971) ISBN 0-13-509760-6
  • Ralph G. Martin. reissue of both volumes of Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, (Sourcebooks, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4022-0972-7

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