Urban Legends

The Birth of Winston Churchill

The Legend

Famed statesman Winston Churchill was born in a ladies' bathroom during a formal ball.

Behind the Legend

On matters such as these, we defer to experts -- in this case, Roy Gilbert, historian and Webmaster of

From Gilbert, we learned two things. The first was that a "formal ball" was a kind of large, 19th-century dance. This was a great relief to some of us who had suspected a very different meaning.

The second was the truth behind the circumstances of Churchill's birth. As Gilbert puts it on his Web site:

In November of 1874, Lady Randolph Churchill was very pregnant, but despite her condition was traveling with her husband. During the ride, she began to have labor pains, forcing the couple to seek shelter. The Churchills had been married less than seven months, but Lord Randolph had been told in a dream that his wife would become pregnant almost instantly when they were married and that she would deliver what would look like a full-term child a couple of months early, so he was not overly concerned.

The Churchills arrived at Blenheim Palace -- the closest palace at the time -- and asked for a room in which the fruit of Lady Churchill's loins could be dropped from the tree. Unfortunately, a grand ball was taking place at the moment, and there was no room to be had. The Churchills had to make do with a bed of hay in the manger behind the palace. It is there that little Winston Churchill was born.

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