Randolph Churchill

Randolph Churchill

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Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer Churchill, seventh Duke of Marlborough (1822–1883), and his wife, Lady Frances Anne Churchill (1822–1899), the daughter of Charles William Vane, was born on 12th February 1849. (1)

John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, had led the English armies to victory on the continent against the French during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). In the course of the campaign he had looted large amounts of money and at the end of it had been rewarded, by a grateful Parliament with Blenheim Palace and a substantial endowment. However, by the time Randolph was born the family fortunes were greatly reduced." (2)

Churchill was sent to preparatory school at Cheam, where he displayed an interest in history. At Eton College (1863–5) his record was unremarkable, but he became friends with Arthur Balfour and Earl of Rosebery, who were to have an important influence on his political career. He initially failed to get to Oxford University and had to resort to private lessons with an experienced tutor. In 1867 he entered university and read jurisprudence and modern history at Merton College. A member of the Bullingdon Club he developed a reputation for becoming involved in drunken brawls. (3)

In 1873 Churchill met, at a ball at Cowes, a young American, Jennie Jerome, the daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy New York financier. "Randolph and Jennie fell in love and became secretly engaged, but it took them six months to persuade their parents to allow them to marry. At this time, it was virtually unprecedented for the son of a leading aristocrat to marry an American, but Churchill was only the younger son of a poor duke, and when Leonard Jerome agreed to settle £50,000 on the couple, the duke agreed to the marriage." (4)

Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome were married at the British embassy in Paris on 15th April 1874. Randolph Churchill shared the politics of his parents and in 1874, in return for his father's consent to marry, Churchill agreed to stand at the general election as the Conservative Party candidate for the borough of Woodstock, where his father was the principal landowner. It had less than 1,000 electors and he won the seat by obtaining only 569 votes. (5)

Randolph Churchill's maiden speech in the House of Commons on 22nd May, 1874, was widely praised by leading Conservative Party politicians. Benjamin Disraeli was so impressed that he immediately wrote a letter to Queen Victoria about Churchill's speech: "the House was surprised, and then captivated, by his energy and natural flow and his impressive manner." (6)

Sir Henry Irving, the famous actor, was also taken by this young politician: "Lord Randolph made a profound impression on me. As soon as I realised that he was not posing I said to myself: This is a great man, too; unconsciously he thinks that even Shakespeare needs his approval! He makes himself instinctively the measure of all things and of all men and doesn't trouble himself about the opinions or estimates of others." (7)

Winston Churchill was born in Blenheim Palace, on 30th November, 1874, just seven and a half months after his parents were married. Clive Ponting, the author of Winston Churchill (1994) has pointed out: "Winston Churchill was born into the small, immensely influential and wealthy circle that still dominated English politics and society. For the whole of his life he remained an aristocrat at heart, deeply devoted to the interests of his family and drawing the majority of his friends and social acquaintances from the elite. From 1876 to 1880 he was brought up surrounded by servants amongst the splendors of the British ascendancy in Ireland." (8)

Frank Harris was told by Louis John Jennings that in January 1875, Randolph Churchill was diagnosed as suffering from syphilis. He went to see his doctor and explained: "I want you to examine me at once. I got drunk last night and woke up in bed with an appalling old prostitute. Please examine me and apply some disinfectant." The doctor could not find anything wrong with him and it was not until several days later that the first symptoms appeared. "Inwardly I raged that I should have been such a fool. I, who prided myself on my brains, I was going to do such great things in the world, to have caught syphilis!" (9)

Shane Leslie, the son of Jennie's sister Leonie, who said that Randolph's syphilis was contracted from a Blenheim housemaid shortly after Winston's birth. Once the disease was diagnosed, he could no longer sleep with his wife because syphilis was highly contagious and could be passed on to an unborn child. "The treatment of syphilis in those days was primitive, consisting of mercury and potassium iodine, and often ineffective. The disease went through three distinct stages, with periods of remission that made the victim think he was cured. In the second stage, sores appeared on the mouth, the groin became swollen, and there were pimples on the genitals. In the third and fatal stage, the mind became affected." (10)

Randolph Churchill became a friend of the George, Prince of Wales, who was already friendly with his elder brother, George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford. In 1875 Churchill criticized the Tory government's financial provision for the prince's visit to India in a letter which Benjamin Disraeli dismissed as an ill-informed Marlborough House manifesto. It is claimed by Roland Quinault this action destroyed Churchill's "rather rising reputation". (11)

While Prince George was in India his companion, Heneage Finch, 7th Earl of Aylesford, decided to divorce his wife and cite the Marquess of Blandford as co-respondent. To prevent a scandal, Randolph Churchill threatened to make public intimate letters which Prince George had written to Lady Aylesford some years before. Aylesford abandoned his divorce proceedings, but the establishment was appalled by what was considered to be an attempt to blackmail the Royal Family. "The Duke of Marlborough was virtually forced to accept the Lord Lieutenancy of Ireland (at a personal cost of £30,000 a year) and take Lord Randolph as his secretary in order to remove him from London society." (12)

On Disraeli's elevation to the House of Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876, Stafford Northcote became Leader of the Conservative party in the House of Commons. Northcote, who has serious health problems, was an ineffective leader. A group of Tory politicians, including Randolph Churchill, Arthur Balfour, Henry Drummond Wolff and John Eldon Gorst, were especial critical and became known as the "Fourth Party". This group "made a point of treating their leader with public mockery - Lord Randolph had a particularly irritating high pitched laugh which he used with much effect when Northcote spoke - and with private contempt which soon buzzed round the clubs." (13)

In the 1880 General Election Churchill opposed the repeal of the Union, but also favoured reform of the Irish land tenure laws in the interests of internal peace. Churchill denounced the compensation for disturbance clause in the Relief of Distress Bill proposed by Hugh Law, the Attorney General for Ireland: "It was the tone of vindictive animosity towards landlords which pervaded the speech from the beginning to the end. He should really have been astonished had it been made by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell); but, coming as it did from one of the most able and respectable members of the Irish Bar, he was filled with considerable dismay. It occurred to him that if that speech faithfully represented the views of the Government, the Bill was not merely a temporary measure for the relief of Irish distress, but it was something widely different - it was the commencement of a campaign against landlords; it was the first step in a social war; it was an attempt to raise the masses against the propertied classes." (14)

Charles Bradlaugh was a member of the Liberal Party and in the 1880 General Election he won the seat of Northampton. He was also the founder of the National Secular Society, an organisation opposed to Christian dogma. At this time the law required in the courts and oath from all witnesses. Bradlaugh saw this an opportunity to draw attention to the fact that "atheists were held to be incapable of taking a meaningful oath, and were therefore treated as outlaws." (15)

Bradlaugh argued that the 1869 Evidence Amendment Act gave him a right he asked for permission to affirm rather than take the oath of allegiance. The Speaker of the House of Commons refused this request and Bradlaugh was expelled from Parliament. William Gladstone supported Bradlaugh's right to affirm, but as he had upset a lot of people with his views on Christianity, the monarchy and birth control and when the issue was put before Parliament, MPs voted to support the Speaker's decision to expel him. (16)

Bradlaugh now mounted a national campaign in favour of atheists being allowed to sit in the House of Commons. Bradlaugh gained some support from some Nonconformists but he was strongly opposed by the Conservative Party and the leaders of the Anglican and Catholic clergy. When Bradlaugh attempted to take his seat in Parliament in June 1880, he was arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Bradlaugh received support from Benjamin Disraeli, who warned that Bradlaugh would become a martyr and it was decided to release him. (17)

Randolph Churchill saw this as an opportunity to attack the leaderships of both parties on the subject of Bradlaugh: "In this matter Churchill was motivated not just by partisan opportunism but also by religious belief and parental example. His opposition to Gladstone's 1883 Affirmation Bill recalled his father's opposition to the alteration of the parliamentary oath in 1857. Churchill's denunciation of Bradlaugh's republicanism helped him to restore his credit with the prince of Wales, and he tried to exploit the hostility of the Catholic Irish MPs to Bradlaugh's advocacy of birth control." (18)

26th April, 1881, Charles Bradlaugh was once again refused permission to affirm. William Gladstone promised to bring in legislation to enable Bradlaugh to do this, but this would take time. Bradlaugh was unwilling to wait and when he attempted to take his seat on 2nd August he was once forcibly removed from the House of Commons. Bradlaugh and his supporters organised a national petition and on 7th February, 1882, he presented a list of 241,970 signatures calling for him to be allowed to take his seat. However, when he tried to take the Parliamentary oath, he was once again removed from Parliament. (19)

Stafford Northcote the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, became very angry about the behaviour of Churchill and attempted to make him toe the official party line. Churchill replied that: "Members who sit below the gangway have always acted in the House of Commons with a very considerable degree of independence of the recognized and constituted chiefs of either party; nor can I (who owe nothing to anyone and depend upon no one) in any way or at any time depart from that well-established and highly respectable tradition." (20)

Churchill argued that Northcote should be replaced by Marquis of Salisbury. He questioned Northcote's leadership qualities and claimed that Salisbury was the only man capable of defeating and replacing William Gladstone. In an anonymous article in The Fortnightly Review, he argued that the leader of the Tory Party should be a member of the House of Lords, where he could influence government policy even when the party was in opposition. However, these constant attacks on Northcote backfired as Tory MPs rallied around to support him. (21)

The opposition of Churchill and the "Fourth Party" to Charles Bradlaugh did not prevent his eventual admission to parliament, but it did lead to the creation on 17th November 1883 of the Primrose League. Its main objectives were: (i) To Uphold and support God, Queen, and Country, and the Conservative cause; (ii) To provide an effective voice to represent the interests of our members and to bring the experience of the Leaders to bear on the conduct of public affairs for the common good; (iii) To encourage and help our members to improve their professional competence as leaders; (iv) To fight for free enterprise. "Churchill was the first member of the league and his mother and wife became prominent members of the ladies' branch. The league quickly became a major force in popular Conservatism and the largest voluntary political organization in late Victorian Britain." (22)

Randolph Churchill, sent his son, Winston, to an expensive preparatory school, St George's at Ascot, just before his eighth birthday. This was followed by a period in a boarding school in Brighton. He was considered to be a bright pupil with a phenomenal memory but he took little interest in subjects that did not stimulate him. It was claimed that he was "negligent, slovenly and perpetually late." He was very lonely and wrote to his mother: "I am wondering when you are coming to see me? I hope you are coming to see me soon... You must send someone to see me." (23)

Randolph Churchill considered that his son was not bright enough to go to Eton. Instead he was sent to Harrow School. He was good in English and History but struggled in Latin and Mathematics. His behaviour remained bad. At the end of his first term his housemaster reported to his mother: "I do not think... that he is in any way wilfully troublesome: but his forgetfulness, carelessness, unpunctuality, and irregularity in every way, have really been so serious... As far as ability goes he ought to be at the top of his form, whereas he is at the bottom. Yet I do not think he is idle; only his energy is fitful, and when he gets to his work it is generally too late for him to do it well." (24)

It has been claimed that Randolph Churchill had a difficult relationship with his son: "As Winston Churchill used to tell his own children, he never had more than five conversations with his father - or not conversations of any length; and he always had the feeling that he didn't quite measure up to expectations. He spent his youth in the certainty, relentlessly rubbed in by Randolph, that he must be less clever than his father. Randolph had been to Eton, whereas it was thought safer to send young Winston to Harrow - partly because of his health (the air of the hill being deemed better for his fragile lungs than the dank air by the Thames) but really because Harrow, in those days, was supposed to be less intellectually demanding." (25)

In 1883 Randolph Churchill called for a £10 million reduction in spending to be achieved by cuts in the army and the civil service. (26) During this period he became leader of the "Tory Democracy" movement. He defined this as merely popular support for the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Church of England - the traditional bulwarks of toryism. Churchill showed little interest in social questions and he did not advocate expensive welfare measures. Churchill took no interest in working-class housing, although it was a fashionable issue at the time. His popularity with the masses owed little to his direct interest in their welfare, but much to the aggressiveness of his platform speeches. His main target was Gladstone who he described as "the greatest living master of the art of personal advertisement". (27)

In May 1885 Churchill helped to orchestrate the defeat of Gladstone's Liberal government on a budget amendment opposing the increase in taxation and the absence of rate relief. Marquis of Salisbury became prime minister; Michael Hicks Beach was chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, while Stafford Northcote - held the largely nominal post of first lord of the Treasury. Churchill became secretary of state for India. The Conservative government was defeated on 26th January 1886. Although he won his seat in the subsequent General Election the Liberal Party returned to power. This caused Churchill financial problems who apparently remarked, "We're out of office, and they're economising on me." (28)

William Gladstone and the Liberals won the election with a majority of seventy-two over the Tories. However, the Irish Nationalists could cause problems because they won 86 seats. On 8th April 1886, Gladstone announced his plan for Irish Home Rule. Mary Gladstone Drew wrote: "The air tingled with excitement and emotion, and when he began his speech we wondered to see that it was really the same familiar face - familiar voice. For 3 hours and a half he spoke - the most quiet earnest pleading, explaining, analysing, showing a mastery of detail and a grip and grasp such as has never been surpassed. Not a sound was heard, not a cough even, only cheers breaking out here and there - a tremendous feat at his age... I think really the scheme goes further than people thought." (29)

The Home Rule Bill said that there should be a separate parliament for Ireland in Dublin and that there would be no Irish MPs in the House of Commons. The Irish Parliament would manage affairs inside Ireland, such as education, transport and agriculture. However, it would not be allowed to have a separate army or navy, nor would it be able to make separate treaties or trade agreements with foreign countries. (30)

Randolph Churchill advised Marquis of Salisbury to defend the Union by forming an alliance with the Spencer Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington and the other Liberals who opposed home rule. Churchill was the first prominent politician to advocate the creation of a "unionist party" - a coalition of Conservatives and unionist Liberals - which would maintain Britain's ties not only with Ireland but also with India and the empire. Churchill also decided to "play the Orange card" - to exploit the strong opposition of Ulster protestants to home rule.In a letter published in The Times, Churchill advocated enlightened unionism, but stated that if the Liberal government ignored the opposition to home rule, then "Ulster will fight, Ulster will be right". (31)

The Conservative Party opposed the measure. So did some members of the Liberal Party, led by Joseph Chamberlain, also disagreed with Gladstone's plan. Chamberlain main objection to Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was that as there would be no Irish MPs at Westminster, Britain and Ireland would drift apart. He added that this would be amounting to the start of the break-up of the British Empire. When a vote was taken, there were 313 MPs in favour, but 343 against. Of those voting against, 93 were Liberals. They became known as Liberal Unionists. (32)

William Gladstone responded to the vote by dissolving parliament rather than resign. During the 1886 General Election he had great difficultly leading a divided party. According to Colin Matthew: "So dedicated was Gladstone to the campaign that he agreed to break the habit of the previous forty years and cease his attempts to convert prostitutes, for fear, for the first time, of causing a scandal (Liberal agents had heard that the Unionists were monitoring Gladstone's nocturnal movements in London with a view to a press exposé)". (33) Churchill made an impassioned attack on Gladstone and his home-rule policy. He claimed that both the British constitution and the Liberal Party were being broken up merely "to gratify the ambition of an old man in a hurry". (34)

In the 1886 General Election the number of Liberal MPs fell from 333 in 1885 to 196, though no party gained an overall majority. William Gladstone resigned on 30th July. Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, once again became prime minister. Queen Victoria wrote him a letter where she said she always thought that his Irish policy was bound to fail and "that a period of silence from him on this issue would now be most welcome, as well as his clear patriotic duty." (35)

Salisbury formed a Conservative government and offered Churchill the leadership of the House of Commons. Churchill combined the leadership of the house with the post of chancellor of the exchequer and was thus second only to Salisbury in the ministerial hierarchy. It is claimed that Churchill acted as if he was the leader of the Conservative Party. (36) In a speech at Dartford, he warned Conservatives not to rest on their laurels since "Politics is not a science of the past; politics is a science of the future". He also declared that "The main principle and guiding motive of the Government in the future will be to maintain intact and unimpaired the union of the Unionist party'". (37)

Salisbury acknowledged Churchill's ability, but complained that he had a "wayward and headstrong disposition" and likened the cabinet to "an orchestra in which the first fiddle plays one tune and everybody else, including myself, wishes to play another" (38) When the journalist, Alfred Austin, alleged that Churchill wished to supplant the premier, Salisbury observed that "the qualities for which he is most conspicuous have not usually kept men for any length of time at the head of affairs". (39)

As chancellor of the exchequer Randolph Churchill was determined to be a reformer. His draft budget for 1887 proposed a radical overhaul of the tax system. "Churchill proposed to take 3d. off income tax, lower the duty on tea and tobacco, graduate the house and death duties, and double the government's rate support grant to local authorities. The scheme, though radical, was relatively kind to landowners and not socially redistributive." (40)

Churchill's priority as chancellor was to reduce the defence estimates below those of the last Liberal government. This was opposed by the secretary for war, William Henry Smith. The dispute came to focus on the £500,000 allocated for the fortification of ports and coaling stations. When Smith refused to give way, Churchill wrote to Salisbury, on 20th December 1886, stating his wish to resign from the government since he could not accept the defence estimates and did not expect support from the cabinet. (41) Churchill expected Salisbury to support him in this dispute. He was wrong and Salisbury, in his reply, supported Smith and accepted Churchill's resignation with "profound regret" (42)

Churchill then justified his resignation by linking his desire for economy with wider issues: "I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the empire, the universality of our commerce, the peaceful tendencies of our democratic electorate, and the hard times, the pressure of competition, and the high taxation now imposed … it is only the sacrifice of a chancellor of the exchequer upon the altar of thrift and economy which can rouse the people to take stock of their lives, their position and their future." (43)

After leaving office, he admitted that he was physically exhausted and immediately went on a long vacation to the Mediterranean to recuperate. He experienced alternating phases of mania and euphoria. He was brought back from holiday in Canada in a straight-jacket. He died at the age of forty-five on 24th January 1895. His neurologist diagnosed his illness as syphilis, though it has recently been argued that his symptoms could have been caused by a tumour on the brain." (44)

Winston Churchill decided to write a biography of his father. Churchill wrote to most of Lord Randolph's former colleagues in the Conservative Party and asked them for help with the book. Most of them refused as they were still angry by his recent defection to the Liberals. "Churchill chose to represent his father's career as a Greek tragedy. He portrays his father not as a man of ambition but as a man of principle who invented 'Tory Democracy' in the early 1880s... Lord Randolph's resignation is seen as a supreme act of self-sacrifice, undertaken for the cause of public economy and as a result of deep political differences between Lord Randolph and Lord Salisbury rather than personal incompatibility or clashing ambitions." (45)

John Charmley has argued convincingly that the book, Lord Randolph Churchill (1905) "established its author's reputation as an historian, but that was only half its work; the other half was to establish the suitability of its hero as a role-model for his son." (46) Lord Randolph is presented as the true heir of Benjamin Disraeli who had been destroyed by the reactionaries in the Tory Party. Wilfred Scawen Blunt wrote in his diary that Churchill was "playing precisely his father's game" and was now looking "to a leadership of the Liberal Party and an opportunity of full vengeance on those who caused his father's death." (47)

Lord Salisbury did not at once succeed to the full inheritance from Disraeli. The latter's death vacated the leadership in the House of Lords, but, as we saw earlier, when a party was in opposition and possessed no ex-Prime Minister still active in politics, it did not normally have a single leader for the party as a whole. The leader in the House of Commons was Sir Stafford Northcote, Chancellor of the Exchequer throughout Disraeli's administration. He had been elected at Disraeli's behest in 1876 when the Prime Minister took his earldom. The alternative candidate had been Gathorne Hardy, the Secretary of State for War. He was a tough debater and in many ways a stronger character, but Disraeli disapproved of his tendency to neglect the House in order to dine at home with his wife. Subsequently Disraeli regretted his decision to pass over him and on at least one occasion declared that he would not have selected Northcote if he had anticipated Gladstone's return to politics later that very year. He perceived Northcote's defects - a lack of vigour and an excessive respect for Gladstone whose private secretary he had in distant days once been. He would have liked to hand on both his own posts, i.e. the leadership of the whole party as well as the Lords, to Salisbury. Had he lived, he might have managed it...

Northcote was an ineffective leader, too "responsible", too courteous, too prosy - and it must be added too ill, for he had a grave affliction of the heart - to satisfy the more ardent Tories. The story of the way Lord Randolph Churchill undermined him is famous. He and the rest of the "Fourth Party" made a point of treating their leader with public mockery - Lord Randolph had a particularly irritating high pitched laugh which he used with much effect when Northcote spoke - and with private contempt which soon buzzed round the clubs. To his friends he described Northcote as "the Grand Old Woman", or alternatively as "the Goat". This was not for the reason which inspired people to give that soubriquet to Lloyd George - Sir Stafford's private life was impeccable - but because of the shape of his beard.

A word should be said about the Fourth party. It consisted of four clever frondeurs, Lord Randolph Churchill, Arthur Balfour, Sir Henry Drummond Wolff and J. E. Gorst. The first two need no introduction. Drummond Wolff, who was descended from Sir Robert Walpole on his mother's side, had been a diplomat and financier before entering parliament. He was more easy-going and older than the rest, being just on fifty. Not that any of them was as young as one tends to imagine. Lord Randolph, a younger son of the Duke of Marlborough and father of Winston Churchill, was thirty-one. Much of life was behind him when he first appeared as the very type of political jeunesse dorde. Arthur Balfour was a year older. Urbane, inscrutable, ironical, he remains a puzzle to posterity. He was Salisbury's nephew and he never quite entered into the spirit of the others.

It was with considerable regret he found himself unable, owing to the late hour at which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Hugh Law) spoke on Tuesday, to offer some reply to his speech. He would remark generally, with respect to that speech, that there was one thing in it which filled him with surprise, and it was the tone of vindictive animosity towards landlords which pervaded the speech from the beginning to the end. It occurred to him that if that speech faithfully represented the views of the Government, the Bill was not merely a temporary measure for the relief of Irish distress, but it was something widely different - it was the commencement of a campaign against landlords; it was the first step in a social war; it was an attempt to raise the masses against the propertied classes. And in connection with this view there was another feature 1641 in that speech which was most remarkable - that although there was going on at present an agitation of the most unmeasured nature on the Land Question, and although language was being used of a very singular kind at meetings which must have given the Attorney General for Ireland grave cause for anxiety and alarm, not a word, not a single syllable, not a hint, even, did the Attorney General give that could afford to the House a suspicion that he deprecated that agitation, or disapproved of that language. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman were to be judged by the promoters of that agitation from his speech, then those promoters had every right and reason to look on the Law Officers of the Crown in Ireland as their sympathizer, friend, and ally. He would leave the legal arguments with which his speech abounded to others who were more acquainted with the subtleties of lawyers than he was; but what the Attorney General said practically amounted to this: The landlords have had £1,250,000 from the State; how could they have the face to object to a measure for the relief of their tenantry? Amore ungenerous and misleading argument was never used in the House of Commons. What was the real position? At a most critical period of last year the late Government found themselves compelled to provide employment for the people in such a manner as to avoid the disasters which resulted from their employment upon public works in 1848. They sought the assistance of the Irish landlords, and offered them terms, which were not extravagantly in their favour, in order to secure the employment of the people and the development of the agricultural resources of the country. The landlords throughout the distressed districts came forward and accepted the terms of the Government; and thousands of people had been employed, and were being employed, by means of an outlay for which the landlords had rendered themselves liable. If the landlords had had any suspicion that what they had done would be turned against them in the way it had been by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the House must not suppose that a six-pence of the loan would have been taken up.

As Winston Churchill used to tell his own children, he never had more than five conversations with his father - or not conversations of any length; and he always had the feeling that he didn't quite measure up to expectations.

He spent his youth in the certainty, relentlessly rubbed in by Randolph, that he must be less clever than his father. Randolph had been to Eton, whereas it was thought safer to send young Winston to Harrow - partly because of his health (the air of the hill being deemed better for his fragile lungs than the dank air by the Thames) but really because Harrow, in those days, was supposed to be less intellectually demanding…

And what kind of lesson did Randolph offer his son, about how to get on in Parliament? He displayed a shocking disloyalty to the Tories, and set up a group called the `Fourth Party', whose mission was to bash Gladstone but also to wind up the Tory Party leadership, in the form of Sir Stafford Northcote.

Randolph and chums called him "the goat", and after a while the goat could take it no more, and wrote to Randolph, begging him not to be such a tosser. Randolph wrote back, with blissful condescension, saying: "Since I have been in parliament I have always acted on my own account, and I shall continue to do so."

There, too, is young Churchill's cue: and when he gets to Parliament in 1900 he begins by setting up his own group of rebellious young Tories - called the Hughligans, in honour of Hugh Cecil, one of their number - and razzes the Tory high command, with Randolphian brio and insolence.

It was Randolph who showed the first and programmatic disdain for the very idea of party loyalty. As his son later described it, his father's preferred strategic position was "looking down on the Front Benches on both sides and regarding all parties in the House of Commons with an impartiality which is quite sublime".

(1) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(2) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) pages 2-3

(3) Ted Morgan, Winston Churchill (1983) page 17

(4) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(5) Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life (1991) page 1

(6) Benjamin Disraeli, letter to Queen Victoria (22nd May, 1874)

(7) Sir Henry Irving, quoted by Frank Harris, My Life and Loves (1991) page 374

(8) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 3

(9) Frank Harris, My Life and Loves (1991) pages 483-484

(10) Ted Morgan, Winston Churchill (1983) page 23

(11) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(12) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 5

(13) Robert Blake, The Conservative Party from Peel to Churchill (1970) page 135

(14) Randolph Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (5th July, 1880)

(15) Edward Royle, Radical Politics 1790-1900 (1971) page 62

(16) Ian C. Bradley, The Optimists: Themes and Personalities in Victorian Liberalism (1980) page 98

(17) Walter L. Arnstein, The Bradlaugh Case: a Study in late Victorian Opinion and Politics (1965) pages 34-35

(18) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(19) Roy Jenkins, Gladstone (1995) pages 450-452

(20) Randolph Churchill, letter to Stafford Northcote (9th March, 1883)

(21) Randolph Churchill, The Fortnightly Review (May 1883)

(22) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(23) Winston Churchill, letter to Jennie Churchill (February 1884)

(24) H. O. D. Davidson, letter to Jennie Churchill (12th July, 1888)

(25) Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor (2014) pages 45-46

(26) Randolph Churchill, letter to Stafford Northcote (9th March, 1883)

(27) Randolph Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (25th January, 1884)

(28) Roy Jenkins, Churchill (2001) page 9

(29) Mary Gladstone Drew, diary entry (8th April, 1886)

(30) E. G. Power, Gladstone and Irish Home Rule (1983) page 33

(31) The Times (8th May 1886)

(32) Paul Adelman, Gladstone, Disraeli and Later Victorian Politics (1970) page 61

(33) Colin Matthew, William Ewart Gladstone : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(34) Winston Churchill, Lord Randolph Churchill (1905) page 860

(35) Roy Jenkins, Gladstone (1995) page 564

(36) St Stephen's Review (9th October 1886)

(37) The Times (4th October, 1886)

(38) Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury to Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, 1st Earl of Cranbrook (26th November, 1886)

(39) Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury to Alfred Austin (30th November 1886)

(40) Roland Quinault, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2010)

(41) Randolph Churchill, letter to Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury (20th December, 1886)

(42) Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury, letter to Randolph Churchill (22nd December, 1886)

(43) Randolph Churchill, letter to Robert Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury (22nd December, 1886)

(44) Paul Addison, Winston Churchill : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(45) Clive Ponting, Winston Churchill (1994) page 55

(46) John Charmley, Churchill: The End of Glory (1993) page 36

(47) Wilfred Scawen Blunt, My Diaries: 1888-1914 (1932) page 518

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A new documentary has shed light on the life of the great wartime prime minister. But who was Winston's mother and what was her background?

How American 'Dollar Princesses' Invaded British High Society

When Jennie Jerome and Lord Randolph Churchill announced their engagement in 1874, his parents were horrified. The couple had only known one another for three days, and Jerome—the tattooed daughter of a philandering financier and a social climber—was an American socialite, not a British noblewoman. Appalled, the Churchills tried to block the match…until they did the math.

Jerome’s family might have humble origins, but they were outrageously wealthy. Lord Randolph’s parents were not, and Jerome’s father was willing to pay a dowry that equaled the equivalent of over $4.3 million dollars today. The marriage went forward with the grudging approval of Lord Randolph’s parents.

They could have no way of knowing that Jerome, who became Lady Randolph Churchill when she married in 1874, would be the mother of a future prime minister, Winston—or that by allowing their aristocratic son to barter his title for much-needed wealth, they had helped spark a trend.

Between the late 19th century and World War II, a flood of 𠇍ollar princesses” flocked to England looking for love. In return for a coveted title, they offered their much-needed wealth to an aristocracy desperate for cash. And along the way, they helped change British royalty forever—including the lives of the modern-day heirs to Britain’s throne.

Jerome was just one of hundreds of heiresses thought to have injected the਎quivalent of a billion pounds into the British economy. The exchange was worth it in their eyes they knew that marriages to people with titles like Lord, Viscount and Duke would improve their family’s fortunes back in the United States and solidify their position on the American social circuit.

Winston Churchill (right) with his mother and brother. (Credit: Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images)

The interest was reciprocal. By the late 19th century, the British nobility was down on its luck. Though they owned extensive lands and massive homes, the Gilded Age was tough on the aristocracy. Their lives were financed by their agricultural holdings, but when the United States began cultivating grain on its prairies, England, which had been a worldwide leader in grain production, suffered. As rural populations fell, so did theਏortunes of aristocrats.

This depression turned the landed gentry, which had once been the world’s wealthiest, into second-class citizens compared to America’s elite, who were becoming ever wealthier thanks to the United States’ rich natural resources. And since by default, the aristocracy didn’t work, all those newly cash-poor dukes and viscounts sat by as their fortunes fell even further.

Meanwhile, American socialites coveted what they saw as the social status of members of the British aristocracy and royalty. Many of the heiresses of the up-and-coming Gilded Age magnates were daughters of self-made men who didn’t have the social standing of longtime members of high society, and they had trouble gaining acceptance among well-heeled New Yorkers who shunned what they saw as “new money.” A title was seen as a shortcut to social acceptance, and plenty of British aristocrats were willing to trade their titles for cash.

If the marriages sound like cold, hard contractual negotiations, they were. And many of the women who went to England to seek love exchanged their home ties and their comfort for their new titles. Most American heiresses had grown up with modern conveniences. But �ter marriage, they found themselves chatelaines of houses where taking a bath involved a housemaid making five trips from the kitchen in the basement, carrying jugs of hot water to fill a hip bath,” author Daisy Goodwin writes in Newsweek. “The stately homes of England were all too often dark, dingy, and terribly cold.”

In response, these new wives began to remodel the homes they now inhabited𠅊nd often faced snide judgment for doing so. They also faced dismissal and sometimes full-blown ostracism for their non-aristocratic roots. The aristocracy mocked the 𠇍ollar princesses” for their social pretensions and turned up their noses at American culture. But back in the United States, that seemed like a small price to pay for a title and entree into a circle so exclusive, no American woman could ever be born into it.

The Duchess of Marlborough, born Consuelo Vanderbilt, 1911. (Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Their enterprising mothers, who helped broker the matches, weren’t their only allies: There was even a publication called Titled Americans that not only listed women who had snagged aristocratic titles, but still unmarried men, their titles, and their reputed fortunes. Armed with this information and introductions from wealthy friends, American girls descended on London every social season.

They succeeded: In 1895ਊlone, nine heiresses married European men with noble titles. Notable matches included that of railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt to the Duke of Marlborough and dry goods heiress Mary Leiter to Lord Curzon. “Though the British peerage has of late years yielded many titled husbands to American heiresses,”򠷬lared the San Francisco Call in 1904, “there is no danger of the supply running short.”

The trend only slowed once the newly rich women who had been shunned by American high society for so long began to be accepted. Now that the economy was all but controlled by wealthy men who had made their own fortunes, high society could hardly snub them or their daughters.

By then, the idea of the 𠇍ollar princess” had become so ubiquitous that it was part of a pop culture trope. And traces of the trend can be found even in the British royal family: In 1880, stock and railway heiress Frances Ellen Work married the future Baron Fermoy. Like many 𠇍ollar princess” matches, it was an unhappy one, and the couple divorced in 1891. A mere baron might sound far from the throne, but not really: Just over a century after Work traded her money to the aristocracy, her great-granddaughter Diana became the Princess of Wales.

Lord Randolph Churchill: Maladies Et Mort

It is impossible to say at this late date what killed Sir Winston Churchill’s father. But it is no longer possible to say that he died of syphilis.

The decade of the 1880s “saw the meteoric rise and catastrophic fall of the brilliant Lord Randolph Churchill.” 1 An intense personality of shining wit and piercing sarcasm propelled him to great political heights, but before he reached the pinnacle, his career was instantaneously extinguished when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Then the spark of life itself was snuffed out. His death at age 45, reportedly from syphilis, cast a pall over his early fame. Now that pall may be lifted. Lord Randolph Churchill’s main symptoms are much more consistent with a less titillating but far more logical diagnosis.

Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill, younger son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough, was born 13 February 1849. Like other young men of his time, he joined in the merry life of the Marlborough House set, where the tone was set by his friend the Prince of Wales. 2 In 1874 at age 25, he married Jennie, the beautiful second daughter of Leonard and Clara Jerome of New York. He was elected a Member of Parliament for Woodstock and embarked upon a tumultuous political career.

Not all of Randolph’s time was spent in the House of Commons. He took to the turf and traveled widely: as far afield as South Africa, from whence he returned in January 1892, sporting a beard. The next year he visited Russia and Germany to relax at spas with Jennie. Against their doctors’ advice, Lord and Lady Randolph made a world tour in 1894 which was cut short by his rapidly deteriorating health. He returned to England in late 1894, “as weak and helpless in mind and body as a little child,” according to his son and biographer. 3

Even as a young man, Randolph’s health had been unreliable. He was a heavy smoker, sufficiently so to “burn his tongue,” and friends and physicians advised him to quit smoking and moderate his drinking. He was a very hard worker, with a frenetic energy that Winston described as “of a temper that gallops till it falls.” 4 Periods of intense activity led to exhaustion, followed by periods of profound fatigue and melancholia.

Lord Randolph was seriously ill in 1890, with palpitations associated with exhaustion. His family physician, Dr. Robson Roose, prescribed belladonna, laudanum and digitalis. The following year, he experienced an episode of severe confusion, which suggests acute high blood pressure. Earlier, in 1882, he had had an extended illness which Lady Randolph’s diary refers to as tiredness and fevers. Later, in mid-1893, Dr. Roose told Jennie, who was distraught over her husband’s illness, that Randolph’s heart condition had, nonetheless, been cured. But around this time, Randolph began to have speaking difficulties which were associated with hearing and balance problems.

Over the next two years until his death in 1895, Lord Randolph complained of dizziness, palpitations, and intermittent numbness in his hands and feet. His speech became more slurred, and during one of his last parliamentary speeches, he hesitated on the text. His friend Lord Rosebery later recorded that “he was the chief mourner at his own protracted funeral, a public pageant of gloomy years.” 5 He eventually became quick-tempered and combative. Finally, he died in a coma, with pneumonia and, probably, kidney failure.

His biographers, including his son Winston, were divided on the nature of Lord Randolph’s medical problems and the cause of his death. They have generally attributed his deterioration and death to syphilis (Winston in conversation though not in print) and its late effects. Some have suggested other neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), chronic alcoholism or a brain tumor. 6

The dramatic deterioration in his health and the various descriptions of his behavior in his last three years might support a diagnosis of dementia paralytica in late or tertiary syphilis, which affects the brain and appears ten to twenty years after the primary infection. This would likely have affected Jennie and their two sons, Winston and Jack. But if a diagnosis of advanced syphilis is to be accepted, there must have been an initial infection.

There has been considerable speculation about when Randolph might have become”infected.” The most notorious account is by journalist Frank Harris in his 1924 autobiography, My Life and Loves, who recounts a story told by Louis Jennings, Randolph’s friend and political colleague, who had published Randolph’s 1880-1888 speeches. After a drunken party, Jennings said, fellow students put Randolph with an “old hag.” The next morning he woke, discovered his situation, threw money at the woman and fled. He was immediately treated by a local doctor with disinfectant. Eventually, “a little, round, very red pimple appeared…on his peccant member.” (This is not the description of a primary syphilis chancre, but of herpes.) A doctor supposedly treated him with mercury and warned him off alcohol. 7

Jennings’s story is questionable for several reasons. First, the chance of contracting syphilis in one sexual encounter is less than one percent. Also, Jennings, who was dead when Harris recounted the story, had an axe to grind: he had angrily deserted his friend when Randolph attacked the Tory party and several of its members in 1893. Jennings’s account as reported by Harris has never been corroborated. By 1924, Harris himself had fallen out with Winston Churchill, for whom he had been a literary agent. Harris seems to have had a preoccupation with syphilis, having made the same assertions concerning Oscar Wilde, which were incorrect, and Guy de Maupassant.

Dr. Claude Quetel sheds further light on Harris: “He with whom [de Maupassant] became friendly in 1880, and who also had a one-track mind, tells of Maupassant’s sexual vigor and boasting the strange thing is that he was prouder of his amorous exploits than of the stories he had written.” 8 Lord Randolph’s nephew, Shane Leslie, and Shane’s daughter Anita, both concluded that Harris’s “old hag” story was incredible, and offered their own scenarios. Shane Leslie alleged that Randolph was infected by a chamber maid at Blenheim Palace around the time of Winston’s birth. 9 He also asserts that Winston’s brother Jack was not fathered by Randolph, but by John Strange, later Lord Roden, who at that time was the same age as Jennie’s father-in-law, the Duke. There is no substantiation for this and pictures of Winston and Jack together belie the suggestion. 10

Anita Leslie theorizes that Randolph had a French mistress who had syphilis. 11 She infers this from complaints by Jennie to the Duchess of Marlborough about Randolph’s coldness toward her in 1886. But correspondence between Jennie and Randolph at that time begins “Dearest,” possibly indicative of a sudden reconciliation. Was this the year Randolph first became aware of a deterioration in his health? While it would be another five years before the appearance of severe symptoms, did his physician Dr. Roose now suspect that late syphilis was a real possibility, and suggest he abstain from physical intimacy with Jennie?

The spirochete responsible for syphilis was not to be discovered until 1905 and the definitive blood test was not available until a couple of years later. Since the initial and secondary manifestations of syphilis are highly contagious, Dr. Roose would have been mindful of the current medical practice, requiring him to determine if Jennie and the two boys were infected. A contemporary medical text states: “When the patient is a married man the health of his wife and children will form a guide in enabling us to arrive at a correct diagnosis.” 12 Roose would also have inquired into any history of secondary syphilitic features such as a rash over much of the body. There is no record of any such problems.

There is no indication that Lady Randolph or her sons were infected with syphilis. If it is accepted, as reported, that both boys were born prematurely, this was more likely to have been due to a weak opening to the womb than to the disease. If the boys were not born prematurely, that would cast even greater doubt on a diagnosis of syphilis. Neither son was born with the infections that resemble secondary syphilis, nor did they have late hereditary syphilis, commonest between the ages of 7 and 15, manifested by deafness, partial blindness and/or notched teeth. 13

There is likewise no evidence that Jennie’s subsequent husbands, or the many lovers she is alleged to have had, ever contracted syphilis. Although unlikely, this might have included the Prince of Wales, who wrote her after Lord Randolph’s death: “My dear Lady Randolph, the sad news reached me this morning that all is over…& I felt that for his and your sakes it was best so…There was a cloud in our friendship but I am glad to think that it is long been forgotten by both of us.” 14

In the late 19th century, there was a clear predisposition toward syphilis in clinical diagnosis. In 1889, Dr. William Gowers, a well-respected neurologist, emphasized this overdiagnosis of neurologic syphilis when he delivered the Lettsomian Lecture to the Medical Society of London. He chose as his topic “Syphilis and the Nervous System.” 15

In mid-1893, Dr. Roose conferred with Dr. Gowers’s colleague, Dr. Thomas Buzzard. By then, Lord Randolph was experiencing intermittent problems with speech, concentration, depression and more frequent outbursts of violent temper. Dr. Buzzard was an expert in managing neurosyphilis, or late syphilis of the brain. It was his opinion that 95 percent of his patients had the disease. 16

Dr. Roose’s and Buzzard’s preoccupation with dementia paralytica, sometimes referred to as “general paralysis” of the insane, as an explanation for Randolph’s illness is understandable. There was then no definitive blood test, no effective treatment, no sophisticated neurological testing, and no imaging techniques, such as CAT scans and MRIs. Untreated syphilis, particularly dementia paralytica, manifests itself in many ways, and may be confused with other diseases without careful diagnosis.

The 19th century preoccupation with syphilis was noted again later by Dr. F. M. R. Walshe, a mid-20th century neurologist, who said: “The belief that syphilis is the commonest single cause of organic nervous disease dies hard. It is a legacy from the text books of the end of the last century, in virtue of which syphilis of the nervous system occupies the place of honor, as though ‘by merit raised to that bad eminence,’ in most accounts of disease of the nervous system.” 17

It seems likely that Lord Randolph had been convinced by his doctors that he had a severe degenerative neurological condition, possibly syphilis, as early as 1886. But this is not clear because Dr. Roose uses the term “general paralysis” to refer to a condition caused by the disease, and to a condition caused by “exhaustion.” He once commented, “Chronic inflammation of the brain attacks persons of exhausted habits, brought on by excesses and irregular living. The patient has frequent headaches and gradual loss of health, and then gets a perversion of most of the senses, as of sight, taste, smell,etc., and in fact, all the symptoms of the incipient mania. The only treatment is to try and combat the various morbid symptoms as they arise and improve the general health in every way but, in two or three years, general paralysis is almost sure to occur.” 18 Here the term “general paralysis” is clearly associated with exhaustion–not syphilis.

Lady Randolph Churchill may have been apprised of her husband’s condition during a secret visit to his doctors in 1892, which provoked a fearful row. Winston may have learned from the doctors about the seriousness of his father’s illness in 1894. He wrote a distraught letter to his mother while her parents were on their world tour. But it is not certain whether he understood Randolph’s illness to be syphilis. 19

At the end, it was evident that Drs. Roose and Buzzard were convinced that Randolph had “general paralysis,” which many people have taken to be a code word for syphilis of the brain. Dr. Buzzard, in response to an inquiry from the Prince of Wales’ physician, explained in December 1894 that “Lord Randolph is affected with General Paralysis the early symptoms of which in the form of tremor of the tongue and slurring articulation of words were evident to me at an interview two years ago. In Lord R’s case the physical signs–tremor, faulty articulation, successive loss of power in various parts of the frame have been much more marked than the mental ones which have hitherto been of comparatively slight character, grandiose ideas however, not being absent at time & on some occasions violent of manner.” 20

Are there diagnoses other than syphilis that explain the reported changes in Randolph’s personality, the problems with speech, and the evidence of neurological and other deterioration? Could the changes simply have been the evidence of “exhaustion,” as may have been Dr. Roose’s notion? “At the present day ‘want of tone’ is the characteristic feature of disorders in general and in none is it more obvious than in those which peculiarly affect official and professional men working at high pressure. Excessive smoking, too much alcohol, tea, and coffee, often resorted to by overworked persons, are frequent causes of sleeplessness,” wrote Dr. Roose two years after his famous patient’s s death. 21 Lord Randolph’s personality appears to have been intense, and one psychiatrist has concluded that he was a manic depressive. Brilliant in many ways, Lord Randolph was also brisk and impatient. Much of his behavior during his last five years seems to be no more than an accentuation of his prior personality. 22

Lord Rosebery described Lord Randolph in comparable terms: “His wit, his sarcasm, his piercing personalities, his elaborate irony, and his effective delivery, gave astonishing popularity to his speeches. His slim, boyish figure, his mustache which had an emotion of its own, his round protruding eyes, gave a compound interest to his speeches and his conversation.” 23

Another friend, George Smalley, commented, “Lord Randolph had…an imperious temper, an intellectual disdain of natures from which intellects had been omitted, moods of black despair late in life, but all through life acted to win his battles without much thought of the cost–all these he had, and no one of them nor all of them broke or impaired the spell laid upon those about him.” 24 And A.L. Rowse, the Churchill historian and biographer, asserted, “Though a very quick and piercing judge of a situation, Lord Randolph Churchill’s judgment was not really reliable. He was self-willed and impulsive, above all impatient. If he had only had patience all the rest would have come into line. But he had the defect of an artistic temperament, what we in our day of psychological jargon diagnose as the manic depressive alternation–tremendous high spirits and racing energy on the upward bound, depression and discouragement on the down.” 25

It is necessary to say, however, that Lord Randolph’s uncontrollable rages were an embarrassment to him. In 1892, Winston inadvertently annoyed his father by firing a shotgun under his window his father lost his temper, then quickly made amends. “Understanding that I was distressed,” Winston wrote, “he took occasion to reassure me.” 26 There were other similar incidents, for which Lord Randolph was immediately apologetic.

Lord Randolph had always had a slight speech impediment, and as a youngster he had had hearing problems, so it is difficult to single out problems with his speech, once thought to be a clear and common symptom of syphilis in its late stage affecting the brain. In the same sense, the muddled thoughts, memory lapses and profound confusion, all features of syphilis’s paralytica dementia, were absent from Randolph’s writings until the end of 1894. He wrote more lengthily, and his script became shaky, but it was never unintelligible. Until the last, when he was in a coma, his thoughts expressed in writing were rational they include a cogent letter to Winston while on the world tour in August 1894. 27

In a letter to his mother on 8 October 1894, Lord Randolph describes how he cured the numbness in his hands and feet by putting them in hot water. 28 If he had been suffering from dementia, he would not have been able to write such a cohesive letter. A likely explanation for the longstanding problem with his circulation is his chain-smoking. Spasms in the arteries reduce circulation which causes numbness and pain due to lack of oxygen in the tissues.

His speech problems caused Randolph great frustration. “I know what I want to say but damn it, I can’t say it,” he told his friend Wilfrid Blunt in May 1894. 29 At several times he expressed similar anxiety over the difficulty of articulating his words. These fugue states, or “psychic seizures” are strongly suggestive of a variety of epilepsy found in the deep parts of the brain, close to the speech area. The progressive march of the disease process strongly suggests an expanding lesion or mass.

Consistent with his right handedness is the possibility that Lord Randolph developed a left side brain tumor, for which no surgery was available. This would also be consistent with the circulation problems in his hands, which in turn would be related to his intermittent heart failure and arterial spasms from nicotine in cigarettes. Even Dr. Buzzard might have agreed when he said “…intense pain in the head, when it is coupled with amaurosis (or prostration) is very suggestive of the presence of an intra-cranial tumor…If instead of atrophy of the discs we had found optic neuritis, this condition, when taken in connection with the intense severity of the pain in the head, would have gone far towards enabling us to pronounce a somewhat confident diagnosis of intra-cranial tumor.” 30

If Dr. Buzzard had been convinced that Lord Randolph Churchill had advanced syphilis, he would certainly have treated him with mercury and with potassium iodide, which he strongly espoused for all neurosyphilitic patients. 31 But Buzzard makes no mention of such treatments in any of his papers during Randolph’s illness–and, had Randolph taken these two, their toxic effects would have been evident.

Indeed, the only medications Lord Randolph received that can be documented were for pain (laudanum) and heart failure (belladonna and digitalis). Dr. Buzzard’s reference to “general paralysis” in Randolph’s case is not diagnostic of syphilis, although it suggests this was his eventual conclusion. While syphilis may have been a reasonable diagnosis in the absence of modern techniques, the patient’s temperament, combined with his main symptom of speech and articulation problems and absence of dementia, is more consistent with a tumor deep in the left side of his brain. It is not possible to be certain but it is more likely to be the proper diagnosis.

His father’s illness impressed Winston Churchill with a strong sense of impending mortality. He frequently remarked that he needed to accomplish his goals before his forties, and his resultant activity caused observers to refer to him as a “young man in a hurry.” Presumably he was happily surprised at his longevity, but he long accepted the common rumors about his father’s death. Late in life he told his private secretary, “you know my father died of locomotion ataxia, the child of syphilis.” 32

When did Churchill pick up this story? The likely time seems to be 1924, when Frank Harris’s book was published, precisely when Winston had left the Liberal Party and reverted to the Conservatives. The Tories were incensed and attempted to blacken his name, calling him a drunkard and saying that he was infected with syphilis. This same year, his 11-year-old nephew was confronted by a classmate at Summer Field Prep School, Oxford, who charged, “My daddy says all you Churchills have revolting diseases and are quite mad.” 33

Winston survived the Tory attacks and became Chancellor of the Exchequer, the greatest cabinet position his father had held. Now, his father’s reputation can also be vindicated.

Dr. Mather directs inspection and assessment of United States veterans health services, is a director of ICS/USA and a governor of the Churchill Center. The medical paper on this topic is projected to be published in the Journal of Medical Biography during 1997.


It is three years since Wylma Wayne and Celia Sandys challenged my original belief that Lord Randolph Churchill ever had syphilis. I was encouraged in my research by Peregrine Churchill and Sir Robert Rhodes James. Mark Weber secured several essential books to support my research and Linda Woodbury provided editorial aid. -JM

Winston Churchill: Randolph’s Son and Father

An entertaining new account of Churchill's life combines historical retelling and family soap opera.

Churchill & Son, by Josh Ireland (Dutton: 2021), 464 pages.

In its charming Englishness, the title of the new dual biography Churchill & Son has something of the flavor of a boutique law firm, a shoe repair shop, or, possibly, a novel by Charles Dickens, but in fact it serves as a potent reminder of a most striking fact: Winston Churchill, among the most robust, combative, and, frankly, masculine of 20th-century political figures, had, among his five children with his wife Clementine, just a single son, his second-born, Randolph.

For a man of the energy and temperament of Churchill, two or three or five sons would have seemed to better fit the bill: One can imagine a gaggle of Young Winstons bouncing off the walls at home, helping Winnie lay bricks or prepare speeches to Parliament. Instead, Randolph, as the lone male offspring, was called upon to serve as the solitary vessel for his father’s notions about fatherhood, manhood, and family ambitions. For father and son alike, it turned out to be a burden.

Such is the argument advanced in Josh Ireland’s robustly researched, eminently readable new book, which retells many of the signal events of Winston’s life, service, and exploits through the prism of his relationship with Randolph. “When Winston looked at Randolph, he knew that he had given him, or encouraged within him, the best elements of his own personality: kindness, originality, eccentricity, heedless bravery, and a flamboyant disregard for anybody else’s opinion,” writes Ireland, who quickly adds—and whose book amply demonstrates—that there were downsides to the Churchill inheritance, too. “He would also have seen colossal faults: arrogance, recklessness, an uncontrollable temper, and a perplexing weakness for self-sabotage.”

Seeking to trace the history of Churchill’s paternal preoccupation, Ireland revisits Winston’s own childhood of seeking to win favor with, or simply the attention of, his own father, Lord Randolph Churchill, whose dynamic manner and impressive C.V. (Leader of the House of Commons, etc.) masked a tactless parenting style. “Lord Randolph barely seemed to notice his son he did not even know how old he was,” Ireland writes. “When he did take time to speak to him, it was to upbraid him for his faults.”

Yet, as a boy, Churchill maintained a reverent attitude about his distant dad (“He bought a scrapbook and pasted into it the cartoons in which ‘Randy’ was depicted”), one that persisted in spite of so many dashed dreams: Ireland writes plaintively of 13-year-old Winston’s plans for a festive family Christmas being upended upon learning that his parents intend to tour Russia for a few months instead.

Even as a grown man, though, Churchill declined to partake in the modern temptation to blame his upbringing for every reversal or character flaw. To the contrary, Churchill came to feel something good and lasting could result from children being brushed-off or snubbed by their parents. “A boy deprived of a father’s care often develops, if he escapes the perils of youth, an independence and vigor of thought which may restore in after life the heavy loss of early days,” wrote Churchill, who, in 1906, would pen a properly admiring biography of his father.

Nonetheless Churchill adopted a different parenting strategy when it came to his own brood, particularly his son (and his father’s namesake), Randolph, who was born in 1911. “He was unusually determined to involve himself in day-to-day family life,” Ireland writes of Winston. “He kept a jealous watch on nursery life, and his letters are full of delight at his babies’ growth, and in noting their mannerisms.”

While Winston’s overly generous approach to childrearing was benign in and of itself, it seems to have instilled in his male heir a certain full-throated obnoxiousness. Simply put, Randolph, given a wide berth by his indulgent pop, gradually morphed into a little devil and then a larger devil. “Slapping him made no difference he even used to confess to crimes he had not committed so he could show that nothing they could do would affect him,” Ireland writes, referring to the futile efforts of nursery maids to corral the youngster.

History was repeating, or at least rhyming with, itself: Although Winston and his father, Lord Randolph, differed in their approaches to fatherhood, both produced sons who rewarded them with hero worship. Winston egged on Randolph’s verbal combativeness and instinct for argument. Is it any wonder that the lad found that school days at Eton couldn’t compare with dinner conversation at home among the likes of David Lloyd George and Max Beaverbrook?

It would be pleasing to say that this odd childhood—equal parts infantile (in Winston’s tolerance for Randolph’s bad behavior) and mature (in Winston’s welcoming Randolph into his sphere)—produced a man of great character and depth, but much of the book is taken up with accounts of Randolph’s severe limitations.

Randolph was rash with finances (“Spending money, spending lots of it, was an addiction Randolph could never shake off”), and flat-out hard to get along with, even with his beloved dad. His father could maintain civility with those with whom he disagreed (even on matters as consequential as Appeasement), but Randolph had no such inclination towards temperance. “Randolph either did not care or could not control himself,” Ireland writes. “Even more than Winston, he saw the world in black and white.” In 1939, Randolph married Pamela Digby, producing, to Winston’s glee, Winston S. Churchill: “Winston was so proud of this child who would carry on the family name that he would sometimes stand and watch as Pamela nursed him.” Even here, though, Randolph came up short: the marriage sputtered to an end, Pamela took up with Averill Harriman, and much family in-fighting commenced. “The impudence of youth had been succeeded by a deplorable cruelty,” Ireland writes of Randolph’s later years.

There were compensations: As with Joe Biden and his indefatigable, multi-decade pursuit of the presidency, Randolph was undeterred by several failed campaigns for Parliament, securing his own seat from 1940 to 1945. He served during World War II. Yet, by the time his father’s first term as Prime Minister concluded in 1945, the consensus was that the Churchill dynasty had exhausted itself. Winston, Ireland writes, “had become a figure so titanic, so glorious, that there was no need for the next generation to preserve his legacy.” This judgment is bolstered by the fact that, in the years before his death in 1968, Randolph, a working journalist whose greatest inheritance from his father was his writing ability, had commenced the most lasting endeavor of his life: naturally, memorializing Winston (who had died in 1965) by penning a biography. The gadabout had become a stickler: “As the chapters-in-progress were read to him, he checked and rechecked his facts,” Ireland writes.

You might call Churchill & Son an entrant in the “stage mother” genre of nonfiction—that is, if the “stage” was Western civilization and the “mother” was, well, Winston Churchill. Indeed, the book comes with all the cautionary tales of most accounts of stage parenting, implicitly warning against parents who expect too much of the next generation, who, more often than not, can’t quite deliver. In the end, then, this is a gloriously entertaining family soap opera set against the sweep of history.

Peter Tonguette writes regularly for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, and National Review.

Winston Churchill’s Brilliant but Troubled Son, Randolph

After World War II, Randolph Churchill, Winston’s only son, still believed his destiny was to become prime minister, and that the name Churchill alone would carry the day, regardless of the mounting evidence against his chances.

Many had predicted greatness for young Churchill a decade earlier, when he boldly displayed his gifts as a public speaker which seemed more impressive than his famous father. “He used all the colorful rhetoric and manners of Winston Churchill,” rhapsodized The New York Times about one of Randolph’s early speeches. “Except that he was more restrained in his speech than his impetuous father, the young Mr. Churchill showed conclusively he was a chip off the old block.”

Randolph shared these high expectations of himself. “I am not afraid to reveal . my two main ambitions,” Randolph declared in 1932. “I wish to make an immense fortune and to be Prime Minister.”

Despite his braggadocio and overt confidence, however, Randolph appeared tired and much older after the war. At age 34, his smooth blond hair had begun to thin and gray, and his overweight body was still recovering from his wartime injuries. Unlike with his father, the election in 1945 had left him without a seat in the House of Commons and suddenly looking for a job.

In the past, Randolph had relied on writing, particularly for newspapers, just as his father had used journalism to earn some cash and promote his views in between political posts. But Randolph, caught in the maelstrom of divorce and a shortage of funds, returned to another, easier way to make money. Near the end of 1946, he traveled to America to give lectures, hoping to repeat his successful speaking tour from the early 1930s.

Americans still tended to view Randolph as the heir apparent, the next Churchill to assume power, unlike many in Britain with less regard for him. “It was perhaps just as well that America existed for Randolph,” remarked his cousin Anita Leslie. “It was such a large country to jaunt around in giving lectures—and Randolph remained excellent on the platform if not in private life.”

On the lecture trail, Randolph kept himself amused at night by excessive drinking and boorish gestures to women. “Britishly drunk all the time, soliciting respectable women at luncheon parties, etc.,” author Evelyn Waugh (“Brideshead Revisited”) complained to his agent after meeting his friend Randolph in Hollywood.

Randolph’s penchant for rapid mood changes—a sudden, almost violent intensity in his speech, followed by a period of mildness seeking forgiveness—suggested problems beyond alcohol abuse. Only Kay Halle, who’d known him since his golden-haired youth, seemed to recognize a deeper cause in Randolph’s psyche.

To Halle, Randolph confided that “he could feel whenever an illogical tantrum was going to overwhelm him." She didn’t seem to consider this “illogical tantrum” a symptom of mental illness. Instead, Randolph described to Halle, “a physical sensation that arose from the earth” and left him feeling out of control.

“If I can stop it before it reaches my knees I will be all right,” Randolph explained to Halle, his longtime friend, “but once it gets above them a black fog envelops me and I just don’t care what I say.”

Randolph Churchill’s behavior displayed signs of bipolar disorder (then called manic depression) as defined in today’s medical literature: very elevated emotional highs with racing thoughts and talkative outbursts followed by remorseful “black fogs” and feelings of worthlessness irritable moods and little temper control impulsive decisions and spending sprees binge drinking and overeating compulsively seeking sex with many different partners and a false overestimation of self-importance.

In retrospect, Lady Juliet Townsend, Randolph’s goddaughter, said many of these symptoms were evident in his demeanor though never diagnosed professionally. “He certainly was a person who was very up and down,” she recalled in 2012, “and got more down than up as time went on.”

His contemporaries, including Waugh, dismissed these problems as part of Randolph’s eccentricity or buffoonery, without regard for a deeper cause. “Randolph’s friendships were not very close friendships because he was so wild—people didn’t like to get too close to him,” recalled Adrian Berry, grandson of newspaper baron Lord Camrose. “My uncle Freddie [Birkenhead] regarded Randolph in slightly comic terms, not a person whom he’d confide in.”

Neither Clementine nor Winston was much for psychological analysis, and none of their correspondence about Randolph’s behavior suggests it. Perhaps the nagging sense of a family link (that his son’s erratic nature too closely resembled that of his late father) was too uncomfortable for Winston to consider.

Even Halle seemed ill-equipped to deal adequately with Randolph’s raw admission. “Kay tried to train him to check this crazy creeping temper at the ankle stage,” Leslie described. “But it was no good.” Kay’s well-intentioned but amateur methods—as if his “crazy creeping temper” could be put on a leash—were no match for the “illogical tantrums” that continued to haunt his existence.

Across America, Randolph’s bad-boy antics were followed by gossip rather than political columnists. In December 1946, he was arrested for reckless driving after addressing a women’s club in Connecticut. Rather than hire a lawyer, he unwisely conducted his own defense. He argued that his 80-mile-an-hour speed along the Merritt Parkway wasn’t necessarily “reckless” because the highway was “one of the safest in the world.” The judge failed to see his logic and fined him 50 dollars.

Back in England, the verdict was even harsher. Both his parents, Winston and Clementine, could no longer hide their disappointment in him and his adolescent behavior. Randolph’s acts of genuine heroism during the war, his insightful advice as Winston’s eyes and ears in other nations, and the deaths of friends and colleagues in battle had somehow failed to mature him or season his judgment.

In his wake, all he seemed to leave behind were unpaid bills and a broken marriage, with a 6-year-old son who barely knew him. Unlike Winston at this same age, who spoke of life’s brevity after his father’s death, Randolph acted as if the party would never end.

Upon his son’s return to England, Winston let it be known he didn’t care to see him, an emotional wound Randolph could not bear. In February 1947, Randolph composed a heartfelt letter admitting his faults and acknowledging his father’s disappointment in him.

“As you know the only career in which I am seriously interested is politics,” he said. “While fully realizing that I have made my full share of mistakes I believe also that circumstances have not so far been propitious. But I am still young and fortune may yet come my way.”

Randolph conceded he should have become a lawyer, just as Winston suggested, but needed to work as a journalist to pay his debts. What he could not afford emotionally, though, was the estrangement of his father.

“Please don’t expect too much of me now,” Randolph beseeched. “Believe instead, I beg you, that I have no other ambition than to be ultimately judged an honorable and faithful son. No day passes but that you are constantly in my thoughts and I am grateful that you think so often of me. Give me your confidence and I shall not fail you.”

Churchill’s American Heritage

WHILE recently assembling my grandfather’s writings on America into a single volume entitled The Great Republic (reviewed in this issue. Ed.), I used it as the opportunity to research further my family’s American forebears.

Winston Churchill was half American by birth – a fact of which he was deeply proud. In his first address to a joint session of the United States Congress, on 26 December 1941, he teased the assembled Senators and Representatives with the mischievous suggestion, “If my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way ’round, I might have got here on my own!”

His mother, Jennie Jerome of Brooklyn, New York, later Lady Randolph Churchill, was a noted beauty of her day and Winston, as a young cavalry officer, shamelessly used all the influence she was able to bring to bear in his quest to see action in different parts of the globe from Cuba in 1895 and the North-West Frontier of India in 1897, to the Sudan in 1898 and South Africa in 1899. Through his maternal grandfather, Leonard Jerome, sometime proprietor and editor of The New York Times, he had at least two forebears who fought against the British in the American War of Independence: one great-grandfather, Samuel Jerome, served in the Berkshire County Militia while another, Major Libbeus Ball, of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, marched and fought with George Washington’s army at Valley Forge. Furthermore Leonard Jerome’s maternal grandfather, Reuben Murray, served as a lieutenant in the Connecticut and New York Regiments, while his wife Clara’s grandfather, Ambrose Hall, was a captain in the Berkshire County Militia at Bennington. Indeed I have found no evidence of any ancestor who fought with the British in this misguided conflict, which Chatham and Burke had been so eager to avoid!

Not only did Winston Churchill have Revolutionary blood in his veins but, possibly, native American as well. According to family tradition, Jennie’s maternal grandmother, Clarissa Willcox, was half-Iroquois. Clarissa’s father, David Willcox, is recorded as marrying Anna Baker and settling in Palmyra, New York in 1791. The implication is that Clarissa may have been a half Iroquois accepted into the family. The truth will perhaps never be known. It is unsurprising that such matters, most especially in those days, went unrecorded. What is certain is that Winston’s mother, Jennie, and her sister Leonie, firmly believed the story to be true, having been told by their mother, Clara: “My dears, there is something you should know. It may not be chic but it is rather interesting….” Furthermore, the family portrait of his maternal grandmother Clara, which I have inherited from my grandfather, lends credence to the suggestion that she may have been quarter-Iroquois, with her oval face and mysteriously dark features.

In recent years, genealogical researchers have sought to cast scorn on the suggestion that Clara’s descent is other than “American Colonial of English background” (see “Urban Myths,” this issue -Ed.). But this fails to explain why, some 130 years ago, Clara would have told her daughters the story, at a time when it would have been deeply unfashionable to make such a claim. Nor does it explain the evidence of Clara’s features which have little in common with the Anglo-Saxon. Furthermore, it is undisputed that the densely wooded country south of Lake Ontario around Palmyra, New York, where Clarissa Willcox was born, was the heartland of the Iroquois nation.

My cousin, Anita Leslie, in The Fabulous Leonard Jerome, quotes her grandmother Leonie, remarking on her exceptional energy: “That’s my Indian blood, only don’t let Mama know I told you!” While it is unlikely that the question of the family’s native American heritage can be firmly proved either way, I have little doubt as to the truth of the matter. For me physical features speak louder than any entry in a register of births, but I leave it to the reader to make his or her own judgment of the matter.

WHILE compiling The Great Republic I read that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons, had made available thirty years of their researches on both sides of the Atlantic (, dumping on the Internet the records of some 300 million individuals who had been born, been married or had died on either side of the Atlantic. The system is somewhat quirky, in that it refused to recognise my grandfather’s name, but when I punched in the name of Jennie Jerome and her parents, suddenly an amazing family tree sprouted forth, detailing some 255 ancestors on the American side of my family, of whose existence I had previously been unaware. Many of the branches run back to before the time of Columbus, one even through twenty-eight generations to the West Country to one Gervaise Gifford born in 1122 at Whitchurch, Dorset. That particular branch of the family barely moved fifteen miles in the space of fifteen generations before William Gifford, born in 1614 at Milton Damerel, Devon, and who married at St. Martins, London, on 4 March 1683, sailed for America, dying soon afterwards at Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1687.

Of these 255 ancestors I discovered no fewer than 26 who were born in England but died in America. To me they are true heroes – for these were the men and women who founded the America of today. In the course of my researches, I suddenly stumbled on the fact that one of my ancestors, John Cooke, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1694, had been born in Leyden, Holland, in 1607. Aware that nearly half the Pilgrims on the Mayflower had been known as the “Leyden Community” – Walloon Protestants escaping religious persecution -I was prompted to wonder if any of my forebears had made that momentous voyage.

Within seconds, using an admirable Internet search engine straight out of P. G. Wodehouse, appropriately named, I was able to call up via the Mayflower website the full manifest of all 102 passengers and was fascinated to discover (assuming the Morman database to be correct) that Winston Churchill, ten generations removed, had not one but three ancestors who sailed on the Mayflower and who, more importantly, were among the mere fifty who survived the rigours of that first cruel winter on the shores of Massachusetts.

John Cooke, a lad of just 13, was one of those passengers, as was his father, Francis, and his future father-in-law, Richard Warren. I was further intrigued to learn that through them we may be linked to no fewer than three Presidents of the United States – Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George Bush‹and to Alan Shephard, the first American in space and the fifth to walk on the moon.

The one question mark regarding this lineage is whether John Cooke’s and his wife Sarah Warren’s daughter Elizabeth was indeed the mother of Churchill’s ancestor, Daniel Willcox, Jr., born c. 1656/57 at Dartmouth, Massachusetts. While the Morman database is clear on this point, the suggestion has been advanced that Elizabeth may have been the second wife of Daniel Willcox – therefore only the step-mother of Daniel Jr.- in which case the direct link to the Mayflower would not be valid. There is here a conflict of evidence as yet unresolved.

What is undisputed is that this injection of American blood, through my great-grandmother Jennie Jerome, kick-started to new triumphs the Marlborough dynasty which had slumbered through seven generations since John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough, had won his series of dazzling victories that had humbled France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV, at the turn of the 18th century. ,

Mr. Churchill, Sir Winston’s grandson, was a Trustee and long time member of The Churchill Center.

Randolph Churchill - History

[The following paragraphs come from G. Kitson Clark’s The Making of Victorian England . I have added five political cartoons that relate to Churchill’s career. — George P. Landow]

Two cartoons from the humor magazine Fun commenting on Churchill and Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury. Left: The Two Lord Randolphs . Right: The Lay of the Last Minstrel. A Song of Dissolution . [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Lord Randolph Churchill, the son of the Duke of Marlborough, was already waging a lively campaign both against Gladstone, his natural target, and against the leader of his own party in the House of Commons, Sir Stafford Northcote. . . . Lord Randolph. . . realized that if theConservative party was to regain power it must attract new classes and that it must break away from the old oligarchical methods to enable new men to have their part in the management. He therefore developed the creed of Tory Democracy and for a season endeavoured to turn the Council of the National Union into an effective representative body, while he helped to create a new popular Conservative organization in the Primrose League. But brilliant and swiftly successful though he was, he may not have fully realized what hand he ought to play. For if it was true that the most likely recruits for the Conservative party were men who had achieved wealth, then an advanced social policy which competed with Chamberlain for the support of the working classes was not likely to attract them.

He also may not have realized the full realities of his own personal situation, or the power of those he was playing against. He was confronted in fact by a much more formidable figure than the amiable and ineffective Stafford Northcote, for the real leader of the party was the leader in the House of Lords, that formidable bearded figure the Marquis of Salisbury, and it is also possible that Lord Randolph did not recognize the full danger, brilliance and ruthlessness of one very close to him, who had indeed been one of his allies, but was Lord Salisbury’s nephew, A. J. Balfour. [239]

The tragic and significant fact about the Lucifer dive of Randolph Churchill is that apparently it had no effect whatsoever on the course of events. The Conservative party forward conquering and to conquer. 1886 seems to be one of the decisive turning-points in political history. Between 1868 and 1885 the Conservative party and the forces it represented in the country appear to be in irremediable decline while the Liberal party is in the ascendant. After 1886 the Conservatives enjoyed power till 1905, with the exception of the years 1892-95. [240 emphasis added]


Clark, G. Kitson. The Making of Victorian England . New York: Athenaeum, 1971.

Behind the Drink: The Manhattan

Whoever it was that conjured up the Manhattan, the classic potion that calls for skillfully integrating American whiskey—straight rye was probably the spirit of choice in the 19th century, though bourbon is quite acceptable today—with sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters, came up with a drink that is truly glorious.

One thing we’re pretty sure of is that the drink had reared its beautiful head by the 1880s, and we also know that it was one of the very first cocktails that called for vermouth as a modifier. Dear, sweet vermouth. The Manhattan predates other vermouth greats like the Martini, the Martinez, the Rob Roy and the Bobby Burns. It is the king of vermouth drinks. The ruler of the realm. My God, I do love my Manhattans.

There’s a chance that the Manhattan was invented at the Manhattan Club in New York, and the club’s official history makes that claim. According to popular legend, the recipe was created there for a party thrown in 1874 by Jennie Jerome (AKA Lady Randolph Churchill), Winston Churchill’s mother. But no matter what anyone tells you—and this story is often seen in print (hell, I’ve written it myself)—don’t believe it. As advisor David Wondrich pointed out in his book Imbibe!, Lady Randolph was in England about to give birth to little Winnie at the time she was supposed to be partying in the Big Apple.

The best lead we have on the true birth of the drink is from a story written by William F. Mulhall, a bartender who plied his trade at New York’s famed Hoffman House for more than 30 years, starting in the early 1880s. “The Manhattan cocktail was invented by a man named Black, who kept a place ten doors below Houston Street on Broadway in the [eighteen-] sixties—probably the most famous drink in the world in its time,” Mulhall wrote.

Even though Mulhall’s account comes decades after the drink appeared on the scene, we do know that the man was a bona fide bartender. And if you can’t trust a bartender, I ask you, who the heck can you trust?

'Headless body' found in woods as forensic officers flood to quiet town

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