Select Churchill Miscellany



Here are some Churchill stories and accounts over the years:

Alternative Origins of Churchill


In Devon the name Churchill was recorded as Courcesville in 1201.  This translates as "the spring on the hill," from the Old English cruc meaning "hill" and wiella "spring."  Then there is the place-name Churchill in north Somerset which some say gave rise to the Churchill family name.

Burkes Peerage has a different derivation.  They give it a family origin, from Gitto de Leon in Normandy whose grandson Roger de Courcil came to England in 1066 with William the Conqueror and was granted lands in Somerset.  Over time the name changed from "de Courcil" to:
- "de Churchil," as with Sir Bartholomew de Churchil, a "great warrior" of the 12th century
- and then by the 15th century to Churchill.

This is the claimed lineage of the Dorset Churchills and the John Churchill who became the Duke of Marlborough.


Minterne Manor

The first Sir Winston Churchill took possession of Minterne Manor in Dorset from Winchester College in 1660. His elder son John, later to become the Duke of Marborough, was brought up in this house; as was his younger son Charles, who at 13 was page to King Christian of Denmark and at 16 a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Prince George. 

Much to John's fury, Winston left Minterne to Charles.  John, it was said, "just had to make do with Blenheim Palace."

When Charles's widow died, Minterne was sold to Robert Digby of Shelbourne castle, together with all of its contents.  That is why it still contains the Churchill tapestries and other Churchill pictures and furniture. 

The Churchill and the Digby families remained close.  In 1939 Sir Winston Churchill came to Minterne Manor to attend the marriage of his son Randolph to Lord Digby's daughter Pamela.  However, the marriage was not a success and Pamela ended up marrying twice more (to Leland Hayward and Averell Harriman).


The Duke of Marlborough

To military historians David Chandler and Richard Holmes, Marlborough is the greatest British commander in history, an assessment that is shared by others, including the Duke of Wellington who could "conceive nothing greater than Marlborough at the head of an English army." 

However, the Whig historian Thomas Macaulay denigrated Marlborough throughout the pages of his History of England.  In  the words of historian John Wilson Croker, he pursued the Duke with "more than the ferocity, and much less than the sagacity, of a bloodhound."  Macaulay adopted his unfavorable reading of Marlborough straight from Swift and the Tory pamphleteers of the latter part of Queen Anne's reign. According to George Trevelyan, Macaulay 'instinctively desired to make Marlborough's genius stand out bright against the background of his villainy."

It was in response to Macaulay's History that Winston Churchill wrote his four volume work Marlborough: His Life and Times.


Mary Churchill's Crime

On January 17 1671 Mary Churchill confessed that she had gotten with child by Thomas Doty, son of Mayflower passenger Edward, with whom she had "carnal copulation" three times.  The first occasion was last July 15, the second was on on August 8 last, and the thrid was about a fortnight after.

Sergeant Ephraim Tinkham testified that around the stated second time he had gone to Joseph Churchill's house to speak to him, but no one had answered his knock.  He went in and, after he heard some noise from another room, Mary Churchill came forth.  He apparently had reason to suspect that Thomas Doty was there for he asked Mary if Thomas was in the house.  After some pause she said that he was.  Tinkham and Doty went away together, Tinkham warning him to take heed lest evil come of such carriages.

Mary Churchill later was fined for her transgression.  At the time of her court hearing Thomas fled the colony.  Records showed that they later married sometime after their first child was born. 



Churchill Downs


Churchill Downs, located on Central Avenue, Louisville in Kentucky, is a thoroughbred racetrack that is famous for hosting the Kentucky Derby annually.  It officially opened in 1875 and held the first Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks that same year.

The track was named after John and Henry Churchill who leased the land, some eighty acres, for the racetrack to their nephew, Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr.  Clark was a grandson of explorer William Clark and the president of the Louisville Jockey Club.  The Churchills was sizeable landowners in the area and raced their own thoroughbreds as a hobby.


Josiah Churchill and Lockeport

In 1762 two families from Massachusetts journeyed to Nova Scotia in an effort to find a new colony that was closer to the rich fishing grounds of the Grand Banks.  When they found the sheltered Allendale bay, they knew they had found a gem in the rough.  Situated halfway between the colonies in New England and the fishing grounds, their new town would be a centre for both fishing and trade.

The patriarchs of those first two families, Josiah Churchill and Jonathan Locke, went on to become the captains of industry in the area.  Churchill was the first mayor of the township of Locke's Island.   And Locke's Island (later to be called Lockeport) entered a period of booming industry, with hotels, trade warehouses, and multiple fish plants being built.


John Wilton and Sarah Churchill

For years a romantic story with a sad ending was told and retold at Wilton family picnics in Ontario.

John Wilton was a young, ambitious gardener with the famous Churchill family who met and fell in love with their daughter.  Her family were not happy about this arrangement as he was not of her social standing.  But they, both being of full age and in spite of family objections, chose to be married.  They married on Christmas Day, 1809. 

John and Sarah then departed to Canada to begin a new life together.  Her parents placed money in Chancery for their daughter.  Sarah died shortly after arriving in Canada.  The money was never claimed.


Jamie Blandford

Jamie Blandford, the eldest surviving son of the 11th Duke of Marlborough and his first wife Susan Mary Hornby, is the heir apparent to the dukedom.  He has been largely disowned by his father who has disapproved of his lifestyle.  

In 2009 Blandford appeared in the BBC documentary Famous, Rich and Homeless.  On the first night he claimed to sleep in the carpark of a five star hotel (despite the fact that his sleeping bag was discovered unopen).  On the second night he demanded to be housed in a hotel.  He said he would sleep rough on the third night but then withdrew that promise and refused to participate further in the program. 

Commenting on this, fellow participant Hardeep Singh Kohli said: "It's disrespectful to all the people out here.  If he doesn't have the bollocks to do this, he can fuck off."




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