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.
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 into a family with a father who was very good at making money, and also good at losing it…and making it again. 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 until war broke out and Clara hustled those girls out of Paris to 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.
We discussed the hoops the couple had to jump through before marriage when we talked Gilded Age Heiresses and the birth of her first son, Winston but there was a second son born to Jennie and enveloped in scandal as a great deal of this woman’s life is–the family was even exiled to *sarcastic gasp* Ireland!
When Randolph passed away at age 45 (syphilis…of course it was syphilis) 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 and, we all know how that worked out for Winston. (And if you don’t…google…come on, you need to know this one.)
Jennie isn’t one to be alone, there were two more marriages (the last one to a man 23 years younger than she…go, Jennie!) At the age of 67, in a very dramatic way, she falls down a set of stairs and amputation is required, gangrene develops and she passed 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.
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!
You can read the Lady’s own words in The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph 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.