Fair Britain, beware!
American women come
To charm trousers off.
Today on Royal Mistress Week, we have the fabulous and scandalous Jennie Jerome, mother of Winston Churchill. (Poor Winnie inherited his good looks from his father.)
Jennie was born in Brooklyn in 1854, the middle of three daughters and a descendent of one of George Washington’s lieutenants. Before sailing to Europe to go husband hunting, she did a stint as a magazine editor.
Then, at a 1873 regatta at the Isle of Wight… Romance! Or at least, opportunity. The future Edward VII introduced her to Lord Randolph Churchill, an aristocratic politician on the make, and he popped the question just three days later. Then they had to wait until April 1874 to tie the knot, because their families wanted to argue about money.
Winston arrived a scant seven months after the wedding, in a coat room at Blenheim Palace. The story was that Winston was born prematurely due to Jennie ‘taking a fall’, but he was a damned big and robust premie if so. Her response to inquiries: “Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it.” John followed six years later.
But her boys weren’t particularly interesting to either parent while they were still boys, leaving their care up to nannies and boarding schools.
Jennie wasn’t faithful to Lord Randolph. She had good reason for this – he couldn’t do his duty by her because he was riddled with syphilis. And yep, she was one of Edward VII’s numerous mistresses. (Did this bother Queen Alexandra, you might wonder? No, because she knew she was the prettiest. Still, oddly, she liked hanging out with Jennie.)
The syphilis got Lord Randolph in 1895, after he managed to ruin his political legacy and just as Winston reached adulthood. Randolph ignored him to the end, but Jennie became buds with him, using the contacts made during her affairs to help him out. (She had done the same for his father.)
This gave her as good a reason as any to ramp up being a particularly popular party animal. A second and third marriage happened, the former to a man 26 days older than her firstborn (which ended in divorce), and the latter to a man three years younger than that firstborn. She further occupied herself with chartering a hospital ship during the Boer War, raising relief funds during World War I, and writing her memoirs.
The legend died in a particularly ridiculous way. In 1921, she fell down the stairs while wearing high heels and broke her ankle. Then gangrene set in and her leg had to be amputated. As a result, she haemorrhaged and died.
Death was stupid before penicillin.