Britain’s formidable wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, was born in late November 1874 at Blenheim Palace. But why Blenheim Palace?
The Churchill Connection with Blenheim Palace?
For those folks who know a thing or 2 about Sir Winston Churchill, maybe visited his home Chartwell in Kent, the War Rooms in London, read the books, will know at least the Churchill story; soldier, writer, politician, statesmen.
So what was the connection with Churchill and one of the largest stately homes in England, Blenheim Palace?
The answer lays with a family connection and some luck. Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill is a descendant of the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill. Blenheim was to be John Churchills gift as a reward to fighting and winning many military campaigns for the crown, including on the 13th August 1704 the Battle of Blenheim. The project to build one of the finest houses in England and the only private house to bequest the name palace, was initially partly financed by Queen Anne, as part of the gift offering.
Despite political infighting, finance squabbles, Blenheim Palace would forever more be known as the home of the Duke of Marlborough. In 1874 John Spencer-Churchill was the 7th Duke of Marlborough and a cabinet minister. John Spencer Churchill the 7th Duke of Marlborough was also Winston Churchill paternal grandfather.
John Spencer-Churchill also had a successful career in the military starting in 1842 to become Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion of the Queen’s own Oxfordshire Hussars.
Blenheim or Mayfair? The accidental birthplace
Lord Randolph Churchill rented a fashionable house on Charles Street in London’s Mayfair as a base for the Churchills metropolitan life in the early part of the1870s’. The impressive buildings along Charles Street where built between 1745 and 1750 by the Carpenter John Philips. The street is just west of Berkeley Square.
This was surely to be the planned birthplace of the soon to be born Winston. If things had worked out that way back in 1874, just imagine Charles street would now be attracting legions of Churchill fans. Other the the blue plaque would it have become a museum. Beautiful street and worth a visit for any would be Churchill fan.
The Rough Trip to Blenheim where Churchill was Born
The Randolph’s set of for a weekend family trip to Blenheim Palace in the winter of 1874 to attend the St Andrew’s Day ball. At only 61 miles today the trip by car is around 1hour 40. How quick was a Horse and Coach back in 1874 to cover this distance? By bicycle the trip is around 6 hours. What where the roads like? Randolph would later refer to the road trip as a particularly rough horse ride.
This rough trip would soon change the course of the Churchill story.
Was Churchill born 2 months early?
Winston Churchill was born in the last quarter of the Victorian era on November 30th 1874. His parents had married just over 7 months earlier on the 15th of April 1874 in Paris.
Society in general back in the 1800s had different views on having children out of wedlock, doing the maths, the due date was January 1875. We are told the birth was indeed unexpected and also 2 months early. The Times Newspaper at the time, published the story that the Randolph’s new arrival was delivered unexpectedly and very early.
What evidence is there the birth was 2 months early? The accounts of the birth are fairly consistent in terms of the location, following the well known line that Churchill was born unexpected and delivered in an emergency situation at Blenheim. The location may not be widely known as it was said to be the cloak room near the entrance at the palace. There is not too much to lean on in regards to the actual due date.
What we do know, is that Lady Randolph’s own physician was contacted to come quickly to Blenheim, but due to the time tabling of Victorian railways was unable to make it until a day after Churchill was born. We can only conclude that the birth was indeed unexpected.
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG, OM, CH, TD, DL, FRS, RA Birthplace: Blenheim Palace
Concluding thought on Churchill’s Birthplace
One could conclude Churchill’s birth was not exactly 2 months early nor was it particularly planned to take place at Blenheim. One thing that one cannot deny, what a entrance to the world Blenheim provided, only to be matched 90 years later when he departed on the 24th January 1965.
When measuring Churchill’s life and achievements it is testimony to what he went on to achieve that his family connection to the Duke of Marlborough, his birthplace at Blenheim is a mere foot note in the Churchill story, what a footnote.
The bedroom in Blenheim Palace where Lady Randolph Churchill gave birth is open to visitors at Blenheim Palace https://www.blenheimpalace.com/. You will have to visit the palace and perhaps ask the burning questions this post has raised – Do feed back and comment below on your findings.
The End of the Beginning
The Lord Mayor’s Luncheon, Mansion House, “The End of the Beginning”, November 10, 1942
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler’s Nazis will meet equally well armed, and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against other, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless.Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister November 10 1942