Why was Churchill Named Winston?

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

Name­sake: John Win­ston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marl­bor­ough. (Pho­to by
Hugh­es & Mullins, Wiki­me­dia Commons)

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).

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