Friday, April 04, 2008

The Churchill Series - Apr. 4, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Reader’s Note: Previous posts dealing with John(Jack) Strange Spencer Churchill (1880-1947) and his relationship with his only brother and sibling, Winston S. Churchill (1874-1965), are here, here, here, and here.

On Aug. 8, 1908, Jack Churchill married Lady Gwendeline Bertie, whom Winston knew and liked. Later that day, Winston wrote to Clementine Hozier, to whom he would propose in a few days and marry a month later:

I have just come back from throwing an old slipper into Jack’s departing motor-car. It was a very pretty wedding. No swarms of London fly-catchers. No one came who did not really care & the only spectators were tenants & countryfolk. Only children for bridesmaids & Yeomanry with crossed swords for pomp.

The bride looked lovely & her father & mother were sad indeed to lose her. But the triumphant Jack bore her off amid showers of rice & pursuing cheers – let us pray – to happiness & honour.
Jack and Goonie (as she was always called) were, much like Winston and Clementine: intelligent, generous, witty and deeply in love.

Clementine and Goonie quickly became fast friends. They discussed details of their children’s development and their husbands’ careers. They shared opinions concerning art, music, social issues, and affairs of state. In later years they traveled together to such places as Venice, Florence, Rome, Paris and the South of France.

Besides delighting in each others company, the two couples often cared for each others children.

For a time during WW I while Winston served on the Western front and Jack served in the Eastern Mediterranean and later on the Western front, Clementine and her children moved in with Goonie and her three children.

During the early 1920s, with Winston’s career at a low point, the families vacationed together. This time it wasn’t as enjoyable as in the past. Churchill was not himself. Goonie realized he was depressed.

One afternoon Goonie, a talented amateur painter, told Winston that painting might lessen his depression. She was just about to paint. Why didn’t he grab a brush. She had extra canvas. She’d show him a few things, and he could be on his way.

And off he went until the very last years of his life.

Right up until Goonie’s illness and death in 1941, Winston and Clementine counted on Jack and Goonie (nicknamed “the Jagoons”) for generous love that included a quality rare at any time, and vital to a statesman: discretion.

The Jagoons never let them down. Candid when speaking to Winston and Clementine, they were expert at protecting Winston and Clementine’s private lives and unguarded comments.

In Monday’s post, I’ll conclude this series with a sketch of Jack’s later years and some thoughts on his achievements, including his contributions to Winston and Clementine’s lives.

I hope you all have a very nice weekend.


Winston’s letter describing Jack and Goonie’s wedding can be found on pgs. 12-13 of Speaking for Themselves: The personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Mary Soames, Editor). I relied on that work for other material in this post. I also made use of Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life and Richard Hough’s Winston and Clementine: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills.