Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Churchill Series - Feb.11, 2009

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

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

Neglected by their parents, Winston and Jack received the care and love their parents owed them from their nanny, Mrs. Ann Everest, whom the Churchills first employed when Winston was born. The boys reciprocated Everest’s love.

That they would each love Everest is understandable. What’s extraordinary is that they developed in childhood feelings for each other of deep affection, admiration, concern, and devotion that would last their lifetimes.

There were so many factors that could have helped lead the brothers to an envious rivalry. Jack displaced Winston as the only object of Everest’s love and attention. Family and friends often let the boys know Jack was “good,” “really a dear,” while Winnie was “troublesome” and “a worry.” When Churchill’s father, Lord Randolph, spoke or wrote to Winston, he often held Jack up as an example of what Winston should be, usually using harsh, even brutal, language.

An act of Winston’s at the time of Mrs. Everest death on July 3, 1893 reveals his concern for Jack, then a thirteen year old school boy at Harrow.

When Churchill heard Everest was ill, he rushed to her bedside in London. Realizing her condition was serious, he arranged at his expense for a noted physician to attend her and engaged a nurse. But Everest died within a day of his arrival.

Common practice at the time called for Churchill to send Jack news of Everest’s death via telegram. There was also the matter of Churchill having interrupted his military training to go to Everest. He was falling behind each day he was away. He needed to return to his post.

Nevertheless, at a time of great personal sorrow, Churchill was mindful of Jack’s feelings. So he took the train to Harrow and spared Jack the shock of learning the news from a telegram. In doing so, Churchill was also making sure there would be someone at Harrow who understood and shared Jack’s grief.

At the time of Everest’s death Churchill was 18.

In tomorrow’s post, Churchill leaves for South Africa to report and fight in the Boer War. Jack joins him there. The brothers literally fight side by side and narrowly escape death, although Jack is wounded.
For this post I’ve drawn from
Speaking for Themselves: The personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Mary Soames, Editor), Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Life, Richard Hough’s Winston and Clementine: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills, and John Keegan’s Winston Churchill.