Sir Winston Churchill’s Ancestral Grandeur

July 5, 2012

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, by Sir Godfrey Kneller

“He was not only the foremost of English soldiers, but in the first rank among the statesmen of our history.” Thus Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill summed up the greatness of John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, his ancestor eight generations removed. Pondering what he called the “various long-descending channels” of heredity that produced the Duke, Churchill might well have been thinking of his own descent from the victor of Blenheim. The first duke had left the Churchills a splendid legacy. A military genius who never lost a battle, a commoner who served five sovereigns, he was reckoned, even in his own lifetime, a hero of exalted rank…. Unfortunately, neither of his two sons lived to succeed him. The dukedom passed to the child of a daughter, the heir of the Spencer family. Duke followed duke, each magnificent in his way but none that English history needed to mention. Then the seventh duke, Winston’s grandfather, had a nervously brilliant and promising son. The Churchill dynasty, at last, was close to realizing its founder’s highest hopes.

Sir Winston Churchill, with his son Randolf and grandson in ceremonial robes.

Churchill: The Life Triumphant—The Historical Record of Ninety Years (American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1965), p. 18.


Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 192 Editorial comment: —

Sir Winston Churchill’s ancestor was a commoner, yet he was made the first duke of Marlborough.
Is this meteoric social ascent proper? Having been born as a commoner, should he not have remained one for life?
Prof. Plinio Correa de Oliveira sustains that when a person shows extraordinary ability and merit, it is perfectly proper for him to ascend to a higher social class.
He states that fewer individuals of extraordinary ability and merit enter the noble social class than those who choose the other proper and legitimate course of action, namely, to ascend to a higher perfection within the class they were born in. However, both courses of action are proper and legitimate.
Prof. de Oliveira attributes the greater rarity of upward social mobility to the fact that men generally prefer the surroundings and lifestyle they are familiar with, and this is something natural.


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