February 5, 2015

Lord Randolph becomes gravely ill

Winston Churchill later wrote, “in the spring of 1894 it became clear to us all that my father was gravely ill,” but when he said farewell as his parents embarked upon a world tour in June he was still unaware of just how grave it was. During the summer he began a stream of correspondence which totalled thirty letters before they returned.

While Lord Randolph rested in Bar Harbor, Maine, he wrote to his son to remind him that he was committed to enter the 60th Rifles infantry regiment and that he should forget about his wish for the 4th Hussars. Winston’s heart and goal, however, remained on the cavalry regiment.

Lord and Lady Randolph headed west across Canada after a dispute with the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway over the costs of a private railway car. ‘A Canadian is not a generous American, wrote Lady Randolph.’

Because of Lord Randolph’s deteriorating health, they stopped at the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. Sitting on the terrace Lady Randolph wrote her sister that “…it is the finest scenery in the Rockies and is certainly beautiful. I am surrounded by enormous mountains – and a cascade just below me falling into a pale green river winding away as far as the eyes can reach.”

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Her enjoyment of this idyllic setting was marred by Lord Randolph’s moods. “He is very kind and considerate when he feels well – but absolutely impossible when he gets excited – and as he gets like that 20 times a day – you may imagine my life is not a very easy one.”

Winston and Jack were in the care of their grandmother, the Duchess of Marlborough, who was encouraging Winston’s entry into “good society.” He was a challenge to her, a fact she frequently mentioned to his parents…he is affectionate and pleasant but you know he is mercurial” and “…there is nobody but me to keep him in order and you know he requires checking sometimes.”

During an August visit to Switzerland Winston received his term marks from Sandhurst. Although he continued to do well, his marks had dropped a little, to which he attributed “the fact that the papers did not suit me quite as well as last time – being rather apart from the notes from which I worked.”

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