Books: Churchill & Son
By Josh Ireland
Winston Churchill was a hard act to follow. Grandson of the Duke of Marlborough, author of a six-volume history of WWII, he not only served twice as U.K. prime minister, but basically saved democracy from those determined to destroy it.
His hopes for the future lie in his first born and only son, Randolph. The story of their tempestuous relationship is well told in Josh Ireland’s absorbing new “Churchill & Son.”
True, Churchill was egotistical, bullying, and demanding. But he was also a reader, a writer and brilliant politician—someone who almost always knew the right thing to do. Randolph, on the other hand, was a handsome but spoiled child who was overshadowed by his famous father from the get-go—he dropped out of uni, had a middling career as a journalist (a job gotten solely because of his name), and was undisciplined and unspeakably cruel. But he was loved blindly by Sir Winston, who only in his final days realized his son would never fill his bespoke shoes.
Ireland writes a well-researched, witty book, filled with juicy gossip. We learn of Randolph’s marriage to Pamela Digby who had an affair with Averell Harriman during WWII and eventually became his wife. We delight in anecdotes of how Winston’s wife Clementine hated to be called “Clemmie” and how she loathed her son. Names from Virginia Woolf to Evelyn Waugh to Aristotle Onassis are dropped, each with their own delish story attached.
Failure to follow in a famous father’s footsteps is hardly something new. The children of FDR and Stalin faced similar challenges, and some sons like Don Jr have actually sullied their fathers’ legacies further. But when the story involves one of the giants of mankind like Sir Winston, it deserves an investment of your reading time. Just keep a flute of Pol Roger nearby. Churchill senior would have liked it that way.