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Home   Kent   News   Article

Churchill's ancestry revealed up close

23 November 2012

Randolph Churchill with a pair of duelling pistols belonging to Churchill’s 17th century ancestor John, 1st Duke of Marlborough, builder of Blenheim Palace at the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, Chartwell

Speeches We Shall Fight on the Beaches and Never Was so Much Owed by So Many to So Few made Winston Churchill a British icon.

As an inspirational Prime Minister he led the Allies to victory during the Second World War and a new exhibition at his former Kent home is focusing on the Anglo-American ancestry which made him such a remarkable man.

In The Blood is the first-ever temporary exhibition at Chartwell, near Westerham, and looks at the two branches of Churchill’s family – the Jeromes of New York and the Marlboroughs of Blenheim.

A happy Winston Churchill during his visit to Deal

Visitors can find out about American grandmother Clarissa, who is thought to have had Iroquois Indian blood. The battlefield heroics of Churchill’s ancestor John, 1st Duke of Marlborough, are also told.

Of the 50 objects on show, half have never been on public display before, taking visitors behind the scenes of Churchill’s childhood to reveal his touching relationship with his beloved nanny, as well as his complex relationships with his mother and father, Lord and Lady Randolph.

Winston’s great-grandson, Randolph Churchill, has loaned many personal items for the exhibition.

Miniature of Lady Churchill, Winston's mother, set with pearls at the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, Chartwell

He said: “I am delighted to have been able to loan a number of family objects for display at Chartwell this winter.

“This exhibition shines a light on Winston’s parents and his forefathers who were so important in giving him the backbone he had in the dark days of 1940. Indeed, he later wrote of that time: ‘I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial’.”

British historian Professor Sir David Cannadine said: “It is a timely innovation at Chartwell to begin holding and hosting exhibitions which help us to understand more fully the extraordinary range and richness of Churchill’s life. His Anglo-American ancestry was very important to him personally, and became very important to him politically. In the Blood helps us understand how and why this was so.”

Winston Churchill's silver christening cup at the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, Chartwell

Exhibition highlights

:: A pair of duelling pistols and Garter Star belonging to Churchill’s 17th century ancestor John, 1st Duke of Marlborough, builder of Blenheim Palace.

:: A charcoal drawing of Churchill’s glamorous Brooklyn-born mother Jennie Jerome by society artist John Singer Sargent.

:: Diamond, ruby and sapphire rings given by Churchill’s father to his mother which have been reunited especially for this exhibition.

:: A little-known portrait of Churchill’s grandmother Clarissa Jerome (nee Hall.)

:: Portraits of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Marlborough.

:: Locks of children’s hair taken from Churchill and his brother Jack along with a photograph of their beloved nanny.

:: Notes made by Churchill’s father Lord Randolph for the 1895 budget.

:: Winston Churchill’s silver christening cup.

Miniature of Lord Randoph Churchill (Winston's father) at the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, Chartwell

Churchill's father

Winston’s relationship with his father, Lord Randolph, was a difficult one and he once remarked: “a boy deprived of his father’s care often develops, if he escapes the perils of youth, an independence and vigour of thought which may restore in after life the heavy loss of early days”.

Lord Randolph was the fifth child of the 7th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and had a stellar early career in politics becoming Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He played a key role in the development of Tory democracy. He was an intense figure who suffered from the same moods of black despair that would occasionally dog his son. He died aged just 46.

Duelling pistols, Garter Star and chain mail purse belonging to John, 1st Duke of Marlborough at the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, Chartwell

John, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722)

Winston Churchill’s paternal ancestors rose from obscurity to prominence in the British aristocracy in the 17th century because of the qualities of John Churchill.

He was a key figure in the Glorious Revolution that secured the English throne for the Protestant cause and was recognised for his military genius by being made 1st Duke of Marlborough in 1702.

His ebullient wife Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, was a favourite of Queen Anne’s and closely involved in the construction of Blenheim Palace, the Marlborough family seat.

His Garter Star and duelling pistols are on display along with a portrait of him which hung in his descendant Winston’s bedroom at Chartwell.

Diamond, ruby and sapphire rings given by Churchill's father to his wife which have been reunited especially for the In the Blood exhibition at Churchill's former home, ChartwellThe rings

Winston’s father Lord Randolph gave his wife three rings (a diamond, a diamond and sapphire and a ruby and diamond) during their marriage.

Later in life Lady Randolph kept the diamond ring and gave the other two to her daughters-in-law, one of whom was Clementine, wife of Winston and the other to the wife of her son Jack.

The rings have been loaned by the Churchill family and are reunited here for the first time in decades at the exhibition.

In The Blood runs from 11am to 4pm everyday, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, until the end of February. Tickets £6.50, including entry to the studio, which is home to the largest single collection of Churchill’s paintings and to Chartwell’s gardens. The house itself is closed and will reopen in March. Call 01732 868381. Chartwell, a National Trust property, is between Crockham Hill and Westerham.

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