Guns fired, bullets whizzed through the air, and Jennie fell. What kind of woman would go running around the countryside with a shooting party while in the last stage of pregnancy? The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough had to wonder.
That was not all. Even Lord Randolf wrote, “A rather imprudent and rough drive in a pony carriage brought on the pains on Saturday night.”
Imprudent, indeed! That wild, dark skinned American!
There’s more. Saturday was the St. Andrew’s Ball at the Duke’s Palace. She was not expected, to say the least. When she came down the stairs from her room holding a dance card, what could the Marlboroughs do? William Manchester in his biography of Winston Churchill writes, “She was actually on the floor, pirouetting, when the pains started.”
The servants took her out. They stumbled through the vast palace, down corridors, past drawing-rooms, then through the library “the longest room in England”. The quarter mile of red carpet was too much. She fainted.
They carried her to a room just off the Great Hall.
The pains continued that night and all Sunday. The lack of trains on a Sunday prevented the family doctor in London from coming. A local, country doctor came instead.
Lord Randolf wrote to Jennie’s mother (in the same letter),
“The country Dr is however a clever man, & the baby was safely born at 1:30 this morning after about 8 hrs labour. She suffered a good deal poor darling, but was vy plucky & had no chloroform. The boy is wonderfully pretty so everybody says dark eyes and hair & vy healthy considering its prematureness.”
Premature? The parents had been married that April. It was now November 30. So it must have been born prematurely! Though the baby didn’t look it. It was a fully developed baby!
Winston Churchill always enjoyed the controversy. “Although present on the occasion, I have no clear recollection of the events leading up to it.” The Marlboroughs were not amused. That wild woman! The Churchill family had not had such adventures since . . . . .
Excerpt from a book in progress. Churchill Stories. (from Chapter 1.)