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Jennie Jerome

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Jennie Jerome

Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome, known also as Lady Randolph Churchill (January 9, 1854June 9, 1921) was an American society beauty, best known to history as the mother of British prime minister Winston Churchill.

She was born at 8 or 197 Amity Street, in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn, New York, (the exact address differs between sources). She was the eldest daughter of financier Leonard Jerome and his wife, Clara Hall. A noted beauty—an admirer said that there was "more of the panther than of the woman in her look"—Lady Randolph Churchill also worked as a magazine editor and bore a fashionable tattoo of a snake twined around her left wrist. Hall family lore insists that Jennie Jerome was part Iroquois, but no evidence of any Native American ancestry has yet been uncovered, despite much genealogical digging.

She married, first, in 1874, at the British Embassy in Paris, France, Lord Randolph Churchill (18491895), third son of John Winston Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough. By this marriage, she acquired the title "Lady Randolph Churchill." They had two sons: Winston Churchill (18741965) and John Strange Spencer-Churchill (18801947). As was the custom of the day, she played a limited role in her sons' upbringing, relying largely upon nannies such as Winston's beloved Mrs. (Elizabeth) Everest. Once Winston became an adult, however, she and he became good friends and strong allies, to the point where Winston regarded her almost more as a sister than as a mother. She was influential in the uppermost British social and political circles, and greatly helped his early career.

It has been long rumored that John Churchill's father was not Lord Randolph but instead was possibly an Irish nobleman, Col. John Strange Jocelyn (later 5th Earl of Roden, 18231897), though that seems unlikely, given the similarity of names, which would seem a bit obvious under the circumstances. She did, however, have numerous lovers and admirers, including Count Charles Andreas Kinsky, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, and King Milan of Serbia.

In 1900, she married George Cornwallis-West (born 1874), a captain in the Scots Guards. They separated in 1912 and were divorced in April 1914.

Jerome was married a third time, in 1918, to Montague Phippen Porch (18771964), a member of the British Civil Service in Nigeria.

Jerome (who preferred to be known as "Lady Randolph Churchill" despite her re-marriages, even though not strictly entitled to this style any longer) died in 1921 after surgery to remove a gangrenous leg, and is buried in the Churchill plot at St. Martin's Churchyard, Bladon, Oxfordshire, England.

After her death Porch married, in 1926, his second wife, Donna Giulia Patrizi (died 1938), a daughter of the marchese Patrizi della Rocca.

Jerome has been portrayed on screen by Lee Remick in the television series, "Jennie", and by Anne Bancroft in the film, "Young Winston".

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