Episode 10 Shownotes – Jennie Jerome Churchill

Posted 30 June 2011 by

We wrap up our Gilded Age series with a lively discussion about one of the first wave of Gilded Age Heiresses- an American born woman who gave birth to a son who would eventually be known as one of the greatest Britons in history.

Jennie Jerome Churchill.

A young and captivating Jennie Jerome Churchill

Yes, we talked about her already. But we only gave a thin sketch of her life as a Dollar Princess- we never got to the really juicy parts! We promised you an episode on Jennie Jerome Churchill, and by golly, we are History Chicks of our word!

Jeannette Jerome was born in 1854 to Leonard and Clara in Brooklyn, New York.  We covered her early life in the Gilded Age Heiresses podcast; her father was very good at making money, and also good at losing it…and making it again. He also had many mistresses, and a wife who turned the other cheek. Regardless of Daddy’s activities, Jennie and her three sisters were raised in a fairly wealthy home in Brooklyn, spent summers in Newport, and- when Mama had had enough of watching her husband dally around- lived in Paris.

While there, Empress Eugenie took a shine to the Jerome girls and Parisian life suited them all just fine.

Well, that is until Beckett’s people started shooting in the Franco-Prussian war. Clara hustled those girls out of Paris with little time to spare- and with much drama- and Leonard met them to help settle the family in England. The beautiful Jerome girls quickly assimilated into English society, and when Jennie befriended  Edward, the Prince of Wales- life really started to get interesting!

In 1873, a 19 year-old Jennie Jerome had a three day romance that ended with a proposal from Lord Randolph-Spencer Churchill, the second son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. She officially became Lady Churchill.

Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill. Think what you will.

We discussed the hoops the couple had to jump through before marriage when we talked Gilded Age Heiresses, but we  pretty much left off 7 months after the wedding when a full term baby who was named Winston was born.

We did say it was a rather scandalous life, didn’t we? *giggle like a schoolgirl*

There was a second son born to Jennie six years after Winston. It was commonly believed that he was not necessarily the blood son of Randolph, but young Jack led a life very similar to that of his brother- passed off to nannies and governesses and tutors and boarding school.

Jennie wasn’t much of a hands- on mom.

What was she? She was the driving force and power behind the election of her politician husband. She was beautiful, charming and very, very persuasive. We discuss all this in the podcast, but this woman really knew how to push buttons and was pretty persistent when she did. They turned an exile to Ireland into political advances and moved back to England after their time-out to resume a pretty impressive career.

She also possessed a remarkable resemblance to another famous Lady…

…ok, maybe it’s just us.

Now, Jennie and Randolph were not your perfect, happy power couple.  They had, um, “stuff” going on. Randolph had so much of it he contracted syphilis. Jennie was pretty active as well, but she stood by her man. Even when he went kinda crazy and they took a world tour trip toting a lead lined coffin. Those wacky Churchills!

Randolph passed away at age 45. Jennie took up a couple projects, really modern things like starting a magazine and flipping houses—but her biggest success came when she finally turned her attention to her son Winston and his political career.

Winston adored his mother, although as he recalled her in his memoirs , “she seemed like a fairy princess… she shone for me like the evening star…I loved her dearly, but at a distance.”

Well, we all know how that worked out for Winston. (And if you don’t…google…come on, you need to know this one.)

Winston Churchill (not W.C Fields)

Jennie isn’t one to be alone, and five years after Randolph’s death, she marries George Cornwallis West- who is the same age as Winston! That marriage lasts until Jennie writes a play, and the lead actress takes off with George. A few years after that divorce, she marries for the last time, Montague Phippen Porch- who is 23 years younger than her! *Insert that girly giggle here.*

At the age of 67, in a very dramatic way, she falls down a set of stairs and an amputation is required. Gangrene develops and she passes away.

Time Travel With The History Chicks

You can start in Brooklyn and try and figure out which home Jennie was really born! There seems to be some speculation about this. Even her birth held some drama! Start your search with this blog: http://brooklynbeforenow.blogspot.com/2009/01/beloved-winston-and-his-brooklyn.html

Or think globally! Let’s go to Blenheim! http://www.blenheimpalace.com/

Another blog that you should really bookmark, is Scandalous Woman…but use think link: http://scandalouswoman.blogspot.com/2007/11/american-jennie-portrait-of-jennie.html (the obvious dotcom is not a site you want in your history)

Like your history visual? You can get the DVD set of the 1974 PBS miniseries starring Lee Remick.

DVD Cover of PBS series

Ok, you like books. We know that…

Anne Sebba has two books on Jennie! TWO!  You KNOW there is some more dirt to dig up!

Jennie Churchill:Winston’s American Mother by Anne Sebba

American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Anne Sebba

You can read the Lady’s own words in The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill.

The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill by Jennie Jerome Churchill

Enjoy your travels as you learn more about the very American woman who had  a huge impact on British history!

As always, music for our podcast comes courtesy of Music Alley. Visit them at music.mevio.com.