"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, June 4, 2021

Jenny, Lady Randolph Churchill

This c. 1900 charcoal portrait of Jeanette Jerome Churchill, Lady Randolph Churchill, by John Singer Sargent, appeared in an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. 
Brooklyn-born Jeanette Jerome was the daughter of an American financier. In 1874, she joined the British aristocracy through her marriage to Lord Randolph Churchill, son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough. Throughout the 1880s, she proved an invaluable asset to her husband's political career, essentially serving as his campaign manager and helping to establish the Primrose League, which boosted the Conservative party. Although vehemently opposed to women's suffrage, she paved the way for women's acceptance in the political sphere. Following her husband's death in 1895, Lady Randolph turned her attention to writing. She founded the Anglo-Saxon Review in 1899 and later published a memoir, a collection of articles, and two plays. She also provided advice and assistance to her son, future Prime Minister Winston Churchill (whose portrait hangs nearby). He described her as “an ardent ally, furthering my plans and guarding my interests with all her influence and boundless energy.” -- National Portrait Gallery

John S. Sargent

The Sargent portrait became the frontispiece of Lady Churchill's 1908 memoir, The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill.  

This youthful autographed photo of Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill belongs to the Royal Collection Trust.

Although the tale has been discredited, Jennie Churchill has been said to have invented the Manhattan Cocktail in 1874 to celebrate of the election of Samuel J. Tilden as governor of New York.

In 1895 Lady Churchill appeared in the Washington Times modeling a cycling costume of her own design. “She is gaining the name of "First CycliĆ©nne" of England and France. Her speed upon the wheel, her grace, her new inventions and discoveries to aid cycling women who wheel for health and pleasure are attracting attention across the entire continent. ” -- The Washington Morning Times, Sept. 29, 1895.

Lady Randolph Churchill, in Model Winter Cycling Suit of Her Own Design.

The article remarks that, in 1895, “...her years must be on the other side of forty. Never the less, she is now at this minute one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her great skill upon the wheel shows her to be as young in action as in looks.” 1895 was year Lord Randolph Churchill died and She became engaged to George Cornwallis-West.

In 1897, Lady Randolph Churchill went to the Devonshire Fancy Dress Ball, as the Byzantine Empress Theodora. The Devonshire Ball was a celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Between 1899 and 1901 Lady Randolph Churchill edited The Anglo-Saxon Review, with help from her son Winston. In 1899 the Waterbury (Connecticut) Evening Democrat ran an article entitled “Lady Randolph Churchill in Her Workshop” which featured this picture of “Lady Randolph Churchill in Her Working Dress:”

In 1899 the Boer War broke out and Lady Randolph Churchill took on the project of organizing and fund raising in support of an American hospital ship, the Maine, to care for the wounded in South Africa. She travelled with the Ship to South Africa where a 4.7 in Naval Gun was name after her.

Gun at Chieveley Camp Named After Lady Randolph Churchill

Here, Lady Randolph Churchill is seen on the Hospital Ship Maine, in Durban, with her recently wounded son John Churchill. 

Lady Randolph Churchill and Her Son, Mr. John Churchill,
on Board the American Hospital-Ship Maine.

Lady Randolph Churchill became Mrs. George Cornwallis-West in 1900. 

This photo of a mature Mrs. G.C. West (Lady Randolph Churchill) published by the Bain News Service between ca. 1910 and ca. 1915, belongs to the Library of Congress.

The Washington Evening Star published the photo above on February 20, 1916, attributing it to Charles L. Ritzmann. The caption read:
LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL saw Jennie Jerome at a ball at Delmonico's in '74. Thus started the vogue for international marriages. Out of a rather indeterminate Englishman the twenty-year-old miss from Rochester made an M.P. before the end of the honeymoon. As a widow, Lady Churchill electrified her friends by marrying a boy of twenty-six, and eleven years later by divorcing him. "Wherever she sits is head of the table" is what they say of "Lady Randy" for her wit is as great as her beauty.
On the 1st of June 1918, she married Montegu Porch. Porch thereby became Winston Churchill's step father although he was 3 years younger than the future Prime Minister.

The story of Lady Randolph Churchill's death in 1921 is well told by Celia Lee:
In May 1921, she went to spend the weekend with a friend, Frances, Lady Horner at Mells Manor, Somerset. She heard the dinner gong and fearing she might be late, rushed down the stairs and tripped and fell and broke her ankle. A local doctor set it, and Jennie returned home to London in an ambulance. A nurse cared for her but gangrene set in, and a London surgeon amputated her leg. Jennie was very brave, and told him to ‘be sure and cut high enough’. Convalescing at home, she suffered a sudden haemorrhage on the morning of ... 29th June. She slipped into unconsciousness from which she never awoke. Winston and Jack and other family members and friends remained by her bedside as she slipped away.
The Night Edition of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger for June 29 carried this photo.

Dies After Fall
Lady Randolph Churchill Formerly Miss Jennie Jerome, of New York, who died in London today. At the time of her death she was the wife of Montagu Porch. She recently had her right foot amputated following a fall down stairs.

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