Coming in Finest Hour 188: Churchill’s Prime Ministers
18 August 1908
BLENHEIM—My dear Winston, Your letter has given me much pleasure and a great deal of satisfaction. It is indeed a joy to feel that you are happy, and that you realise that in ensuring the content of another being, lies in no small degree the solace and also the enjoyment of life. I earnestly hope that your life and Clementine’s may be unclouded, and that the only source of contention between you during the years in front, may be which of you two loves each other the better.
You are rich in many things, in friends, in health, ability, and true worth is to be found not in the quantity of one’s possessions, but in the capacity for limitation of one’s personal requirements. She herself Clementine is surrounded by those who admire her, and enriched by those who love her—and whom she loves—and in addition possesses all those graceful and affectionate qualities of the heart which form the basis of the essential characteristics of a life’s companion. Read More >
To understand Winston Churchill, it is necessary to visit Blenheim Palace. While Chartwell is the house with which he is most closely associated, Churchill did not purchase his estate in Kent until he was nearly fifty. The ducal lifestyle of Victorian Britain and Blenheim, where he was born and spent much time throughout his formative years, were the factors that shaped the man. In exploring these themes, we are honored to have His Grace the twelfth Duke of Marlborough introduce this issue.
Churchill himself wrote about the establishment of the family seat during the reign of Queen Anne when he composed his multivolume biography of his illustrious ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. The seventh Duke sat in residence when his grandson Winston was born in a small room off the Great Hall. Fred Glueckstein introduces us to this imposing figure. Read More >
The cumulative labors of [architect Sir John] Vanbrugh and [landscape architect Lancelot] “Capability” Brown have succeeded at Blenheim in setting an Italian palace in an English park without apparent incongruity. The combination of these different ideas, each singly attractive, produces a remarkable effect. The palace is severe in its symmetry and completeness. Nothing has been added to the original plan; nothing has been taken away. The approaches are formal; the wings are balanced; four equal towers maintain its corners; and the fantastic ornaments of one side are elaborately matched on the other.
Natural simplicity and even confusion are, on the contrary, the characteristic of the park and gardens. Instead of that arrangement of gravel paths, of geometrical flower-beds, and of yews disciplined with grotesque exactness which the character of the house would seem to suggest, there spreads a rich and varied landscape. Green lawns and shining water, banks of laurel and fern, groves of oak and cedar, fountains and islands, are conjoined in artful disarray to offer on every side a promise of rest and shade. And yet there is no violent contrast, no abrupt dividing line between the wildness and freshness of the garden and the pomp of the architecture. Read More >
His Grace the Duke of Marlborough was born in Oxford on 24 November 1955 and educated at Harrow School and the Royal Agricultural College. He was styled the Earl of Sunderland until the death of his grandfather, the tenth duke, in 1972 and thereafter was styled the Marquess of Blandford until succeeding his father, the eleventh Duke, in 2014. His Grace married Edla Griffiths in 2002. Together the Duke and Duchess have two children, and His Grace has one son from a previous marriage.
The Duke and Duchess, together with their children and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames, hosted HRH The Duchess of Cornwall at the dedication of the Winston Churchill Garden on the grounds of Blenheim, 9 June 2015.
In his multi-volume biography of his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, published from 1933 to 1938 as Marlborough: His Life and Times, Winston Churchill described the creation of the ancestral seat.
The background: during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), King Louis XIV of France and the Elector of Bavaria sought to knock Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I out of the war by seizing Vienna in the summer of 1704 and gaining a favorable peace settlement. This plan ended in failure in August with the catastrophic defeat of French and Bavarian forces at the Battle of Blenheim at the hands of British and Austrian armies led by the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy. The battle altered the course of the war, which nevertheless continued to rage for another decade.
Following his spectacular victory at Blenheim, Marlborough returned home from Bavaria in the autumn as “The Conquering Hero” of Queen Anne’s realm. For the moment he was showered with honors, but the protracted conflict later turned political opinion against him. Here follows Winston Churchill’s account of the Duke’s homecoming. Read More >
Lord Derby’s Cabinet, 1867 – The Seventh Duke of Marlborough (seated at the table with head in hand) Lord Derby (standing with hand on despatch box at the right)
Finest Hour 187, First Quarter 2020
By Fred Glueckstein
Fred Glueckstein is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour and author of Churchill and Colonist II (2015).
John Winston Spencer-Churchill was born on 2 June 1822 at Garboldisham Hall, Norfolk. He was the eldest son of George Spencer-Churchill, the sixth Duke of Marlborough, and Lady Jane Stewart, who was the daughter of the eighth Earl of Galloway. From his birth until the death of his grandfather—the fifth duke—in 1840, John held the family courtesy title Earl of Sunderland. This changed when he became first in line to succeed to the dukedom and was raised to the courtesy title Marquess of Blandford.
John Spencer-Churchill was educated at Eton and then Oriel College, Oxford. He served as a lieutenant in the 1st Oxfordshire yeomanry in 1843. On 12 July of that same year, he married Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane, eldest daughter of the third Marquess of Londonderry.
The young Spencer-Churchills had eleven children. Their third son, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill, was born in London at 3 Wilton Terrace, Belgravia on 13 February 1849. Lord Randolph would become the father of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. Read More >
Antonia Keaney is author of A Passion for Fashion—300 Years of Style at Blenheim Palace (Unicorn 2019), from which the quotations in this article are drawn.
Blenheim Palace is famous for many things, and one of its leading claims to fame is that it happens to be the birth- place of a certain Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill—twice prime minister of Great Britain, accomplished writer, artist, and skilled bricklayer.
One may be surprised at hearing Winston Churchill referred to as a style icon, in much the same way that one might express surprise at his being described as “wonderfully pretty” (Lord Randolph’s description of his prematurely born son in a letter to his mother-in-law), but icons tend to develop rather than to be born, and that is certainly true of Winston Churchill.
Churchill with his squadron of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars
Finest Hour 187, First Quarter 2020
By Douglas S. Russell
Douglas Russell is author of Winston S. Churchill: Soldier, The Military Life of a Gentleman at War (2005).
From the time of the first Duke of Marlborough (1650–1722) each succeeding generation of Spencers, Churchills, and Marlboroughs was active in the military service of Great Britain, and Blenheim Palace has been a part of that tradition. Each duke from the first in the seventeenth century to the eleventh in the twenty-first century held an officer’s commission.
The Spencer-Churchill family began its long and active role in the Oxford Yeomanry in 1803 when Lord Francis Spencer, brother of the fifth duke, raised the Woodstock squadron of cavalry only five years after the regiment was formed.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Oxford Yeomanry had reached regimental strength and was one of thirty-eight Imperial Yeomanry cavalry units. It was known as the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, a title granted by Queen Adelaide—the wife of King William IV—in 1835. Commonly referred to as the Q.O.O.H., the regiment was organized in four squadrons located at Henley, Oxford, Woodstock, and Banbury, with its headquarters at Oxford. Read More >
This text is taken from Mary Soames’s 1979 biography of her mother Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage and is reprinted with permission.
The youngest child of Winston and Clementine Churchill recounts how her parents became engaged at the time her father was President of the Board of Trade.
During the months of June and July [1908, Winston] and Clementine met several times, but as unmarried girls did not in those days lunch or dine alone with men, they met in the main only on social occasions. Clementine was by now deeply in love, and in an agony lest their growing friendship should be remarked upon. Such was her anxiety on this count that when Winston invited her to a garden party he was giving in the gardens of Gwdyr House (then the Board of Trade) she declined to go. Presumably their closest family must have been aware that something was brewing, but their discretion was complete. More than most girls Clementine could keep her own counsel, so now at this crucial moment of her life even her close friends were not aware of her feelings.
The parliamentary summer recess was soon imminent, and both Winston and Clementine were committed to prearranged visits, but they planned to meet at Salisbury Hall in the middle of August. In the interval, Clementine went to stay with Mrs. Godfrey Baring at Nubia House in Cowes. She took part in the round of balls and entertainments, but she was a somewhat distracted guest, as her thoughts were elsewhere. Read More >
The ninth Duke of Marlborough with his first wife, Consuelo Vanderbilt, and their children, as depicted by John Singer Sargent
Finest Hour 187, First Quarter 2020
By Hugo Vickers
Hugo Vickers’ biography The Sphinx: The Life of Gladys Deacon, Duchess of Marlborough was published by Hodder & Stoughton/ Zuleika in January 2020.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Winston Churchill could have become the tenth Duke of Marlborough, and thus custodian for life of Blenheim Palace. He was heir presumptive to the title between 1895 and 1897, since at that time his first cousin the ninth Duke had no children, and Winston’s father Lord Randolph Churchill had died in January 1895.
This prospect was evidently of some concern to Frances, Dowager Duchess of Marlborough, a daughter of the third Marquess of Londonderry, though this may have been exaggerated by Consuelo Vanderbilt in her somewhat misleading and self-serving memoirs The Glitter and the Gold. That was the book from which she emerges as the poor, unloved American bride, forced by her mother to marry Sunny, the ninth Duke, in 1895—his only motive to obtain Vanderbilt money to keep Blenheim going. In her book, Consuelo described her husband’s grandmother as “a formidable old lady of the Queen Anne type… [with] large prominent eyes, an aquiline nose, and a God-and-my-right conception of life.” Read More >
The entrance front of Blenheim Palace from Vitruvius Britannicus (1725)
Finest Hour 187, First Quarter 2020
By Robert Courts
Robert Courts is Member of Parliament for Witney. He lives with his family in Bladon, abutting Blenheim Park.
Winston Churchill is reported to have said: “At Blenheim I took two very important decisions: to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions.” Certainly the remark typifies his characteristically understated humour, giving as it does only a hint of the role that Blenheim Palace played in his life. In fact, it made up part of the fabric of his hinterland: a vision of what he came from, was, and wanted to be.
But Blenheim is and was much more than just a gorgeous backdrop to the lives of either Winston Churchill or his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Whilst it was this weight of history, so vividly portrayed at Blenheim, that made the young Winston acutely aware of his ancestry—and his destiny— there is a much greater story to be told in the way Blenheim has shaped and been shaped by the surrounding area.
Ronald I. Cohen MBE is author ofA Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, 3 vols. (2006).
In this column I generally respond to questions brought to me by other Churchillians. Frequently these are about books or pamphlets people have encountered, which leave them puzzled or uncertain in some respect. I do not recall dealing before with a conundrum that has beset myself personally, but that is what happened when I recently came across a pamphlet in my own library to which I had not previously paid any attention.
The title is Churchill…Statesman of the Century. Although a nicely produced pamphlet of thirty-two pages with glossy card wraps, there is no author indicated, nor a publisher, city or date of publication. How unusual it all was. There are, of course, lesser pamphlet productions in the Churchill canon, but this one was not produced on the cheap. It is not listed in the late Curt Zoller’s Annotated Bibliography of Works about Sir Winston S. Churchill, nor can it be found in the catalogues of the British Library, Library and Archives Canada, or the Library of Congress.
As to content, the pamphlet is essentially a biographical summary, somewhat elementary in its presentation, which is divided into five parts: Part I—The Beginning; Part II—The First World War; Part III—Winston Churchill Between Wars; Part IV—The Second World War; and Part V—Into the Sunset. Read More >
125 Years Ago
Winter 1895 • Age 20
“He Was My Model”
As 1895 opened, three events occurred in the first seven weeks—a wedding and two funerals—that were to have a major effect on the young Churchill’s life. For they combined to lead him into meeting his American mentor the lawyer, statesman, and orator Bourke Cockran, of whom Churchill once said, “He was my model. I learned from him how to hold thousands in thrall.
” The first event was the wedding in Vienna on 9 January of Count Charles Rudolf Kinsky and Countess Elizabeth Wolff-Metternich. Kinsky and Churchill’s mother Jennie had long been lovers. Had that affair continued, she likely would not have begun a new relationship with Cockran.
Two weeks later, Lord Randolph Churchill died on 24 January. Victorian convention required a two-year period of mourning before a widow could accept social invitations. That was not acceptable to Jennie, who promptly left England for Paris, less than a month after her husband’s death. There she rented a large house on the tree-lined Avenue Kleber and invited her older sister Clara and her younger sister Leonie to join her, which they did. Read More >
Martin Gilbert and Larry P. Arnn, eds., The Churchill Documents, volume 22, Leader of the Opposition, August 1945 to October 1951, Hillsdale College Press, 2019, 2328 pages, $60. ISBN 978–0916308407
With hindsight, the years 1945–51 seem like an interlude between Winston Churchill’s two premierships, while Clement Attlee and the Labour party held power. But Churchill had a remarkable capacity for making history out of office, as well as in office. What might be termed his second wilderness years are a case in point—as this latest volume of documents vividly shows.
Far from being the “anti-climax” Churchill initially dreaded, he used the time to prodigious effect. Aided by his “Syndicate” of assistants and financed in style by his publishers, he completed five of the eventual six volumes of war memoirs. We can read his progress reports to Clementine, his queries about delicate issues such as the Dieppe Raid or the bombing of Dresden, his unconcealed pride when telling his King that 250,000 copies of Their Finest Hour had been sold in a single day, and his regular complaints about the workload: “Volume IV is a worse tyrant than Attlee.” Read More >
Adrian Phillips, Fighting Churchill, Appeasing Hitler: Neville Chamberlain, Sir Horace Wilson, and Britain’s Plight of Appeasement, 1937–1939, Pegasus Books, 2019, 368 pages, $29.95. ISBN 978–1643132211
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale College.
The eightieth anniversary of the start of the Second World War was accompanied by a predictable flurry of works about British efforts to appease Germany up to September 1939. Adrian Phillips’ book is the latest of this kind and follows close upon similar studies by Tim Bouverie (reviewed FH 187) and Robert Crowcroft (reviewed FH 184). Whereas Bouverie and Crowcroft summarized broadly the efforts to avert war by accommodating Adolf Hitler’s demands, Phillips focuses more specifically on the role of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s chief advisor Sir Horace Wilson in promoting appeasement.
Phillips’s focus is welcome, since Wilson remains one of the most understudied figures of the period. A child of lower-middle class parents, he rose rapidly from the Second Class of the British Civil Service to its heights by virtue of hard work and ability. Chosen as Permanent Secretary of the nascent Ministry of Labour, Wilson showed skill in resolving industrial disputes, making him an indispensable figure for the governments of the interwar period. Read More >
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