The personality of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill could very well be a subject of interest to an alienist who, by definition, is a physician who treats mental disorders. There is a saying that the world is governed with very little sense and there are times when one could add to this statement that it often has been governed by lunatics.
Churchill was born in 1874 and died in 1965. His father was Randolph Spencer-Churchill, a son of the Duke of Marlborough. The first Duke was John Churchill, one of England’s most capable military commanders, who died without male issue in 1722 and the title was given to one of his nephews, a Spencer. As a courtesy, the Spencer family was allowed to add Churchill to its name, separated by a hyphen. Winston always wanted to believe that he was a gifted military leader in the mold of the first Duke but his efforts at generalship were always unqualified disasters that he generally blamed on other people. This chronic refusal to accept responsibility for his own incompetent actions is one of Churchill’s less endearing qualities.
Randolph Churchill died early as the result of rampant syphilis that turned him from an interesting minor politician to a pathetic madman who had to be kept away from the public in the final years of his life. His mother was the former Jennie Jerome, an American. The Jerome family had seen better days when Jennie met Randolph. Her father, Leonard, was a stock-market manipulator who had lost his money and the marriage was more one of convenience than of affection.
The Jeromes were by background very typically American. On her father’s side, Jennie was mostly Irish and on her mother’s American Indian and Jewish. The union produced two children, Winston and Jack. The parents lived separate lives, both seeking the company of other men. Winston’s psyche suffered accordingly and throughout his life, his frantic desire for attention obviously had its roots in his abandonment as a child.
As a member of the 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars, in 1896 Churchill became embroiled in a lawsuit wherein he was publicly accused of having engaged in the commission of “acts of gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde (homosexual) type.” This case was duly settled out of court for a payment of money and the charges were withdrawn. Also a determinant factor was the interference by the Prince of Wales with whom his mother was having an affair.
In 1905, Churchill hired a young man, Edward Marsh (later Sir Edward) as his private secretary. His mother, always concerned about her son’s political career, was concerned because Marsh was a very well known homosexual who later became one of Winston’s most intimate lifelong friends. Personal correspondence of March, now in private hands, attests to the nature and duration of their friendship.
Churchill, as Asquith once said, was consumed with vanity and his belief that he was a brilliant military leader led him from the terrible disaster of Gallipoli through the campaigns of the Second World War. He meddled constantly in military matters to the despair and eventual fury of his professional military advisors but his political excursions were even more disastrous. Churchill was a man who was incapable of love but could certainly hate. He was viciously vindictive towards anyone who thwarted him and a number of these perceived enemies died sudden deaths during the war when such activities were much easier to order and conceal.
One of Churchill’s less attractive personality traits, aside from his refusal to accept the responsibility for the failure of his actions, was his ability to change his opinions at a moment’s notice.
Once anti-American, he did a complete about-face when confronted with a war he escalated and could not fight, and from a supporter of Hitler’s rebuilding of Germany, he turned into a bitter enemy after a Jewish political action association composed of wealthy businessmen hired him to be their spokesman.
Churchill lavishly praised American President Franklin Roosevelt to his face and defamed him, with the ugliest of accusations, behind his back. The American President was a far more astute politician than Churchill and certainly far saner.