Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill

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Churchill, Lord Randolph (1849–95). An MP from 1874, Churchill was secretary to his father, the 7th duke of Marlborough, then lord-lieutenant of Ireland. After the Conservative defeat of 1880 he led a small ginger group known as the Fourth Party undermining the party leadership of Northcote. Contemptuous of the passivity and ‘respectability’ of the ‘Old Gang’, Churchill exploited the discontents of the neglected provincial associations in the National Union and claimed to speak for a ‘Tory Democracy’ derived from Disraeli: ‘Trust the people.’ Audacious in language and style, compulsively self-publicizing, Churchill was a young man in a hurry, perhaps knowing that syphilis would shorten his career. His deal with Salisbury in 1884, abandoning the National Union in return for admittance into the collective leadership, ended Northcote's chances of the premiership. Secretary for India in Salisbury's 1885 government, Churchill had Burma annexed. Though he flirted with Parnell's nationalists and pursued conciliation in Ireland, once Gladstone had proposed Home Rule Churchill hoisted unionist colours: ‘Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.’ Chancellor of the Exchequer and leader of the Commons in 1886, he soon became impatient with cabinet colleagues and, seeking tactical alliance with Chamberlain's wing of the Liberal Unionists, he began to challenge Salisbury's leadership. When Churchill, frustrated over cutting the services estimates, offered a tactical resignation, Salisbury called his bluff and accepted. Though he said he had ‘forgotten Goschen’ (who took the Exchequer), rather he had underestimated the desire of those who mattered to rid themselves of a disruptive presence. Harassed by health and financial worries, Churchill never recovered politically. His marriage to New York heiress Jennie Jerome appeared, at least in public, to be a glamorous success. The biography published in 1908 by his son Winston, then a Liberal, celebrated Randolph as the frustrated hero of a democratic and radical Toryism: later historians have seen consistency in little but driving ambition.

Bruce Coleman

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Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill, 1849–95, English statesman; son of the 7th duke of Marlborough. A sincere Tory and a founder (1883) of the Primrose League, dedicated to upholding national institutions, he was nonetheless opposed to the traditional structure of Conservative rule. On entering (1874) the House of Commons, he began to attack the Conservative ministry with the incisive rhetoric for which he became famous. During William Gladstone's Liberal ministry (1880–85) he allied with other Tory independents to form the so-called Fourth Party, which advocated a new conservatism, more democratic and more receptive to the need for social and political reforms. Acquainted with some of the problems of Ireland, having accompanied his father, the viceroy, there (1876–80), he was committed to continued union but recognized the extent of maladministration and was opposed to coercive measures. Churchill's appointment (1884) as chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations and his advocacy of increased popular participation in the party organization provoked a breach with the aristocratic leadership of Lord Salisbury, but Churchill's popularity necessitated Salisbury's acceptance of him into the new Tory government in 1885. He was secretary of state for India (1885–86) and chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the House of Commons (1886). His first budget implicitly criticized the entire foreign policy by its proposed drastic cuts in funds for the armed services. It was rejected by the cabinet and Churchill resigned. There was no effort at reconciliation and, unexpectedly, no popular outcry. Churchill continued as a member of Parliament but had no further active political role. In his last years he was crippled by illness. His American wife, Jennie Jerome, whom he married in 1874, was a leader in London society. She was the author of Reminiscences (1908) and two plays, Borrowed Plumes (1909) and The Bill (1912). She died in 1921. Sir Winston Churchill was their son.

See biographies of Lord Randolph Churchill by his son Sir Winston Churchill (1906) and R. F. Foster (1981); biographies of Jennie Jerome by A. Leslie (1969) and R. G. Martin (2 vol., 1969–71).

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Churchill, Lord Randolph Henry Spencer (1849–95) British statesman, secretary of state for India (1885–86) and chancellor of the exchequer (1886). A gifted speaker and loyal member of the Tory Party, he nevertheless attempted widespread party reform, in particular encouraging mass participation in the Conservative Associations. His popularity ensured his appointment to government. His first budget as chancellor proposed deep cuts in military expenditure and was defeated. Churchill was forced to resign. He married Jennie Jerome, a US citizen, in 1874. Their son, Winston Churchill, was to achieve the success denied his father.

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