Lord Randolph Churchill and Miss Jennie Jerome met during the racing season in 1873 on the Isle of Wight–one of the great social events of the British summer season. The Cowes Week regatta began in 1826 and is the longest-running regatta in the world.
Winston Churchill described the time that his parents met in his book My Early Life: ‘She was at that time widely known in New York, Paris and London Society as one of the most beautiful girls of the day. Lord Randolph Churchill fell in love with her at first sight, and in a few months, they were man and wife.’
They had a relatively short courtship and decided to marry when she accepted his proposal not long after having met. They married on the 15th of April 1874.
Lord Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill was born in 1849, the second son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. Miss Jennie Jerome was several years younger than her husband, born in 1854 and was the second of the four daughters of Leonard and Clara Jerome of New York.
Winston Churchill was born several months prematurely in 1874 and he was the oldest of two boys. He was very close to his brother Jack and adored both of his parents. He grew up in a classically Victorian fashion so was mostly away at boarding school during his childhood.
Winston treasured his mother and said of her once that, ‘My mother made the same brilliant impression upon my childhood’s eye. She shone for me like the Evening Star. I loved her dearly—but at a distance.’
Lord Randolph died at a young 45 years of age. Winston always felt that he too would die early and so he was said to be ‘A man in a hurry’ as he felt that he had so much to do in a short span of time. He undertook a biography of his father and the two-volume work, Lord Randolph Churchill, was first published in 1906. Winston lived on to his 90th year and interestingly he died on the same day of the year as his father, the 24th of January exactly 70 years apart.
Photo Credit: Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill, Churchill Papers, CHAR 28/41/46. The Churchill Archives Centre.