Churchill, Randolph Frederick Edward Spencer- 1911-1968, journalist and MP, was born at Bolton Street, London, 28 May 1911, the only son and second of four children of (Sir) Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, later prime minister, and his wife Clementine Ogilvy Hozier (later Baroness Spencer-Churchill) [qqv.]. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. He was a loquacious and precocious boy, drinking double brandies at the age of eighteen—a habit which did not change over the years. His father disapproved, but told a visitor: Modern young people will do what they like. The only time parents really control their children is before they are born. After that their nature unfolds remorselessly petal by petal. Relations between Winston and Randolph were always uneasy, the father alternately spoiling and being infuriated by the son. They accompanied each other in reasonable harmony on Winstons visit to Canada and the USA in 1929, but Randolph displeased his father soon afterwards by leaving Oxford without a degree in order to become a journalist. He was at an early age a fluent writer and speaker, and a vigorous, if at times embarrassing, supporter of his fathers cause.
In February 1935, without consulting his father, he stood at a by-election in Wavertree as an independent Conservative against the India Bill, thus splitting the party vote and letting in Labour. In the general election that autumn he stood, this time as official Conservative candidate, for West Toxteth. He lost, and lost again at a by-election in February 1936 in Ross and Cromarty against Malcolm MacDonald [qv.], the National Government candidate and dominions secretary—another embarrassment for his father who was then angling for a cabinet post. In 1940, thanks to the party truce, he was elected for Preston, but lost in the election of 1945.
During World War II he was a major in the 4th Queens Own Hussars, serving on the general staff (intelligence) at GHQ Middle East. In January 1944 he was parachuted into Yugoslavia as a member of the (Sir) Fitzroy Maclean mission to support General Tito. He was joined by Evelyn Waugh and F. W. F. Smith, second Earl of Birkenhead [qqv.]. His loquacity maddened his colleagues. There is a story that they bet him a substantial sum that he could not read a certain number of books of the Bible without talking. Well before the end of Genesis he exclaimed Christ! This is exciting and lost his bet, but never paid.
After two more unsuccessful attempts to get into Parliament in 1950 and 1951 he took to authorship, though continuing as a lecturer, journalist, and broadcaster. His ambition was to write the life of his father. The trustees who owned the papers were not too sure. He decided to show that he was a serious biographer by writing the life of E. G. V. Stanley, seventeenth Earl of Derby. It is a reputable if rather dull book, but Lord Derby was a dull man. It was published in 1959 and the trustees gave their consent. Churchill assembled a team of ever-changing research assistants—their position was neither easy nor well paid—at his house, Stour in East Bergholt, Suffolk. In 1964 he wrote The Fight for the Tory Leadership, a very pro-Macmillan account of the accession of A. Douglas-Home (later Lord Home of the Hirsel) to the premiership. He was blown out of the water on 17 January 1964 by Iain Macleod [qv.], who had just become editor of the Spectator, in one of the most famous and devastating articles that has ever appeared in that journal. For once Randolph had no comeback. The first volume of his fathers biography appeared in 1966, Youth 1874-1900; the second, The Young Statesman 1901-1914, a year later, along with five companion volumes of documentation (1967-9). He had set the pattern for a major biographical achievement but he died prematurely. The work was carried to completion by one of his leading research assistants, Martin Gilbert. The eighth and final volume appeared in 1988.
Slim, blond, and good-looking in his youth, he became somewhat bloated in middle age, and his potations did not improve his appearance. Conversation with him could be exciting and enjoyable, but one was uneasily aware of potential explosions. He was not liked in his fathers wartime entourage: I thought Randolph was one of the most objectionable people I had ever met, wrote Sir John Colville, one of Winstons private secretaries. The shadow of a famous father can often damage a competitive son.
He was twice married: in 1932 to Pamela Beryl, daughter of Edward Kenelm Digby, eleventh Baron Digby; they had one son. The marriage was dissolved in 1946 and in 1948 he married June, daughter of Colonel Rex Hamilton Osborne, of Little Ingleburn, Malmesbury, Wiltshire; they had one daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 1961. Churchill died at Stour 6 June 1968.
Randolph Churchill, Twenty-one Years, 1965
Martin Gilbert, Churchill, 1971-88, seriatim
Mark Amory (ed.), The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, 1980
Sir John Colville, The Fringes of Power, 1985