Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | June 1, 2017

What Would Winston Churchill Do? (Chapter 19)

MIRACULOUS APPEARANCE AT BLENHEIM PALACE

 

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Today we have come to recognize that no other man than Winston Churchill had a deeper abiding respect for the power of Democracy and its exercise through the Parliamentary procedure of the British House of Commons.

Indeed it was Winston Churchill who observed parliamentary procedure with care, but this did not prevent him from employing his talent for occasionally heaping a measure of abuse and ridicule to his public enemies and to his political opponents, and often while doing this, he managed to whip the Chamber into such an uproar, that the proceedings had to be fully stopped; since the MPs erupted in a giant ruckus and melee, with insults and accusations hurled back and forth across the aisle. Such was the hearty mirth & merriment, along with the occasional blows rained, that the Speaker of the House had to rise-up and threaten the rowdy parliamentarians with the Speakers’ mallet, in order to regain and potentially maintain some semblance of order in the presence of Churchill’s ongoing repertoire of verbal fusillades and biting commentary.

Following one of these hubbubs in 1947, after one of Winston’s well prepared & carefully orchestrated parliamentary scuffles — several letters appeared in the Daily Telegraph deploring the fact that Churchill was not accorded the deference of the Elder Statesman he so duly deserved…

Winston read these accounts with interest, and later shyly remarked that the writers understood very little of this man’s temperament — for if the day ever came when he failed to draw either the fire, or the ire, of the other side, he shall consider his usefulness in Parliament at an end, and will retire to his beloved ChartWell to further his building projects, to write his unfinished books, and finally paint the landscapes he loved.

As a matter of fact Churchill would never give up the House of Commons, for this gave his life a strong sense of purpose, and his daily provocations were often such carefully planned and coordinated intellectual and rhetorical traps, that Labour MPs were instructed by their “Whips” to not interrupt Winston during a debate, so that he will not have the opportunity of getting the better of them, and thus turn them into objects of scorn and ridicule, in front of the public hanging from his mouth in the galleries, the other MPs, and the journalists, who were all attending the House of Commons proceedings wherever Churchill was expected to speak.

So after careful and studied consideration, it would appear that the secret of Winston Churchill’s parliamentary oratorial mastery, was his ability to change the mood of the House at will, and shift the attention of all, always beckoning men at his constant beck, and his carefully calibrated call. And although Churchill could provoke an angry storm at will, he could also turn the storm into roars of laughter by a sudden shaft of wit, and through his use of the light of reason. But we must remember that he always reverted to his favorite image of the sunlit uplands, for the people of Great Britain and the World, hoping to imbue a note of Optimism in all of his speeches for the benefit of his listeners as well as the readers of the papers on the morrow…

Winston’s humor was not the cold, polished variety, of the snobs, or the cynical aristocrats. Indeed Winston’s humor, smacked much more of the humour heard in the Music Halls, in the Circus, and was always laden with comic, impish, even schoolboy jokes, which few
people can resist. As an example in 1939 when he was serving as First Lord of the Admiralty — he spoke with relish about how a destroyer had dropped a depth charge way out at sea, and instead of hitting a submarine and getting an oil slick on top of the sea, some bits of an old wreckage had come to the surface. “And would you believe it” he added with a grin, “there was a door bobbing around with my initials on it! I wanted to recount this important occurrence in a speech, but Mr Chamberlain cut it out.”

He added with a twinkle: “Chamberlain thinks my humor is questionable.”

On another occasion, near the end of the war, when he was reminiscing about his career and the fact that he had changed his Party twice, I remember him startling his luncheon guests by proclaiming solemnly: ‘Anyone can rat but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to “rerat.”

In the House of Commons his humour often lies in the emphasis and hesitation of his voice. Sometimes he treats the assembly to an act which borders on pantomime.

A few years ago when a Labour Minister rose to speak Mr Churchill suddenly began feeling in his pockets with an air of consternation, then looking down towards his feet. The eyes of the members left tfie speaker and began to follow his puzzling movements, and soon even the people in the Galleries were craning in his direction…
Suddenly with an elaborate start he apologized to the Minister: “I was just looking for my jujube” he explained innocently.

An example of his ability to turn an awkward situation into a humorous one was illustrated recently over the controversy about American and British naval commands. When Churchill was Leader of the Opposition he had attacked the Labour Government hotly for having consented to an American Admiral as Commander of the Atlantic, insisting that the British should have the Atlantic and the Americans the Mediterranean.
When, however, he lost the arguments about the Atlantic he dismissed the reasons he had advanced about the advantages of an American in the Mediterranean and insisted that the Mediterranean must remain under British control. The Socialists could not resist baiting him about his change of mind.

In order to force him into a corner, one of them asked him to state categorically whether or not his views were the same now as they had been twelve months previously.

“My views” he began . . . “Change” interjected a Socialist. “My views” he continued placidly, “are subject to a harmonious process which keeps them in relation to the current movements of events.”

Even the Labour benches could not refrain from laughter.

 

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Time of course did mellow Winston Churchill and along the way he lost his restlessness while his greatness increased and thus he also softened the antagonism of his opponents. Yet he never forgot that as a young man, and for many years during his days in exile in the ‘wilderness” he was the only leading parliamentarian who was far from popular in all circles of government and intelligentsia and even amongst his colleagues in the party he served.

And in that way, Trump is a bit like him today, because both men are romantics at heart. Scratch enough and deep down you shall find the boy that seeks approval from his otherwise occupied and faraway distant parents. Indeed it was part of Winston’s romanticism from his earliest days, that he believed he had been put upon earth to fulfil some great purpose and to save his people. Of course this pre-sentiment led him into many disastrous blunders, for he was not merely ambitious as other men are, but openly and impatiently in search of Fame. As a result he gave the impression of seizing issues indiscriminately in order to project himself into the limelight.

No man in public life seemed to have a greater facility for veering from the role of the statesman to that of the politician, than Winston Churchill. That s until today, that Donald Trump has surpassed this admittedly high bar…

Indeed, as recently as 1945 Churchill gave a striking example of this dual capacity, by opening the election campaign with the sensational warning that Socialism would mean ‘a Nazi state’ and ‘a Gestapo. And just as late as yesterday President Donald Trump reverted to his Twitter to criticize Hillary Clinton for her playing the “blame-game” with all and sundry but never crediting him with a qualified win and accepting her failure and dismal loss.

But in Winston’s day, people were shocked because they remembered the many tributes he had paid to Atlee, Morrison, Bevin and other Socialist leaders when they were serving in his wartime coalition Government only a few weeks before, Churchill turned on them so wildly in order to collect votes. Some folks thought this was considered un-English…

But these people forgot that everything goes in Love & War.

Of course one could not help recalling the lines H. G. Wells who once wrote: “There are times when the evil spirit comes upon him and I think of him as a very intractable, a very mischievous, dangerous little boy, a knee-worthy litde boy.” And this would equally apply to Donald Trump and to Winston Churchill as well as to many Great Men who romance the Public Admiration and want to keep it that way…

Somebody else had this gem of wisdom: “Only thinking of him in that way, can I go on liking him.”

Winston Churchill’s egotism and impetuosity filled the public with a deep distrust, which proved almost a fatal stumbling block to him for nearly four decades, because people became convinced that he was less interested in a cause for its merits, than as a vehicle for his own quite personal ambitions; and also for the fact that he changed his party twice and was seen as always seeking personal advantage. This did not help to dispel this impression of jingoism for Churchill, but at least seasoned him for being the ultimate lone wolf leader the likes of which the world had not seen for quite a while. And now we have Trump to trump this image too…

Same as they do today for President Trump — back in the day Winston’s opponents branded him as a cynic and an opportunist, while his colleagues, disconcerted by the fact that he found it difficult to serve as a member of a team, tried to sidestep him. Yet his basic instinct was always to jockey ahead of all others, to place himself at the helm, and to reach out for the reins, and that made them to openly refer to him as ‘a troublemaker.’

Churchill never got accustomed to this title of “troublemaker” and certainly never accepted the perceived “unpopularity” since he was so loved by all who knew his great and gracious soul. His magnanimity of spirit was so extra large that he held malice for nobody, and even his detractors could count on a few good words coming at them from his own mouth when they were down at the bit… Still Winston was genuinely hurt and astonished by the animosity he aroused, for he was always so absorbed by his projects, his various causes, and his plans to save the world, that he gave very little thought to the complexities of human nature, or to the necessity of avoiding stepping on people’s toes, and trying to not act like a rampant bull inside the China shop.

Indeed he v=never walked on eggshells, because it was always the battle of ideas that interested him, and not the battle of people and personality conflicts. He was above all the pettiness and the drama, so much that as a result his legendary lack of reactions to the efforts of all others to get a rise out of him — failed. This Salomon-like coolness and his Buddhist impassioned attitude, further enraged his fellow human beings who invariably were hoping for a “rise” from Churchill, and thus they hurled upon him heaps of insults and hate. Of course this came as a complete surprise to Churchill who once said that people around him were far too aggressive and prone to unnecessary violence. Still regardless of all the surrounding drama, Winston Churchill himself was sometimes moody and preoccupied, at other times tactless and aggressive, so much so, that he frequently wounded sensibilities without even knowing that he had done so.

Once he cried out mournfully: ‘I have never joined an intrigue. Everything that I have got I have fought for. And yet I have been more hated than anybody!’

 

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These protests came from the heart, for Churchill himself is remarkably free from malice. His lack of interest in the human element eliminates all pettiness from his nature, and his Sudden, unexpected, emotional surges of generosity have disarmed more than one opponent. Once when Ernest Bevin was Foreign Minister he paid Churchill a heartfelt tribute in the House, and the latter was so moved he could not keep back the tears. On more than one occasion during the 1945-51 Parliament, when Mr Atlee was Prime Minister, Churchill entered the smoking-room, sometimes after a particularly acrimonious debate, saw ‘Clement Atlee’ sitting at a table, promptly joined him and congratulated him on his speech.

Members also remember how in 1951, when his most formidable critic, Mr Aneurin
Bevan, opened the Defence Debate, he sat attentively in his place admiring the brilliance of the speech. Then Mr Bevan began to liken some of his methods to those of the Nazis. Churchill put up his hand in protest “I had nothing to do with the Nazis he beamed. Do not spoil a good speech now.”

Once, when Churchill visited his old school, Harrow — the boys asked him who he thought was the greatest man who had ever lived?

‘Julius Caesar’ he replied, ‘because he was the most magnanimous of all the conquerors.’

Wilfrid Scawen Blunt describes his aquaintance of Churchill in this way:
“‘I first met Winston Churchill in the beginning of 1938, when his political career was at one of its lowest ebbs. He was not a member of the Government for although his colleagues recognized his ability they were deeply suspicious of his ‘unreliability’ and his ‘exhibitionism.’

‘The trouble with Winston,’ people said, ‘is that you never know what he will do next.’ But despite his exclusion from power, he was still the most colourful and controversial figure in English political life. People just sat in the gallery of the House of Commons for hours, and watched the Chamber crowd for hours, in order to just hear him speak.

In the distance he looked extraordinarily old-fashioned in his black coat, his winged collar and bowtie, and even his rolling prose suggested a more leisurely and cultivated century. But what he had to say was not of the past; when he leaned forward to warn his colleagues of the dangers of Nazi Germany he became the incarnation of a pugnacious and perennial John Bull. You felt the imagination of the House stir with the brilliance of
his words, but unfortunately the magic ended with his eloquence. When you went into the tea-room half an hour later you heard people chattering about what he had said with an alarming light-heartedness.’

Churchill spent most of his time at his country house, Chartwell in Kent, and one Sunday his son went there with the journalist Virginia Crowley for lunch and she reported it thus: “I remember being surprised by his round pink face. I had not expected such a formidable man to have such a cherubic appearance.”

“Later I heard that a woman had once told him that her baby looked like him, to which he replied firmly: ‘All babies look like me.’ I was also surprised by the fact that even in
private conversation his phrases were as rounded and polished as when he is speaking in the House. He delighted in the use of such Victorian expressions as ‘I rejoice’, ‘I am greatly distressed’ and ‘I venture to say’, which were emphasized by the impediment in his speech that prevented him from pronouncing distinctly the letter V.”

“During lunch the conversation centred on world affairs and Mr Churchill talked with the brilliance I had expected but I later learned that I was lucky, for often he is absorbed with his own thoughts and makes no attempt at conversation. Small talk does not interest him; it is a question of silence or a monologue, or a discussion about important pivotal matters, and nothing in between. On this day, however, he expressed his fear that England would not only refuse to show her hand until it was too late to avoid war, but also too late to win: “Mr Chamberlain can’t seem to understand that we live in a very wicked world.”

He went on to say: “English people want to be left alone, and I daresay a great many other people want to be left alone too. But the world is like a tired old horse plodding down a long road. Every time it strays off and tries to graze peacefully in some nice green pasture, along comes a new master to flog it a bit further along.”

The journalist who visited the ChartWell household for lunch before the Second World War, continues the story by saying: After lunch I was taken upstairs to see his large, high-ceilinged, oak-beamed study. Churchill showed me several stacks of manuscript of the history of the English-speaking people which he was then writing and he said: “I doubt if I shall finish it before the war comes.”

“And if I do, the part the English-speaking people will play will be so decisive, I will have to add several more volumes.”

He paused: “And if it is not decisive; no more histories will be written for many years.”

“One had an impression of restlessness, pounding energy, and a prodigious capacity for work. In the course of the afternoon I was shown the goldfish pond (fish are one of Winston Churchill’s hobbies), the swimming pool and the cottages, all of which he had built with his own hands. I was also shown another cottage that he had turned into a studio and which was filled with pictures he had painted. In 1951 Sir John Rothenstein, the Director of the Tate Gallery, and one of the foremost art critics in England, paid him the compliment of saying: ‘Had the fairies stuck a paint brush into his hands, instead of a pen into one and a sword into the other, had he learnt while still a boy to draw and to paint, and had he dedicated an entire laborious lifetime to art, Winston Churchill would have been able to express himself, instead of one small facet He would have painted big pictures.'”

Churchill, however, regarded painting as a recreation, not as hard work. In 1949 he commented to Rothenstein, ‘If it weren’t for painting I couldn’t live; I couldn’t bear the strain of things.’” [My Diaries: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt] & [Hansard: 15 February, 1951]

Although Winston Churchill has a reputation for enjoying luxury, few men have devoted their lives more completely to intellectual pursuits. He has never moved in social circles; idle conversation or aristocratic companionship has never had an appeal for him. Throughout his life his closest friends have all been men from humble backgrounds who have made their own way to the top; Lloyd George, ‘F. E.’ Smith, ‘Prof Lindemann and Brendan Bracken. It was indeed Churchill who recommended the last two, Lord Cherwell and Lord Bracken, for peerages.

Churchill at his maturity often attended official functions, but he rarely could be persuaded to spend a weekend away from home. He was devoted to his wife, and idolized by his children, and is very much the master of the household.

The one thing he always insisted upon was his need for silence when he was writing or painting, and his basic comforts when his ideas were to be discussed around the dinner table, or during a country walk, or in his study, or in the the library, or smoking and drinking amongst friends in the drawing rooms. He always had numerous and friendly staff, but often times he escaped everybody’s attentions and left them all in a lurch. If he could help it, he always tried to travel without a valet, such as the occasion permits. We know that he was unafraid to place himself in harm’s way and yet when he was a famous person he had to have some security, but often times he ditched his ‘minders’ and traveled alone as best he could.

Of course we know of his lonely marches as an escapee and a “wanted man” “Dead or Alive” in South Africa, after his escape towards freedom from the concentration camp for the captured British soldiers, and his solo train ride hidden under sacks of coal…

And we also know a little about his lonely journeys through Germany before the war and about his fact finding missions, when he traveled alone amidst the enemies and behaved as a proper Spy would… It is impossible to think that Winston could pass surreptitiously as a quiet tourist or even as a disinterested local but somehow he pulled it off.

 

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Yet a more apocryphal story is the one that describes how just before the second world war, Winston Churchill was traveling by himself all over pretending to be gadding about Europe, but in reality using his critical eyes to assess the situation, and once he arrived at Maxine Elliott’s villa in the South of France all by himself, and rather disarmingly and innocently said to his hostess with a broad grin: ‘My dear Maxine, you have no idea how easy it is to travel without a servant. I came here all the way from London alone, and it was quite simple.’

‘Winston, how brave of you,’ replied Miss Elliott, having no idea of the extent of his “alone” travels through the whole of Europe by trains, airplanes, and automobiles. He loved traveling because back in his school days, Winston was raised as any young boy of classic English aristocratic upbringing and was always shunting around various train destinations going to distant holidays, various boarding schools, and foreign countries, all by himself.

But he always loved returning to the Blenheim palace which is one of the great houses of England, since it was built nearly two hundred and fifty years ago with money voted by Parliament as a princely home for John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, whose military genius saved Europe from the domination and the tyranny of the authoritarian French Emperor Louis XIV.

From that time to this day, the palace has been occupied by the dukes of Marlborough and in 1950 its present owner announced that on certain days of the week the Great Hall and the West Wing would be open to the public. Since then thousands of sightseers have strolled across the rolling green parklands and wandered through the house inspecting the priceless tapestries and murals, the wonderful carved ceilings, the gold and silver
work, the china and the furniture wrought in the days of Queen Anne.
Many of these tourists write their impressions in a ‘Suggestions Book’ in the chapel, and it is amusing to notice that whereas the English visitors usually comment on the beauty of the treasures, many of the Americans remark on what a privilege it has been to see ‘the home of Mr Winston Churchill.’

Blenheim palace, of course, has never been Winston Churchill’s ‘home. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the third son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough, and lived in the palace from the age of eight until he married. The estate eventually passed to his eldest brother, and then in turn to his nephew, and is now in the possession of Winston Churchill’s second cousin, the tenth Duke.

Strictly speaking Winston arrived in the world as the poor relation of a great ducal family. Nevertheless from the very first he asserted himself and with a fine disregard for propriety he managed to be born at Blenheim, on the day and time of the St Andrews festive ball nonetheless.

The circumstances of his birth were unusual. His mother, a beautiful, vivacious young bride, was by her accounts, seven months with child. She loved gaiety and against the advice of her doctors insisted on attending the St Andrew’s Ball, held at Blenheim on the night of the 30th of November. In the middle of the evening she was rushed from the ballroom to the cloakroom where, amidst a setting of silk hats, velvet capes and feather boas, she gave birth to Winston. This story was told by Sir Shane Leslie, who heard it from his mother, Lady Leslie, Lady Randolph Winston Churchill’s sister…

This fact has caused the owner of Blenheim a certain amount of embarrassment. For although Winston’s birthplace was once the bedroom of the first Duke’s chaplain, Dean Jones, it is more suitable as a cloakroom than a boudoir. It is on the ground floor, small and plain, overlooking a sunless well. It has been fitted with a modest bed and a few pieces of furniture, and when the tourists file through one always sees looks of
surprise, and hears whispered comments on the disappointing lack of regality. The present Duke has criticized Winston’s lack of showmanship in failing to arrive in the Yellow Room, or some other suite, which could be shown off to his manor’s best advantage.

 

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Winston’s birth was announced by “The Times” in a single line: ‘On the 30th of November at Blenheim Palace, the Lady Randolph Churchill, delivered prematurely, a son.’

The happy event caused excitement among many members of the Churchill family who interpreted the circumstances of Winston’s birth at St Andrew’s celebratory memorial day, as an omen that one day this young ruddy faced and plump baby, would succeed to the Marlborough title. Although this prediction did not come true, the accident of his birth had a profound effect on his character and outlook. It aroused in him a passionate interest in Blenheim palace and its history, and a veneration for tradition and continuity which developed into a fierce family pride. The two heroes of his youth, about whom he later wrote biographies, were men whose blood he assumed flowed in his own veins too; the first Duke of Marlborough, and that brilliant, erratic Victorian statesman, his own family’s father.

The fact that both of these men had lived in Blenheim palace where Winston had so unexpectedly “intruded” did not make him dream of inheriting the Marlborough title or the palace riches, but of being the true heir to the military genius existing in the Victor of the battle of Blenheim, the founding title holder Duke of Marlborough, the father of his lineage, and the builder of the Blenheim palace, where Winston also had been born into. And as the latest Churchill to arrive on the scene — he somehow felt that he had a special obligation and a special mission to attain; thus he found a strong purpose for his Life early on.

Actually, the first Churchill about whom anything much is known was the son of a lawyer and the grandson of a blacksmith. He was born in 1620 and grew up in the county of Dorset; like his descendant of today he was a soldier, a writer, and a member of Parliament, and his name was Winston. He was a passionate supporter of Charles the First, and in the Civil War took part in the fighting at Lansdowne House and Roundway Down, where he was wounded.

When the Parliamentarians triumphed he was a ruined man and spent thirteen years bringing up a large family under the poverty-stricken roof of his mother-in-law, Lady Drake, a sister of the Duke of Buckingham. Nevertheless he occupied himself in doggedly writing a long and laborious book entitled Divi Britannia in which he traced from ‘the year of the world 855 downward the Divine Right of Kings, insisting that the monarch should have the power to levy taxes without consulting Parliament, an idea which, even in those days, caused some astonishment. When the Restoration came and Charles II ascended the throne Winston’s fortunes took a turn for the better. He was awarded a knighthood and allowed to place one of his daughters at Court. Whether he considered this due recompense is not known, for he had despairingly emblazoned on his coat-of-arms the motto, ‘Faithful but Unfortunate’.

Lord Macaulay refers to Sir Churchill in his History of England, as a poor Cavalier Baronet who haunted Whitehall and made himself ridiculous by publishing a dull and affected folio, long forgotten, in praise of monarchy and monarchs. Nevertheless, Sir Winston produced three remarkable children. One was Arabella, who became the mistress of James the Second and bore him a son, the Duke of Berwick, who was one of the great generals of Louis XIV, another was a George Churchill who rose to be an admiral in the British Navy, the third was John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, who proved himself one of the greatest soldiers of all time.

It is not surprising that the Churchill of today should have been thrilled by the story of the Duke, for there is no more fabulous character in English history.

In 1688 England embarked on a war which soon involved all the civilized countries of the world and lasted, with one brief period of peace, for a quarter of a century. This war was not only fought to defend the Protestant faith but to prevent Louis XIV from bringing all Europe under his control, thus destroying the independence of England.

It was as perilous a struggle as the war against Hitler, and for ten campaigns stretching over the years, John Churchill led the armies of Europe. ‘He never fought a battle which he did not win nor besieged a fortress which he did not take’. . . . ‘Nothing like this can be seen in military annals.’ Thus wrote the present day Churchill: ‘Until the advent of Napoleon, no commander wielded such widespread power in Europe.’

‘Upon his person centred the union of nearly twenty confederate states.’ ‘He held the Grand Alliance together no less by his diplomacy than by his victories.’ ‘He rode into action with the combinations of three-quarters of Europe in his hand. His comprehension of the war extended to all theaters of battle, and his authority alone secured design, and concerted action.’ . . . ‘He was for six years not only the Commander-in-Chief of the Allies, but, though a subject, virtually Master of England.’

The Duke of Marlborough has been described by his contemporaries as ‘cold and proud and ‘the handsomest man in Europe.’ ‘His powerful position invited bitter attack, and for years the Tories blackened his name while the Whigs only defended him with indifference.’ ‘He was accused of avarice, immorality, corruption and even treachery; and long after he died — scurrilous stories were repeated by famous writers; which for many years prevented his countrymen from according him his just due.’ ‘Twice he was dismissed from his offices, once by King William who believed that he was intriguing against him, and once by Queen Anne who listened to tales of corruption, but both times he was later reinstated.’ ‘Through all his vicissitudes he had the support of his beautiful, dynamic wife, Sarah. The passionate feelings of these two through nearly fifty years of married life constitute one of the great love stories of history.’ ‘When Sarah was widowed at the age of sixty-two, the wealthy Duke of Somerset proposed to her, and she made her famous reply: ‘If I were young and handsome as I was, instead of old and faded as I am, and you could lay the empire at my feet, you should never share the heat and hand that once belonged to John, Duke of Marlborough.’

 

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After Marlborough’s victory at Blenheim in 1704, Queen Anne made him a gift of fifteen hundred acres at Woodstock, a few miles from the city of Oxford, and Parliament approved the sum of 24,000 for the building of a house. It was arranged that the quit-rent of the palace would be ‘one standard, or colours, with fleur-de-luces painted thereupon’,
presented at Windsor Castle every August on the anniversary of the Battle of Blenheim. This custom is still observed today, and when Winston Churchill wrote his brilliant life of Marlborough he paid his forbear an added tribute by carefully dating the foreword of each volume, August the 13th.

When Marlborough died he left no son and the title passed through his daughter to his grandson whose family name was Spencer. In 1817 the Marlborough family, received permission to add “Churchill” to their name, and since that time members of the family have styled themselves Spencer-Churchill, or the other way around.

For a century and a half the Dukes of Marlborough and their Churchill kinfolk, had led surprisingly uneventful lives. They passed their days as undistinguished members of the landed gentry occupying themselves with the traditional duties of the agricultural aristocracy.

Not until 1874 did the pulse of Blenheim quicken with excitement, as once more it felt adventure in the air, because that was the year that Lord Randolph Churchill, a younger son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough, stood as a candidate for Woodstock and was elected to Parliament. And that was also the year that he brought his American bride to Blenheim palace in Oxfordshire to show her the countryside and his original home.

Jenny Jerome Churchill, describes the adventure as follows: “As we passed through the entrance archway and the lovely scenery burst upon me,” she wrote, “Randolph said with pardonable pride, ‘This is the finest view in England.’

“Looking at the lake, the bridge, the miles of magnificent park studded with old
oaks . . . and the huge stately palace, I confess I felt awed…”

“But my American pride forbade the admission.”

 

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To be continued…


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