Monday, March 28, 2011

April 15, 1874 --- Lady Randolph Churchill

In one of the first of the great Anglo-American unions, Lord Randolph Churchill marries Jenny Jerome in a brief ceremony at the British Embassy in Paris.

Churchill is 25, his 20-year old bride is the daughter of a prominent New York investor and sportsman. The rapid romance, which began during Cowes week festivities in 1873, was not without family opposition. Randolph's father, the Duke of Marlborough, labeled his son's prospective father-in-law, "a sporting, and I should think, a vulgar sort of man." For his part, Leonard Jerome feared the effects of inbreeding which he believed had weakened the British aristocracy.

Those concerns aside, it was the financial settlement that proved most difficult. At one point, the matter of who would pay for all the trans-Atlantic cables threatened to sunder the two young lovers forever. Trans-Atlantic legal differences also come into play. Jerome wanted his daughter to have control of her own money, "I can but think your English custom of making the wife so entirely dependent upon the husband is most unwise." Lawyers for the Marlboroughs, meantime, thought the idea of a financially independent wife was "most unusual." In the end, Jerome set up a £50,000 while the Duke paid off his son's considerable debts.

Neither of Randolph's parents attend the wedding, but the Duke writes to wish his son "a united existence of happiness." However, he adds: "She is one you have chosen with less than usual deliberation." A brief continental honeymoon follows before Randolph must return to London to take the family seat in the Commons and Jennie's introduction to society.  She recalled, "I settled in London to enjoy my first season with all the vigor and unjaded appetite of youth—we seemed to live in a whirl of gaieties and excitement."
The whirl would soon slacken.

The couple's first son was born in November, less than seven months after their wedding. Tart tongues wagged that Jennie was likely with child on her wedding day.  According to the official announcement: On the 30th Nov., at Blenheim Palace, the Lady Randolph Churchill, prematurely, of a son.  He would bear the name Winston.

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