I have two questions. When Lord Randolph Churchill was banished to Ireland in 1876, after the Aylesford incident, did he remain a Member of the House of Commons? And 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 grounds that as a Lord he couldn’t be a member of Commons and that would would hamper him as Prime Minister. —S.N.
Protocol and Practice
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.
Exile in Ireland
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. Prime Minister Disraeli arranged to install the Duke as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. He took Lord Randolph with him to calm the waters. The waters were roiled when Lord Randolph “incurred the displeasure of a great personage.” This is how Winston Churchill put it in his biography of his father.
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.