A family at the heart of history - from the Duke of Marlborough to Winston Churchill
Of all Britain’s great families perhaps none has been so overshadowed by the force of one member’s personality as the Churchills. And yet in this vivid and brilliant tale of the dynasty – of which Gladstone remarked, ‘There never was a Churchill from John of Marlborough down who had either morals or principles’ – theirs turns out to be a narrative of epic breadth and drama.
From the First Duke of Marlborough – soldier of genius, restless empire-builder and cuckolder of Charles II – onwards, the Churchills have been politicians, gamblers and profligates, heroes and womanisers. The family continued to flourish in the nineteenth and twentieth-century, achieving power and influence in both Britain and America, helped by marriages to the ravishing and wealthy New York society beauties Jennie Jerome and Consuelo Vanderbilt. Mary S Lovell tells a gripping story of momentous times that include the death of Queen Victoria, two world wars, the Wall St Crash and Great Depression, Women’s Emancipation, and beyond. She charts triumphant political and military campaigns; the construction of great houses; quiet, domestic tragedies; disastrous marriages – ending in venereal disease, guns by the bedside and papal annulment – including those of Winston’s children; and profoundly happy ones such as his own to Clementine Hozier.
The Churchills is a richly layered portrait of an extraordinary set of men and women – grandly ambitious, regularly impecunious, impulsive, arrogant and brave. And towering above the Churchill clan is the figure of Winston - his failures and his triumphs shown in a new and revealing context - but ultimately our ‘greatest Briton’.
What the reviewers said:
"Meticulously detailed … eminently readable."
New York Times.
"Never ceases to amaze and entertain … Lovell is a skilled storyteller and she writes in a level assured tone … the result is an unputdownable family saga."
"A tremendous read … packing in more champagne, adultery, divorce and continental dalliances than any book I have read. Engrossing"
Stella Tillyard, Financial Times.
"The author has done an admirable job in weaving [the character’s stories] together to create a splendid saga"
Hugo Vickers, Country Life.
"[a] vivid and enjoyable rollercoaster. Many of the stories she tells are not new; but seeing how they affect Winston on the world stage adds immeasurably to their dramatic edge. Lovell has unearthed many fascinating details about life in the Churchill family; bringing them all together reveals that, while calling on the nation for every last ounce of effort, Winston himself was being personally drained."
"The little-known private dramas … resonate. It rounds out one’s image of Churchill the statesman. Exceptionally readable narrative."
James Owen, Mail on Sunday.
"Enthralling … written with considerable grace and style."
Kathryn Hughes, The Guardian.
"… Lovell pens a lively account of the clan."
The Sunday Times.
"The Churchills treads the tightrope between gossip and history, which is the source of its pleasure."
Frances Wilson, Daily Telegraph.
"… if you’re new to the subject, The Churchills won’t let you down – and if you’re an addict of the genre, it’ll provide a perfectly competent summary."
A. N. Wilson, Reader’s Digest.
"An engaging and eminently readable tale of a fascinating family."
"… many good stories bear re-telling and Lovell, who explains from the start that she regards ‘contemporary gossip’ as legitimate source material, tells them with relish."
Anne Chisholm, Evening Standard.
"Very enjoyable ... one of the great pleasures of this biography is seeing the lesser known characters take their place in history."
"An unbeatable combination of scandal and glory."
"Intelligent and well written ... Lovell weaves together all the anecdotes so seamlessly, and it’s fun to read... A lively collective portrait."
Los Angeles Times.