Early Life

(20th-Century Biographies)

Winston Spencer Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, at Bleinheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England; he was two months premature. He was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895), a prominent Conservative politician and a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722), a statesman and one of the greatest military commanders in history. Bleinheim Palace was the gift of a grateful nation to the Duke of Marlborough for the first of his famous victories at Bleinheim (1704) in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). Churchill grew up within this background of military glory and patriotism and always had it in mind to preserve and to enhance the grandeur of the British Empire. Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, described as an “American freebooter” and the “King of Wall Street.” Winston adored his mother, although she shared little of her fashionable life with him. In his efforts to shape American opinion during World War II and afterward, he made the most of his American ancestry. He worshipped and stoutly defended his reckless, flamboyant, and self-destructive father—even writing a biography of Randolph (1906) in justification of his father’s life. All these qualities—filial piety, loyalty, pugnacity, grandiloquence, and enormous courage—were to make of Churchill a unique figure in the twentieth century, for he was almost a throwback to an earlier age, more like an eighteenth century soldier statesman and man of letters than a modern politician.

Churchill was educated at Harrow and Sandhurst, the latter a school for the training of military officers....

(The entire section is 666 words.)