Winston Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough

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His Grace
The Duke of Marlborough
Viceroy of India
In office:

18 April 1931 - 29 September 1935

Preceded by: Lord Halifax
Succeeded by: Lord Linlithgow
Governor-General of East Africa
In office:

28 May 1915 - 1 February 1918

Preceded by: Henry Conway Bellfield
Succeeded by: Edward Northey
Born: 30 November 1874
Died: 29 September 1935
Nationality: British
Spouse: Clementine Hozier (m. 1908)
Alma mater: Harrow School
Occupation: Politician, Colonial Governor
Political party: Liberal

Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, 10th Duke of Marlborough, KG, TD, PC (30 November 1874 – 29 September 1935), was a British politician, soldier and colonial administrator who served as Viceroy of India from 1931 to 1935 and Governor-General of East Africa from 1915 to 1918. He is chiefly remembered for his harsh treatment of the native populaces who he governed, resulting in the 1935 storming of the viceregal palace which culminated in his apparent suicide. His reputation at the time was seen as poor, only surviving politically due to his connections, however his reputation nowadays is of the worst that the colonial era had to offer.

Of mixed English and American parentage, Churchill was born in Oxfordshire to a wealthy, aristocratic family. He joined the British Army in 1895 and saw action in British India, the Anglo-Sudan War, and the Second Boer War, gaining fame as a war correspondent and writing books about his campaigns. Ascending to the Dukedom of Marlborough after his cousin was slain in the Boer War, Churchill was a vocal critic of Prime Minister Asquith despite being of his Liberal Party. He served as Governor-General of Eats Africa during World War One but was dismissed in 1918. He caused similar troubles for Prime Minister Baldwin who secured him the Viceroyalty of the Raj. As Viceroy, Churchill was seen as oppressive and uncaring which culminated in the 1934 Bengal Famine, 1935 Indian Revolt and his apparent suicide.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 at his family's ancestral home, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. On his father's side, he was a member of the British aristocracy as a direct descendant of the 1st Duke of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, representing the Conservative Party, had been elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Woodstock in 1873. His mother, Jennie, was a daughter of Leonard Jerome, a wealthy American businessman.

In 1876, Churchill's paternal grandfather, John Spencer-Churchill, was appointed Viceroy of Ireland, then part of the United Kingdom. Randolph became his private secretary and the family relocated to Dublin. Winston's brother, Jack, was born there in 1880. Throughout much of the 1880s, Randolph and Jennie were effectively estranged, and the brothers were mostly cared for by their nanny, Elizabeth Everest. When she died in 1895, Churchill wrote that "she had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived".

Churchill began boarding at St George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, at age seven but was not academic and his behaviour was poor. In 1884 he transferred to Brunswick School in Hove, where his academic performance improved. In April 1888, aged 13, he narrowly passed the entrance exam for Harrow School. His father wanted him to prepare for a military career and so his last three years at Harrow were in the army form. After two unsuccessful attempts to gain admittance to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, he succeeded on his third. He was accepted as a cadet in the cavalry, starting in September 1893. His father died in January 1895, a month after Churchill graduated from Sandhurst.

Anticipating the outbreak of the Second Boer War between Britain and the Boer Republics, Churchill sailed to South Africa as a journalist for the Morning Post under the editorship of James Nicol Dunn. In October, he travelled to the conflict zone near Ladysmith, then besieged by Boer troops, before heading for Colenso. After his train was derailed by Boer artillery shelling, he was captured as a prisoner of war and interned in a Boer POW camp in Pretoria. In December, Churchill escaped from the prison and evaded his captors by stowing away aboard freight trains and hiding in a mine. He eventually made it to safety in Portuguese East Africa. His escape attracted much publicity.

In January 1900, he rejoined the army as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse regiment, joining Redvers Buller's fight to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith and take Pretoria. He was among the first British troops into both places. He and his cousin, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, demanded the surrender of 52 Boer prison camp guards. They were met with open fire from the Boers, with Marlborough being killed in the crossfire. Churchill was again able to avoid capture and after 10 minutes realised that since Marlborough had only daughters, that he himself was the new Duke of Marlborough. Throughout the war, he had publicly chastised anti-Boer prejudices, calling for them to be treated with "generosity and tolerance", and after the war he urged the British to be magnanimous in victory.

Duke of Marlborough[edit | edit source]

It is widely recorded that before he was elevated to a peerage on the death of his cousin, that Churchill was planning an entry into politics via the House of Commons rather than the House of Lords. Churchill initially sat in parliament as a Conservative, describing himself as a “Tory Democrat”. In May 1904, Churchill opposed the government's proposed Aliens Bill, designed to curb Jewish migration into Britain. He stated that the bill would "appeal to insular prejudice against foreigners, to racial prejudice against Jews, and to labour prejudice against competition" and expressed himself in favour of "the old tolerant and generous practice of free entry and asylum to which this country has so long adhered and from which it has so greatly gained". On 31 May 1904, he crossed the floor, defecting from the Conservatives to sit as a member of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords.

A staunch ally of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and future Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Churchill openly opposed many of H. H. Asquith’s policies and by the outbreak of World War One was reported in a newspaper as calling on other Liberal MPs to question Asquith’s leadership. During this time he was also a known critic of US Presidents William Jennings Bryan and Theodore Roosevelt. After the outbreak of war, Churchill began petitioning for the governorship of British East Africa. Seeing a chance to rid himself of Churchill’s opposition, Asquith requested the King appoint Churchill to the recently vacated governor-generalship of the East African Protectorate.

Churchill’s tenure was marked by his championing of European settlers' interests over those of the native population, notably through the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1915, which deprived natives of their land rights. His perceived lack of interest in the East African Campaign led to discontent, and after three unsuccessful attempts he was forced into retirement by the Colonial Office.

Churchill would quietly return to the House of Lords upon his return from East Africa. For several years he kept a low profile and almost always voted along Liberal Party lines. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin had reportedly gained his trust and was considering offering him a high-ranking cabinet position if the Conservatives and Liberals entered coalition. However in 1930 Churchill’s good graces were destroyed when he referred to the House of Lords as a “bastard institution” despite taking up a seat in it. Sensing that Churchill would become a thorn in his side as he had been to Asquith, Stanley Baldwin recommended Churchill as Viceroy of India hoping that his experience in East Africa would qualify him for the job.

Viceroy of India[edit | edit source]

Churchill would follow the future Prime Minster Edward Halifax as Viceroy of India. Churchill recorded in his diary that he had been bitterly disappointed in Halifax’s passive positions towards the Indian Independence Movement. Churchill took a much more hard-line stance with him ordering the arrests of Mahatma Gandhi and other independence leaders and banning the various nationalistic organisations. He also used the military to forcefully put down the protests and boycotts, which only inflamed the situation and increased support for the revolutionary elements of the independence movement at the cost of more mainstream politics, especially in the north. Gandhi had resisted arrest by refusing to be escorted by British soldiers to a jail cell. After two and a half hours, Churchill gave the orders to shoot Gandhi if necessary. Gandhi died after 12 hours in hospital following a fatal shot to the rib cage. The protests in India were only made worse by a bad harvest that year, worsened by Churchill’s pro-Britain export policy.

On 29 September 1935, Indian rebels descended on the viceregal palace. Churchill had ordered the palace guards to open fire on the mob, but fearing they might be stoking violence, refused. Despite less violent attempts to hold the mob off, the guards were overrun and taken prisoners. By the time the mob descended on Churchill’s office he had already killed himself via gunshot wound to the head.

Upon hearing of the situation, the Gurkhas were brought in to disperse the mob through non-violent means. Churchill was awarded a state funeral but a new Viceroy was appointed quickly after news reached Prime Minister Baldwin of Churchill’s suicide.