Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill's ancestors were both British and American. Winston's father was the British Lord Randolph Churchill, the youngest son of John, the 7th Duke of Marlborough. Lord Randolph's ancestor John Churchill made history by winning many successful military campaigns in Europe for Queen Anne almost 200 years earlier.
His mother was the American Jennie Jerome. The Jeromes fought for the independence of the American colonies in George Washington's armies.
Winston's father and mother were both socially active and politically prominent. Their affairs - social and intimate - occupied them constantly. As with many of their social class and standing, child rearing and education were left to others.
Lord Randolph Churchill's political career was meteoric. In 1886, at age thirty-seven, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, the youngest to hold the office in over a hundred years. In less than six months, he resigned from the Cabinet over a matter of principle - his insistence on reducing defense spending. He never held high office again. "One could not grow up in my father's house... without understanding that there had been a great political disaster," said Winston.
Winston revered his father as a great statesman. The feelings of respect and affection were not reciprocated. Lord Randolph frequently expressed harsh disappointment in Winston.
Winston's mother, American heiress Jennie Jerome, was by universal agreement a great beauty. She threw herself completely into the English upper-class social whirl. While fond of her children, her social role with her husband always came first - sometimes to the point of not permitting Winston to come home for holidays or going on extensive travels without him.
Winston adored her - "She shone for me like the evening star. I loved her dearly - but at a distance."
In 1895, within six months, first Winston's father, then Mrs. Everest, died. Winston now faced the world without his idolized father and without his primary emotional support and mother figure.
Winston's father had been in declining health and increasing dementia for several years. But, his erratic behavior and his dissatisfaction with Winston remained robust. Winston was not told the diagnosis - thought to be syphilis - and for many years believed that he too would die young. "Is it forty and finished?" he pondered.
Even in death, Winston's father remained a force to be reckoned with; "All my dreams of comradeship with him, of entering Parliament at his side and in his support, were ended. There remained for me only to pursue his aims and vindicate his memory."
When Winston learned that Mrs. Everest was gravely ill he rushed to her beside. He was the only member of his family to attend to her, and upon her death provided the tombstone for her grave. "She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole twenty years I had lived." "I shall never know such a friend again."