One of the reasons I enjoy creating my dolls is because they resonate with history and there is so much to learn from those who have gone before - both good and bad. One of my favourite Classic Porcelain dolls - which I am about to put on my site - is Jennie Churchill, because she was such a vivacious personality.
In October 1867 a young man matriculated at Merton College, Oxford. Like David Cameron and Boris Johnson - two of the UK’s most recent Prime Ministers - he was a member of the Bullingdon club and, like them, participated in wild, champagne-fuelled parties there. He was frequently in trouble with the university authorities for drunkenness, smoking in academic dress and smashing windows at Oxford’s venerable Randolph hotel. Such rowdy behaviour was infectious, rubbing off on friends and contemporaries alike and he gained a reputation as an enfant terrible. There was, nevertheless a serious side to him too; he was a well-read historian and he gained a second-class degree in jurisprudence and modern history in 1870. (Despite this, unlike Boris Johnson, he did not have a reputation for a loose acquaintance with the truth).
This was Lord Randolph Churchill who, as a younger son of a marquess had a courtesy title but still being legally a commoner, he was able to sit in the House of Commons. A biographer (Roy Jenkins) summed up his initially glittering parliamentary career (he became Chancellor of the Exchequer at the young age of 37) in the following dismissive way: “Churchill had 11 months in office and was without rival in attracting so much attention and achieving so little”.
On 15th April, 1874 Churchill married Jennie Jerome at the British Embassy in Paris. She was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy American businessman and on 30th November she gave birth to Winston, later Sir Winston, Churchill, the great WWII leader.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on 9th January, 1854 Jennie turned out to be quite a remarkable woman in her own right.
She was a noted beauty (an admirer once said that there was "more of the panther than of the woman in her look” lending some credence to the family lore that she had Iroquois ancestry through her maternal grandmother, although there is no evidence to support this story).
As Lady Randolph, she was well-respected and influential in the highest British social and political circles. Intelligent, witty, and quick to laughter, it was said that Queen Alexandra (another of my dolls) especially enjoyed her company, although she knew that Jenny had been involved in an affair with her husband, the king. Through her family contacts and her several extramarital romantic relationships, she exerted a very positive influence on her husband's early career, and later on that of her son, Winston.
After Randolph’s early death in 1895 (possibly a brain tumour and possibly syphillis), she married George Cornwallis-West, a captain in the Scots Guards who was just 16 days older than Winston. In 1908, she wrote her memoirs, The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill. She was active in WWI, providing support to the troops.
Jennie and George divorced in 1914 and, in 1918, she married Montagu Phippen Porch, a civil servant, who was younger than Winston by three years.
In 1921, she slipped while coming down a friend's staircase wearing new high-heeled shoes and broke her ankle. Gangrene set in and her left leg was amputated above the knee. She died at her home in London soon after following a haemorrhage of an artery in her thigh (resulting from the amputation). She was 67 years old.
She has been portrayed by Anne Bancroft in the excellent film, Young Winston in 1972 taken from Winston’s book My Early Life and was brilliantly portrayed by Lee Remick in the British television series, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974).
Jennie is an original porcelain doll that I have now decided to make available on my web site. I still have some ‘cleaning up’ to do so it will be a few more weeks but my husband has already remarked that she has that look of the panther noted more than a century ago by her admirers.
ELIZABETH I (Hardwick) (Fabric)
In my last newsletter I told you that I was working on this doll and hoped to have her ready in January. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I was kept busy on orders so this didn’t happen, but I am almost there now. Here’s a photo of the work in progress in my studio.
The dress is an enormous amount of work - not just the foundation garments but too, the embroidery of all the creatures.
I am very pleased with the end result. Hope you will be, too.
NEW WEB SITE & NEW RELEASES
I am building an new web site which should provide a lot more information and some added features such as animation of some of the dolls (quite amazing technology). I will put up the Hardwick Elizabeth fabric doll on the new site and Jennie Churchill should follow a couple of weeks after that.
As always. if you have any ideas, please let me know and in the meantime stay safe in this COVID world.
All the very best Victoria