Large country houses were ready sites for romantic trysts. One story from the 1890s told how Lord Charles Beresford “let himself into what he believed was his mistress’s bedroom and with a lusty cry of ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’ leaped into the bed–only to discover that it was occupied by the Bishop of Chester and his wife.” *
To avoid such confusions, the country house Wentworth Woodhouse took the helpful step of giving its guests silver boxes containing personalized confetti, which they could sprinkle through the corridors to help find their way back to, or between, rooms.”* Some houses had name slots placed on the doors for ease of location. Another device was to have a bell “rung at 6 a.m. to warn lovers it was time to find their own rooms before the servants brought their tea.”**
A more risqué episode concerned Jennie Churchill (Winston’s mother) who conceived a passion for horseback riding. Her favorite riding partner was John Strange Jocelyn, a handsome, dashing man who lived with his wife on a 9,000 acres family estate in Ireland. It was said “He was the kind of man who could climb up the drainpipe to a bedroom window, and did.”***
On February 4, 1880, Jennie gave birth in Dublin to a second son. The boy was always called Jack, but his proper name was John Strange Spencer-Churchill.
Poorer families could not sustain the taking-on of any extramarital children. By contrast, the wealthy mainly cared about the legitimacy of the eldest son, the heir. As the Duchess of Marlborough Consuelo acidly put it, she had done her marital duty when she had produced “an heir and a spare” and so was then free to do as she pleased.
Next time, a change of pace: Strolling Around The Lovely Lake District
*Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Anchor Books,
***Martin, Ralph G. Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, 1854-1895; 134.
Englewood Cliffs, N. J., Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969.
**Warwick, Sarah. Upstairs and Downstairs. London: Carlton Publishing Group, 2011;
Photo credit: internet free use image of Jennie Jerome Churchill