Each month we feature a document from the Churchill Archives Centre at Cambridge University
Letter from a young Winston Churchill to Lady Randolph Churchill detailing his report from Harrow School
In 1888 the thirteen-year-old Winston Churchill was attending Harrow School, a prestigious boarding school in Middlesex, London. Although Churchill was an intelligent boy, his difficulty focusing on subjects he wasn’t interested in – such as Latin – meant he struggled with a poor academic record. He entered Harrow in the lowest class and with the lowest grades, much to the disappointment of his father. Churchill was, however, fascinated by geography and history and was considered one of the best history students in his division.
In this letter to his mother, written from Harrow in June 1888, Churchill details his school report from the previous week. In mathematics, he has done ‘decidedly better’ and his conduct is ‘decidedly improved’, although his work is ‘irregular’. He even boasts about coming third in class one week despite having done only half the work. The letter shows Churchill facing many of the struggles of a normal schoolboy: he begs his mother not to be cross with him, promises to work harder, and assures her that he has kept his room tidy since she last visited. ‘I am not lazy & untidy but careless & forgetful,’ he writes.
It appears Churchill was unhappy throughout his time at Harrow and wrote several letters – including this one – begging his mother to visit him, although she seldom did. Churchill graduated from Harrow in 1893 and after three failed attempts was accepted into the Royal Military College in Sandhurst, eventually leading to his successful military career.