Lord Randolph and the Sporting Aylesfords

by Richard M. Langworth on 7 March 2014

Lord Randolph Churchill (1849-1895)

Lord Ran­dolph Churchill (1849-1895)

I have two ques­tions:  When Lord Ran­dolph Churchill was ban­ished to Ire­land in 1876, after the Lady Ayles­ford inci­dent, did he remain a Mem­ber of the House of Com­mons dur­ing that time?  Also what were the rules in regard to a Peer of the Realm being a Mem­ber of the Com­mons? Since Ran­dolph was elected to the House in 1874 I assume he could serve. On the other hand, when in May 1940 the ques­tion was whether Lord Hal­i­fax or Win­ston Churchill would become Prime Min­is­ter, Hal­i­fax demurred on the stated grounds that as a Lord he couldn’t be a mem­ber of Com­mons and that  would would ham­per him as Prime Min­is­ter.  Any elu­ci­da­tion would be most wel­comed.  —S.N.

Lord Ran­dolph was not a Peer of the Realm and there­fore was not a mem­ber of the House of Lords; he was called “Lord” as a cour­tesy to the sec­ond son of a Duke. He remained a mem­ber of the House of Com­mons from his elec­tion in 1874 until his death in 1895.

Lord Hal­i­fax was a peer, and his excuse in 1940 (he didn’t want the job in any case) was that he thought it impos­si­ble to head the gov­ern­ment from the House of Lords. Lord Sal­is­bury had done it forty years ear­lier, but in sun­nier circumstances.

If that’s con­fus­ing, con­sider the ladies. Lady Ran­dolph Churchill was not the wife of a peer or a knight (in which case she would have been Lady Churchill); nor did she hold any inher­ited title (in which case she would have been Lady Jeanette Churchill). But the cour­tesy title was nicer than “Mrs. Ran­dolph Churchill,” which wouldn’t have done at all, and she was known as “Lady Ran­dolph” through her sec­ond and third husbands.

Lord Ran­dolph was not “ban­ished” to Ire­land, though it was an exile. He went there in 1876 as sec­re­tary to his father, the 7th Duke of Marl­bor­ough—whom Prime Min­is­ter Dis­raeli arranged to install as Lord Lieu­tenant of Ire­land, pro­vided he take Lord Ran­dolph with him to calm the waters.  The waters were roiled when Lord Ran­dolph “incurred the dis­plea­sure of a great per­son­age,” as Win­ston Churchill put it in his biog­ra­phy of his father.
Lady Edith Aylesford

Lady Edith Aylesford


The uproar was over Randolph’s brother the Mar­quess of Bland­ford‘s affair with Edith, Count­ess of Ayles­ford, wife of the 7th Earl of Ayels­ford, aka “Sport­ing Joe.” It would appear Lady Edith was equally sport­ing. She wished to divorce the Earl and elope with Bland­ford, with whom she had con­ducted a tor­rid love affair. Hear­ing of this, HRH the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) con­demned Bland­ford as “the great­est black­guard alive.” Spring­ing to his brother’s defense, Ran­dolph threat­ened to reveal HRH’s own indis­cre­tions with Lady Edith, where­upon HRH said he would appear in no place where Lord Ran­dolph was present–effectively ostra­ciz­ing Win­ston Churchill’s par­ents from Lon­don Society.

By 1880 the waters had calmed and Lord Ran­dolph and his father returned to Eng­land, patch­ing things up with HRH. (Young Winston’s first mem­o­ries were of Ireland

“Sport­ing Joe” emi­grated to Texas where he bought a cat­tle ranch and died of drink and dropsy aged only 36.  Lady Edith went on to fur­ther sport, but not with Bland­ford. A movie could be made. Ah, the Victorians.



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