Winston Churchill was not shy about taking on an engagement, in a military sense. His parents were quicker with an engagement of another kind.
Sir Randolph Churchill and Jennie Jerome had known each other for two days, and were together for only the third time when Randolph, 24, proposed to Jennie, 19. They kept their engagement secret, correctly expecting their parents to object.
Local folks were able to hear that kind of detail directly from Churchill family members at Fox Valley Lutheran High School Saturday, thanks to Dr. Monroe Trout’s passion for all things Winston Churchill and support, in part, from the Community Foundation and the Boldt Company.
The presenters were Randolph and Jennie Churchill, great-grandchildren of Winston and the namesakes of his parents. (Randolph is shown above between a cutout of Winston and a photo of Winston’s mother.)
Trout calls himself a Churchill nut. He apparently has some company, as people filled what school officials estimated at 425 seats in the high school’s theater on a weather-perfect Saturday afternoon. Matt Carpenter, executive director of the History Museum at the Castle in downtown Appleton, said attendance at the free event — given the weather — was separating the true history geeks from the wannabes.
Those who came left with tidbits like this assessment of the engagement by Randolph’s father: “Never was there such an illustration of the adage that love is blind.” They married April 15, 1874, in Paris.
Present-day Randolph attributed the close connection Winston had with the United States to his mother being from Brooklyn, N.Y., and the many contacts he had through his mother. She was an impressive person — she spoke six languages, was a concert pianist and started a hospital ship to treat the wounded in battle. Contacts she arranged for Winston in New York served him throughout his career, Randolph said.
The people present also got a look at five items of Winston Churchill memorabilia never displayed publicly before and soon to be in the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, Mo., including a collection of medals awarded to Winston’s mother.
The appearance was recorded by Wisconsin Public Television for broadcast at a later date.