The Churchills had been forced to move from 2 Connaught Place and move to 50 Grosvenor Square with the Duchess of Marlborough. In October they were also forced to relinquish Banstend. This was particularly distressing because Lady Randolph was seriously ill at the time with peritonitis.
In November Winston made his second attempt at the Entrance Examination into Sandhurst. He would not obtain his results until January but Reverend Welldon wrote the boy’s parents that he was confident of success.
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In July, Winston was unsuccessful in writing an entrance examination for Sandhurst. He stood 390th out of 693 candidates. However, out of 415 candidates who wrote English History he stood eighteenth. Harrow’s Headmaster, the Rev. Welldon, advised him that “…in coming back to school you should be resolved to work not in fits and starts but with persistent industry…” and that the “…grammatical foundation of your languages is so uncertain that you lose marks which other boys gain.” Lord Randolph wrote the Duchess of Marlborough that if the boy failed another examination which he would write in November “I shall think of putting him in business.” When Winston returned to Harrow he was joined by his brother, Jack, who shared a room with him.
The Churchill family was in difficult financial straits and this forced them to give up 2 Connaught Place and move in with the Duchess of Marlborough at 50 Grosvenor Square. The Unionist Government was defeated that summer by the Gladstone Liberals and the Irish Nationalists. Lord Randolph sat in the Opposition backbenches. He commented that he preferred the Liberals and would have become one were it not for Home Rule.
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Winston’s great achievement this term was the winning of a fencing championship. He reported to his mother that he was “far and away first. Absolutely untouched in the finals.” He also wrote to his father about his accomplishments, asking for more money. Lord Randolph’s response focused on the financial request: “I send you £1 but you are really too extravagant … If you were a millionaire you could not be more extravagant … This cannot last, and if you are not more careful should you get into the army six months of it will see you in Bankruptcy Court.”
The Harrovian recognized the achievements overlooked in the paternal response. The comments in the student paper indicated how Churchill would fight battles all of his life: “…his quick and dashing attack … took his opponents by surprise.” It would not be the last time that “Churchill must be congratulated on his success over all his opponents … many of whom must have been much taller and more formidable than himself.”
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In France to study French, against his wishes, Winston was pleased to receive invitations to dine from aristocratic French friends of his parents. He also enjoyed a visit to the morgue but he was somewhat disappointed that there were “only 3 macabres — not a good bag.”
After returning to Harrow, Winston took up his pen with letters to The Harrovian, over a series of pseudonyms, particularly ‘Junius Junior.’ He complained of the use of the Speech Room tower as a classroom, of the constant playing of organ music and of the shortage of towels in the gymnasiurn dressing room. On one occasion the editors of The Harrovian omitted parts of his letter “…which seemed to us to exceed the limits of fair criticism.”
Churchill later recalled receiving the following admonition from the Reverend Mr. Welidon: “My boy, I have observed certain articles which have recently appeared in The Harrovian, of a character not calculated to increase the respect of the boys for the constituted authorities of the school. As The Harrovian is anonymous I shall not dream of inquiring who wrote those articles, but if any more of the same sort appear, it might become my painful duty to swish you.
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In early October Lady Randolph wrote to her husband that she had been to Harrow to see Winston and Mr. Weildon: “I am delighted to be able to give you a very good account of Winston … he has worked very hard and he thinks he is certain to pass in June.” Later in the month Lady Randolph apologized to Winston for being remiss in not writing: “. . . but dear child your letters always have the same refrain ‘please send me money’. You do get through it in the most rapid manner.” Mrs. Everest had been sending him money but even she was now required to refuse: “I cannot oblige you this time. It is utterly impossible unless you wish me to starve. I got into disgrace last time for doing it.”
Parental suspicions existed in other matters. Lady Randolph wrote to Lord Randolph: “Winston is going in for his Confirmation. Perhaps it will steady him —Weildon wrote that Winston wished to become a candidate — I am afraid only because it will get him off other work.”
“I beg and Pray that you will not send me to a vile, nasty, fusty, beastly French family.”
Dr. Welidon thought the boy would benefit from study in France during the Christmas vacation, but Winston was less than pleased by these plans and pleaded not to go. He wrote his mother: “I beg and Pray that you will not send me to a vile, nasty, fusty, beastly French family.” He asked to be allowed to spend Chrismas with his father, after which he would willingly go to France.
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Winston proudly read the letters his father published in the Daily Graphic about his experiences and impressions in South Africa.
In early July Winston went to stay with his Grandmama Marlborough in Grosvenor Square because his mother’s social life was too full to accommodate him in his own home in Banstead. When Reverend Welldon of Harrow suggested that Winston should go to France and Germany for the summer in order to prepare to enter Sandhurst the boy began a campaign to circumvent that plan. He wrote his mother that he was sure that she would not send him to live with “some horrid French Family.” His preference was to study at home with a governess or even, as he quoted his father, “a German scullery maid. “
Lady Randolph was unable to find an appropriate Governess and determined to send him to the continent but changed her mind when she found “a rather nice young man from Cambridge. ” There is no record that this young man was of much assistance. A highlight of the summer was a visit with Count Kinsky, a friend of his mother, to the Crystal Palace to see the visiting German Kaiser.
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Lady Randolph proudly wrote her husband that their son had passed the Preliminary Examination for Sandhurst in everything and had been placed in the special Sandhurst class. Although naturally happy with the results, Winston suffered from a bad throat infection which improved after he visited a seaside house near Cheveley. After Christmas he experienced several other health problems. A tooth infection required many visits to a series of dentists and a strain created a hernia condition which was finally repaired sixty years later. Lord Randolph was visiting South Africa in an elusive search for his own improved health. Lady Randolph stayed home but seldom visited her son who pleaded, “please do do do come.” Winston was “adopted” by a close friend of his parents, Lady Wilton, who called herself “your Deputy Mother.” Thoughout this time, the ever reliable Elizabeth Everest (“Woom”) visited and wrote him.
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