May 6, 2009

Q. While watching Young Churchill the other day, I heard a reference to his brother. I have since learned he had a younger brother named Jack. I am highly surprised I have never heard about him before. Could you tell me something more about him?

A. John Strange Spencer Churchill, 1880-1947, known as Jack, a stockbroker. Wounded in action in the Boer War, 1899. Married Lady Gwendeline Bertie (1884-1941), daughter of the 7th Earl of Abingdon, in 1908. Major, Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars 1914-18. Served at Dunkirk, 1914; on Sir John French’s staff 1914-15; on Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton’s staff at Gallopili, 1915; on General Birdwood’s staff 1916-18. Accompanied Churchill on his lecture tour of North America, 1929, with WSC’s son Randolph and Jack’s son Johnny. His son Peregrine survived to be a vigorous octogenarian. The rumour that Jack was not Lord Randolph’s son, begun by biographer Ralph Martin, was put down when Martin lost a slander lawsuit, but occasionally still surfaces. Jack and Winston were very close; their descendants are still.

Q. Offered at a recent art auction was a pencil sketch of Winston Churchill done and signed by Sarah Churchill that was entitled “Iron Curtain.” I believe that the bottom part of the piece also had some words from that speech and was embossed with a seal. The price of the piece started at $650 and it sold to a local banker for $750. I opened the bidding and wish now that I had continued with a bid, but presumably the purchaser would have prevailed. Can you tell me about this artwork, what the “going price” elsewhere is, and where I might find another one like it? It was new to me and I found it a very attractive rendering. -Ronald E. Keener, Glen Ellyn, Ill., USA

A. Sarah Churchill published a number of sketches of her father signed by her, but apparently not all done by her, in large quarto size. The sketches also exist in a smaller format, about 8×10. The large ones, of which yours is one, often attract bids of $500, but some collectors tell us that they are not worth that much singly. The complete set is of course of considerable value. As an aside, Winston Churchill’s own paintings now sell at auction in excess of $1m each. 

Q. What illness actually caused the death of Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s son?

A. The best account is in Cousin Randolph by Anita Leslie (London: Hutchinson 1985, page 206: “After the usual examination Dr Marshall said hesitatingly to Andrew [Kerr, Randolph’s private secretary], who had loved Randolph and merited a truthful explanation, ‘I will have great difficulty in writing out this death certificate to avoid an inquest. A doctor has to write the cause of death and with Randolph, the answer is: everything. His liver and kidneys and lungs and guts have all packed up. He’s worn out every organ in his body at the same time.'” The author adds, lyrically: “Randolph would have enjoyed that statement. And although one can never know exactly why he wanted to look out of the window in the early hours, it was as if he had been drawn by the beauty of his garden in the lonely light of dawn. Death filled him with curiosity. He knows now what happens.”

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