- Lady Randolph Churchill, CI, DStJ, born Jeanette Jerome, was the American-born wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and the mother of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Jennie Jerome was born in Brooklyn, New York, the second of three daughters of financier, sportsman, and speculator Leonard Jerome and his wife Clarissa, daughter of Ambrose Hall, a landowner and sometime New York State Assemblyman. She was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and New York City. She had two sisters, Clarita (a.k.a. Clara) and Leonie. Leonard Jerome was rumored to also be the father of the American opera singer Minnie Hauk. Jennie Jerome was of partial Native American descent.
It is alleged that both Jennie and her father Leonard had similar interests. Her father purchased the Bathgate Mansion and Estate, on the outer western edge of Old Fordham Village, Westchester County (now in the Bronx), and built the Jerome Park Racetrack on the property. While living at the mansion, Jennie took to horseback riding, as her father took to betting.
Long considered one of the most beautiful women of the time, she was married for the first time in 1874, at the British Embassy in Paris, to Lord Randolph Churchill, the second son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough. By this marriage, she was properly known as Lady Randolph Churchill and would have been referred to in conversation as Lady Randolph.
The Churchills had two sons: Winston (1874-1965) born less than eight months after the marriage, and John (1880-1947). Jennie's sisters believed the latter's biological father was Evelyn "Star" Boscawen, 7th Viscount Falmouth. Lady Randolph had numerous lovers during her marriage, including Karl Kinsky and King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.
As was the custom of the day, Lady Randolph played a limited role in her sons' upbringing, relying largely upon nannies such as Winston's beloved Mrs. (Elizabeth) Everest. Winston completely worshipped his mother, writing her numerous letters during his time at school, begging her to visit him, which she rarely did. However, after he became an adult, she and he became good friends and strong allies, to the point where Winston regarded her almost as a political mentor, more as a sister than as a mother.
A strong personality, Jennie was well-respected and influential in the highest British social and political circles. She was said to be intelligent, witty, and quick to laughter. It was said that Queen Alexandra especially enjoyed her company, despite the fact that Jennie had been involved in an affair with her husband, Edward VII, a fact that was well-known by Alexandra. Through her family contacts and her extramarital romantic relationships, Jennie greatly helped Lord Randolph's early career, as well as that of her son Winston.
Lord Randolph died in 1895, aged 45. On July 28, 1900, she married George Cornwallis-West (1874-1951), a captain in the Scots Guards who was the same age as her elder son Winston. Around this time, she became well-known for chartering a hospital ship to care for those wounded in the Boer War, and in 1908, she wrote The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. She separated from her second husband in 1912, and they were divorced in April 1914, whereupon Cornwallis-West married the famous actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Jennie then dropped the surname Cornwallis-West and resumed, by deed poll, the name Lady Randolph Churchill.
Her third marriage, on June 1, 1918, was to Montague Phippen Porch (1877-1964), a member of the British Civil Service in Nigeria, who was three years Winston's junior. At the end of World War I, Porch resigned from the colonial service, and in 1921, he returned to Africa to find his fortune.
In 1921, while Montague Porch was in Africa, Jennie, aged 67, slipped while coming down a friend's staircase while wearing new high heeled shoes, breaking an ankle. Gangrene set in, and her left leg was amputated above the knee; soon afterward she died at her home in London following a haemorrhage of an artery in her thigh (resulting from the amputation).
She was buried in the Churchill family plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, next to her first husband.
In 1926, Montague Porch married Donna Giulia Patrizi (died 1938), who was a daughter of the Marchese Patrizi della Rocca.