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Randolph Churchill

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Randolph Churchill

Major The Honourable
Randolph Churchill
Member of Parliament
for Preston
In office
29 September 1940 – 5 July 1945
Serving with Edward Cobb
Preceded by Edward Cobb
Adrian Moreing
Succeeded by Samuel Segal
John William Sunderland
Personal details
Born Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer-Churchill
28 May 1911
London, England, UK
Died 6 June 1968(1968-06-06) (aged 57)
East Bergholt, Suffolk, England, UK

Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer-Churchill MBE (28 May 1911 – 6 June 1968) was the son of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. He was a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Preston from 1940 to 1945. His wife from 1939 to 1946 was Pamela Harriman; they had a son, Winston Churchill, who would follow his father into Parliament.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Second World War 2
  • Politics 3
  • Social reputation 4
  • Literary activities 5
  • Death 6
  • Fictional role 7
  • Works 8
  • Notes 9
  • Sources 10
  • External links 11

Early life and family

His son Winston (right), Randolph, and father in the ceremonial robes of the Order of the Garter

He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford and became a journalist. In 1931 he shared Edward James's house in London with John Betjeman. While attending Oxford, Churchill became embroiled in the controversy of February 1933 King and Country debate. Three weeks after the associated pacifist resolution was passed, Churchill proposed a resolution at the Oxford Union to delete the "King and Country" motion from the Union's records but this was defeated by 750 votes to 138 in a rowdy debate (one which was better attended than the original debate), where Churchill was met by a barrage of hisses and stink bombs. A bodyguard of Oxford Conservatives and police escorted Churchill back to his hotel after the debate.[1][2]

He was married twice. His first marriage, to socialite Pamela Digby (later and better known as Pamela Harriman), produced a son, Winston, who became a Member of Parliament. The marriage ended in divorce in 1945. His second marriage to June Osborne produced a daughter, Arabella Churchill. For the last twenty years of his life, he reportedly conducted an affair with Natalie Bevan, the wife of Bobby Bevan.[3]

Second World War

Randolph Churchill served with 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 Tito, who had barely managed to evade the Germans after their "Operation Knight's Leap" (Rosselsprung) airdrop outside Tito's Drvar headquarters.


Randolph Churchill (right) 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 that of Sir Winston or of his grandfather (Lord Randolph Churchill).

In the Wavertree by-election in Liverpool on 6 February 1935, he stood as an Independent Conservative, in a temporary breach with his father's politics on a platform of rearmament and Anti-Indian Home Rule. His involvement was criticised by his father for splitting the official Conservative vote and letting in the winning Labour candidate, although Winston appeared in Randolph's support.[4]

In March 1935, he sponsored an Independent Conservative candidate, Richard Findlay, also a member of the British Union of Fascists, to stand in a by-election in Norwood. This attracted no backing from MPs or the press and Findlay lost[5] to the official Conservative candidate, Duncan Sandys, who later, in September that year, became Randolph's brother-in-law by marrying his sister Diana.

In the 1935 general election he stood as the official Conservative at Labour-held West Toxteth. He also stood as a Unionist in a 1936 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 Second World War (1940–45) to fill a vacancy, but lost his seat in the 1945 general election. In his last two attempts he lost to future Labour leader Michael Foot at Plymouth Devonport in the 1950[6] and 1951 general elections.[7]

His father declined a peerage at the end of the Second World War, and then again on his retirement in 1955 (when he was offered the Dukedom of London),[8] ostensibly, so as not to compromise his son's political career (life peerages, titles not inherited by sons, were not created until 1958). The main reason was actually that Churchill wanted to remain in the House of Commons[9]—by 1955, Randolph's political career was "already hopeless".[9] 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).

Had Sir Winston Churchill accepted a peerage, upon his death his son would have automatically been forced to move to the House of Lords, giving up any 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 in that office for less than a year.

Social reputation

Randolph, spoiled by his father, began drinking heavily in his late teens, under the influence of Lord Birkenhead.[10] Thereafter he had a lifelong reputation for a serious drinking problem[11] and for rude, boorish behavior.[12] Evelyn Waugh, who restored friendly relations with Churchill in the spring of 1964 after years of enmity, nonetheless could not resist a jibe later that year. On hearing that a recently removed lung growth was not malignant, Waugh said "It was a typical triumph of modern science to find the one part of Randolph which was not malignant and to remove it." [13]

Literary activities

Randolph inherited something of his father's literary flair, and carved out a career for himself as a journalist, becoming editor of the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary and one of the best paid gossip columnists on Fleet Street. He edited collections of his father's speeches which were published in seven books between 1938 and 1961,[6] and started the official biography of his father in 1966, but had finished only the second volume by the time of his death in 1968. It was posthumously completed by Sir Martin Gilbert.

He wrote an autobiography of his early life, Twenty-One Years (published 1965),[6] and signed a contract with Robert Kennedy to write the biography of John F. Kennedy. As a consequence of this contract he obtained access to the Kennedy archives, but he died before beginning work, three days after Robert Kennedy was assassinated.[14]


Randolph Churchill died in 1968 at his home, Stour House, East Bergholt, Suffolk,[15] of a heart attack, aged 57. He is buried with his parents (his mother outliving him by almost a decade) and siblings at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.[16]

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 was mentioned as one of several prominent Britons delivering "brilliant pacific speeches [which] echo throughout Europe", but fail to end the war.[17]


(Note - the first six named and The Unwritten Alliance were anthologies of Winston's speeches that Randolph edited.)

  • Arms and The Covenant (1938)
  • Into Battle (1940)
  • The Sinews of Peace (1948)
  • European Union (1950)
  • In the Balance (1951)
  • Stemming the Tide (1953)
  • They Serve The Queen (1953)
  • The Story of the Coronation (1953)
  • Fifteen Famous English Homes (1954)
  • What I Said About the Press (1957)
  • The Rise and Fall of Sir Anthony Eden (1959)
  • Lord Derby: King of Lancashire (1960)
  • The Unwritten Alliance (1961)
  • The Fight for the Tory Leadership (1964)
  • Twenty-One Years (1965)
  • 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 wrote future volumes of the biography)
  • The Six Day War (1967; co-authored with his own son, Winston S. Churchill)


  1. ^ Derek Round and Kenelm Digby (2002). Barbed Wire Between Us: A Story of Love and War. Random House, Auckland. 
  2. ^ Jan Morris, The Oxford Book of Oxford (Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 275.
  3. ^ Anita Leslie. Cousin Randolph – Life of Randolph Churchill (1985); see also Jonathan Aitken. Heroes and Contemporaries. 2006, pp. 36–37.
  4. ^ Gilbert, Martin (1981). Winston Churchill, The Wilderness Years. Macmillan. pp. 123–124.  
  5. ^ Winston Churchill, The Wilderness Years. p. 124. 
  6. ^ a b c Who Was Who, 1961-1970. A and C Black. 1972. p. 205.  
  7. ^ UK general election results, 1951,; accessed 6 February 2015.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b Jenkins, Roy, Churchill (2001), p. 896
  10. ^ Jenkins 2001, p356
  11. ^ Lovell 2012, p405, 439, 473, 492, 496, 508, 519, 523
  12. ^ Lovell 2012, 381, 405, 432, 448, 473-4, 492, 496, 506, 508, 523, 526, 574
  13. ^ Lovell 2012, p536
  14. ^ "Grandson to Finish Work On Churchill", The New York Times. 12 June 1968. p. 50; retrieved 16 March 2011.
  15. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 11. Oxford University Press. 2014. p. 638.  Article by Robert Blake.
  16. ^ "Bladon (Saint Martin) Churchyard. Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer Churchill". BillionGraves. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  17. ^ referencesThe Shape of Things to Come,; accessed 3 July 2014.


  • Michael Davie (ed.), The Diaries of Evelyn Waugh. Penguin, 1982 (entries for March through September, 1944)
  • Heath, Edward, The Course of My Life, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1998. 978-0340708521
  • Jenkins, Roy, Churchill: A Biography (2001); ISBN 978-0-374-12354-3/ISBN 978-0-452-28352-7
  • Lovell, Mary S., The Churchills: A Family at the Heart of History - from the Duke of Marlborough to Winston Churchill Abacus (5 April 2012) ISBN 978-0349119786
  • Christopher Ogden, Life Of The Party (Biography Of Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman), Little Brown & Company (1994)
  • Christopher Sykes, Evelyn Waugh – a Biography, p. 273. Collins, London (1975)

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Randolph Churchill
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Cobb and
Adrian Moreing
Member of Parliament for Preston
With: Edward Cobb
Succeeded by
Samuel Segal and
John Sunderland
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