Jeanette “Jennie” Jerome was born in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, January 9, 1854. Jennie was raised in Brooklyn and other parts of what would become New York City.
There is some controversy regarding the time and place of her birth. A plaque at 426 Henry St. gives her year of birth as 1850, not 1854.
However, on January 9, 1854, the Jerome’s lived at 8 Amity Street (since renumbered as 197).
It is believed that the Jerome’s were temporarily staying at the Henry Street address, which was owned by Jennie’s uncle Addison, and that she was born there during a snowstorm.
Jennie Jerome worked as a magazine editor in early life. Family lore insisted that Jennie had Iroquois ancestry through her maternal grandmother, however there is no research or evidence to corroborate this.
Considered one of the most beautiful women of her time, an admirer, Lord d’Abernon, said of Jennie;
“there was more of the panther than of the woman in her look.”
Just after turning 20 in January of 1874, Jennie met Lord Randolph Churchill. Although the couple became engaged within three days of their initial meeting, the marriage was delayed for months while their parents argued over settlements.
Jennie married Churchill April 15, 1874, at the British Embassy in Paris.
Lord Randolph Churchill was the third son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough and Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane.
By this marriage, Jennie was properly known as Lady Randolph Churchill and would have been referred to in conversation as Lady Randolph.
Jennie and Randolph had a son less than eight months after the marriage.
Winston Churchill (1874–1965), the future prime minister, was born November 30, 1874.
According to biographer William Manchester, Winston was most likely conceived before the marriage, rather than born prematurely (as a recent biography has stated that he was born two months prematurely after Lady Randolph “had a fall”)
When asked about the circumstances of his birth, Winston would reply,
“Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it.”
Portrait of Lady Randolph Churchill with her two sons
Lady Randolph is believed to have had numerous lovers during her marriage, including Karl Kinsky, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of the United Kingdom) and Herbert von Bismarck.
Jennie’s own sisters believed that the biological father of her second son, John Churchill (1880–1947) was Evelyn Boscawen, 7th Viscount Falmouth.
As was the custom of the day, Lady Randolph played a limited role in her sons’ upbringing, relying largely upon nannies, especially Elizabeth Everest. Winston worshiped his mother, writing her numerous letters during his time at school and begging her to visit him, which, however, she rarely did.
After Winston became an adult, they became good friends and strong allies, to the point where Winston regarded his mother as a political mentor, more of a sister than a mother.
Lord Randolph died in 1895 at the age of 45. On July 28th 1900, Jennie married George Cornwallis-West (1874–1951), a captain in the Scots Guards who was the same age as her eldest 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.
Jennie separated from her second husband in 1912, and they were divorced in April of 1914, whereupon Cornwallis-West married the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
Jennie dropped the surname Cornwallis-West, and resumed the name Lady Randolph Churchill.
Jennie’s third marriage, on June 1st 1918, was to Montagu Phippen Porch (1877–1964), a member of the British Civil Service in Nigeria, who was three years Winston’s junior.
In May 1921, while Montagu Porch was away in Africa, Jennie slipped while coming down a friend’s staircase wearing new high-heeled shoes, breaking her ankle. Gangrene set in, and her left leg was amputated above the knee on June 10th.
Jennie Jerome – Churchill-Cornwallis-West-Porch died at her home in London on June 29, 1921 following a haemorrhage of an artery in her thigh (resulting from the amputation).
Jennie was 67 years old.
She was buried in the Churchill family plot at St Martin’s Church, Bladon, Oxfordshire, next to her first husband.
Now WE know em