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Major The Hon. Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer-Churchill, MBE (May 28, 1911 – June 6, 1968) was the son of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. He was a Conservative Member of Parliament for Preston from 1940 to 1945.

Contents

Early life and family

He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford and became a journalist. In 1931 he shared Edward James' house in London with John Betjeman.

He was married twice. His first marriage, to the well-known socialite The Honourable Pamela Digby (later and better known as Pamela Harriman), produced a son, Winston Churchill, who became a Member of Parliament. By his second marriage - to June Osborne - he had a daughter, Arabella Churchill. For the last twenty years of his life, he had an affair with Natalie Bevan, the wife of a friend and neighbour, Bobby Bevan.[1]

World War II

Randolph Churchill served with his father's old regiment, the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, and was attached for a time to the newly formed Special Air Service (SAS), joining their CO, David Stirling, on a number of missions behind enemy lines in the Libyan Desert. He also went on a military and diplomatic mission to Yugoslavia in 1944, part of the British support for the Partisans during that civil war. He and Evelyn Waugh arrived on the island of Vis on 10 July, where they met Josip Broz Tito, who had barely managed to evade the Germans after their "Operation Knight's Leap" (Rosselsprung) airdrop outside Tito's Drvar headquarters. In September that year, Churchill and Waugh established their military mission at Topusko. An outcome was a formidable report detailing Tito's persecution of the clergy. It was "buried" by Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (who also attempted to discredit Waugh) to save diplomatic embarrassment, as Tito was then seen as a required ally of Britain and an official "friend". In both the Western Desert Campaign and Yugoslavia, Churchill crossed paths with Fitzroy Maclean, who wrote of their adventures, and some of the problems Churchill caused him, in his memoir Eastern Approaches.

Politics

Randolph Churchill(R) with Vera Weizmann and Levi Eshkol at the dedication of Churchill Auditorium at the Technion

Randolph Churchill's political career (like that of his son) was not as successful as Sir Winston's or his grandfather's (Lord Randolph Churchill). In the 1935 general election he stood as an Independent Conservative, marking a temporary breach with his father's politics. He also stood in a by-election at Ross and Cromarty opposed to the National Government candidacy of Malcolm MacDonald. He was elected unopposed as Member of Parliament for Preston during the war (1940-45) to fill a vacancy, but lost his seat in the 1945 general election. He stood for parliament on many other occasions, and was defeated at each – including losing to future Labour leader Michael Foot at Plymouth Devonport in the 1951 general election.[2]

Randolph was often portrayed as the black sheep of the Churchill family - irascible, spoiled by his father, and with a serious drinking problem. Evelyn Waugh, who was a friend captured the mood of many after Churchill had had a growth removed by surgery. On hearing that the growth was not malignant, Waugh said "How typical of doctors to find the one part of Randolph's body which is not malignant and to cut it out." But he inherited his father's literary flair, and carved out a career for himself as a successful writer (helped by the liberal employment of ghost writers.) He started the official biography of his father in 1966, but had only finished the second volume by the time of his death in 1968. It was posthumously completed by Sir Martin Gilbert. He wrote an autobiography, Twenty-One Years.

His father declined a peerage at the end of World War II, and then again on his retirement in 1955 (when he was offered the Dukedom of London),[3] ostensibly, so as not to compromise his son's political career. The main reason was actually that Churchill wanted to remain in the House of Commons[4] — by 1955, Randolph's political career was 'already hopeless'.[4] He had been out of parliament since 1945. However, since 1911 it had become traditional for British Prime Ministers to come from the lower house of Parliament (the House of Commons). If Sir Winston Churchill had accepted a peerage, upon his death, his son would have automatically been forced to move to the House of Lords, giving up his seat in the House of Commons, should he have held one. Randolph would then have been styled 2nd Duke of London. (In 1963, hereditary peers were allowed to disclaim their titles, although the only peer to do so and become Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home — previously the 14th Earl of Home — served very briefly in that office.)

Death

Randolph Churchill died of a heart attack in 1968, aged 57. He is buried with his parents and siblings at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

Fictional role

H.G. Wells in "The Shape of Things to Come", published in 1934, predicted a Second World War in which Britain would not participate but would vainly try to effect a peaceful compromise. In this vision,Randolph Churchill was mentioned as one of several prominent Britons delivering "brillant pacific speeches" which "echo throughout Europe" but fail to end the war [1]. (Wells evidently did not expect Randolph's father Winston Churchill to have any significant role to play).

Works

  • What I Said About the Press (1957)
  • The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden (1959)
  • Lord Derby: King of Lancashire (1960)
  • The Fight for the Tory Leadership (1964)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume One: Youth, 1874–1900 (1966)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume One Companion, 1874–1900 (1966, in two parts)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Two: Young Statesman, 1901–1914 (1967)
  • Winston S Churchill: Volume Two Companion, 1900–1914 (1969, in three parts. Published posthumously with the assistance of Martin Gilbert, who also wrote future volumes of the biography)

Notes

  1. ^ Anita Leslie. Cousin Randolph – Life of Randolph Churchill. 1985. See also Jonathan Aitken. Heroes and Contemporaries. 2006. 36-37.
  2. ^ UK general election results, 1951
  3. ^ Rasor, Eugene L. Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965: a comprehensive historiography and annotated bibliography, p. 205. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. ISBN 978-0-313-30546-7.
  4. ^ a b Jenkins, Roy, Churchill (2001), p.896
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page
  • Christopher Sykes : Evelyn Waugh - a Biography. Collins, London, 1975. p. 273
  • Michael Davie (ed.): The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh. Penguin, 1982. (Entries for March through September, 1944)

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Cobb and
Adrian Moreing
Member of Parliament for Preston
19401945
With: Edward Cobb
Succeeded by
Samuel Segal and
John Sunderland
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