Why was Churchill Named Winston?
Q: Named Winston, but for whom?
Trivia question. For whom was Winston Churchill named? If I ever knew, I no longer do. Are you you able to help? —S. F-L, Chicago
A: Not for the first Sir Winston…
The conventional answer seems first to have been offered by a biographer who said he was named for the first Sir Winston (1620-1688). That was Hugh Martin, in Battle: The Life Story of the Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill (London: Sampson, Low, 1932)….
On his father’s side Winston Churchill is descended from, and named after, the Sir Winston Churchill who was father of John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough, possibly the greatest of English soldiers. Sir Winston was a cavalier of Charles II‘s reign, “brilliant but erratic,” according to Gardiner; “making himself ridiculous by publishing a dull and affected folio,” according to Macaulay. (6)
A little consideration would suggest that was unlikely. Why would Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill name their son for an obscure 17th century ancestor, and a fairly dubious one at that? No, it was someone more recent….
….but for his grandfather John Winston
Celia Lee, author of the excellent Winston & Jack: The Churchill Brothers (2007), is far more authoritative, and closer to family archives:
Winston was baptised on 27th December by the Duke’s Chaplain in the private chapel at Blenheim Palace, and was named after Randolph’ s father, whose middle name was Winston. (14)
John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough (1822-1883) was a Conservative Member of Parliament and betimes a Cabinet minister. His middle name Winston, not borne by any previous Duke of Marlborough, undoubtedly stemmed from the first Sir Winston. So in a way, Hugh Martin was half-right, though undoubtedly Lord Randolph was thinking of his father when he chose “Winston.”
His other grandfather
Anticipating another question, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill also carried the name of his American grandfather, Leonard Jerome (1817-1891).