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The surname Churchill is derived from the common place-name seen in many areas. It is sometimes derived from from Celtic crǖg, with an accompanying gloss of the OE 'hill'; sometimes from the Norman place-name Curcelle; and most usually (and obviously) from the OE cirice (church) and hyll (hill), 'hill with [or near] a church'.

The surname Churchill has boasted many illustrious bearers. The most notable are connected with Blenheim Palace. The one which is perhaps most likely to interest readers of AWE may be Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War. The adjective churchillian refers to him, and particularly his style of speaking and, to a lesser extent, writing. Others of his family who have played a part in public life include:

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough

Marlborough (1650-1722) was the foremost soldier of his generation, winning great victories at Blenheim (1704), Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709), in the War of the Spanish Succession. He was well rewarded, being given Blenheim Palace by Parliament, and dying rich. His father was the first in the family to have the forename Winston, it being the maiden name of his mother. See also Marlborough.

Sarah Churchill, 1st Duchess of Marlborough

Sarah (née Jenyns), (1660-1744) was wife of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. She was the leading favourite and confidante of Queen Anne, until 1710: they corresponded with each other under the pen names of Mrs Freeman (Sarah) and Mrs Morley (Anne). She was regarded with suspicion of intriguing, in an age of personal politics.

George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough

From his inheriting the title in 1817, the family at Blenheim have borne the surname Spencer-Churchill, the Dukedom of Marlborough having passed to Charles Spencer, 4th Earl of Sunderland, in 1833 by virtue of his mother Anne Spencer, née Churchill, daughter of the 1st Duke of Marlborough; and George Spencer, 5th Duke of Marlborough, having officially taken up the double surname on his accession to the title in 1817. Since the 4th Earl, the Dukes of Marlborough have also been Earls of Sunderland.

Members of the family have not always used the double surname, although the branch of Randolph Churchill (1849-1895) and the Prime Minister Winston have borne Spencer as an additional forename.
Churchill, Lord Randolph

Lord Randolph Henry Spencer Churchill (1849-1895), son of the 7th duke of Marlborough, was a prominent Victorian statesman - MP from 1874, Secretary of State for India (1885-86) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (1886): his first budget was voted down, and he resigned. He married Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome (1854-1921), a US citizen, in 1874. Their son, Winston Churchill, was to achieve the success denied his father. He died at the age of 46, from a paralysis diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, though it has now been suggested it could have been a brain tumour.

Lady Randolph Churchill

Jennie Churchill (née [Jeanette] Jerome, daughter of an American financier) (1854-1921) was the wife of Lord Randolph Churchill. "At this time, it was virtually unprecedented for the son of a leading aristocrat to marry an American, but Churchill was only the younger son of a poor duke, and when Leonard Jerome agreed to settle £50,000 on the couple, the duke agreed to the marriage" (ODNB). She is the subject of Anita Leslie's (1969) Jennie : the life of Lady Randolph Churchill, London, Hutchinson, .

Winston Churchill

Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (like his father, he did not use the 'Spencer' in public life, except as an author) was the British Prime Minister who led the nation, and helped to lead the Allies, to victory in the Second World War. He was a prolific author, largely as the result of being the son of an impoverished second son of a Duke. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

This Winston Churchill published his books under the name of Winston S. (or Winston Spencer) Churchill, as there was already an author publishing as Winston Churchill - an American novelist (1871-1947) whose first book, The Celebrity: An Episode appeared in 1898.
Clementine Churchill

Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill, (née Hozier), (1885-1977), created a Life Peer in her own right in 1965, married Winston Churchill in 1908. They had five children: four girls - Diana (1909-1963) (married (1) Sir John Milner Bailey, divorced 1935; (2) Duncan Sandys, MP, divorced 1960: three children); Sarah (1914-1982), actress and dancer (married (1) Victor Oliver von Samek, (divorced); (2) Anthony Beauchamp (1949-1957) (widowed); (3) Henry Tuchet-Jesson, 23rd Baron Audley (1962-1963) (widowed)); Marigold (b. 1918, d. of septicaemia 1921); and Mary (b. 1922) (married Christopher Soames MP (later Baron Soames): five children) - and one boy, Randolph (1911-1968).

Randolph Churchill

Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer Churchill (1911-1968), only son of Sir Winston and Clementine Churchill, had political ambitions, but was only an MP for 5 years, elected unopposed for Preston during the war (1940-45). Like his father, he wrote - both books and journalism, though he died before finishing a biography of his father, finished, to acclaim, by Martin Gilbert. He married (1) (1939) Pamela Digby, one son, Winston S. Churchill (b. 1940), marriage dissolved 1946; (2) (1948) June Osborne, one daughter, marriage dissolved 1961.

Pamela Churchill Harriman

Born Pamela Beryl Digby in 1920; married Randolph Churchill 1939. Mother of Winston Churchill, grandson of the Prime Minister. Divorced 1946; remarried (1), 1960, Leland Hayward (1902-1971), a Broadway producer; (2), 1971, Averell Harriman, former US Secretary of Commerce, Governor of New York, Ambassador to the Soviet Union and to Britain. She had many other lovers. She converted to Roman Catholicism in 1950, and became a US citizen in 1971. She becamew influential in Democratic politics: Presiodent Clinton appointed her US Ambassador to France in 1993.

Winston Churchill

Winston Spencer-Churchill (1940-2010) was the son of Randolph (1911-1968) and grandson of the Prime Minister. He was a Conservative MP from 1970 to 1983 (for Stretford) and 1983 to 1997 (Davyhulme). He never held office. He married (1), 1964, Minnie d'Erlanger, four children, divorced 1997; (2), 1997, Luce Danielson.

The film Young Winston (1972) is based on My Early Life: A Roving Commission, a memoir of the Prime Minister's first thirty or so years, rather than the life of his grandson.

Other Churchills, not [directly] connected with Blenheim Palace, include

    • two operatives of the SOE, Peter and Odette Churchill (Odette Marie Céline Brailly; married (1) Roy Sansom, 1931; (2) Peter Churchill (1909-1972), 1947, divorced 1956; (3) Geoffrey Hallowes 1956);
    • Caryl Churchill (born 1938), a playwright known for non-naturalist writing, fostered at least in part by writing for radio. Works include Blue Heart, Owners, Traps, Vinegar Tom, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Cloud Nine, Objections to Sex and Violence, Softcops, Top Girls, Fen, Serious Money, Lives of Great Poisoners, Mad Forrest: A Play from Romania, Serious Money and The Skriker.
      • Frank Churchill is a fictional character in Jane Austen's Emma (1815).

The surname Churchill is derived from a place-name, of which there are many examples. Most simply, it means 'a hill on which a church stands'; sometimes it is the British crug, meaning 'hill', with an added Old English explanation hyll. It is unclear from which place the Blenheim family takes its name; the first Winston came from Dorset. His genealogical research found "John...Lord of Currichill, or as 'tis in divers records Chirechile, since called Churchill in Somersetshire": but it appears that Winston's father John may have embroidered his genealogy. The family may be from Dorset (and may not have come over with the Conqueror, as that Winston thought - Churchill 1935). Since the Prime Minister, many other places, schools, ships and other institutions have been named in his honour, including Churchill College, Cambridge, and a United States warship named - unusually - after a Briton, the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81), a guided missile destroyer, launched in 1999. The Churchill tank (A 22, or Infantry Tank (Marks IV-XIII)) was a military vehicle which was first produced in 1941, at a low point in the War, and remained in service till 1952, with many specialized variants.