Monday, November 26, 2018

DAY 57: The Wise, The Good, and The Beautiful

Left to right: Clara, Clarita, Leonie, and Jennie Jerome

 Jennie Jerome was a middle child, the second of her parents' four girls. Although Jennie was the first to marry and leave home at nineteen, she remained close to both her surviving sisters--Clarita, who was three years older, and Leonie, five years younger. The three often combined their households and children in the summer months and holidays, taking houses in the countryside or Paris together.

Clarita Jerome Frewen

Clarita, the eldest Jerome, was blonde and angelic in appearance, and seems to have taken after her mother in temperament--placid, emotional, devoted to her family. She married a flamboyant Englishman, Moreton Frewen, whose nickname was Mortal Ruin due to his propensity to bankrupt everyone who invested in his hairbrained get-rich-quick schemes. He frequently left Clarita and their children without a dime, forcing her to survive on credit and the kindness of her family.

Clare Sheridan in the 1920s

Clarita's children--Hugh, Oswald, and Clare Consuelo--were closely entangled in Jennie's life. Hugh's often caustic description of his mother's attendance on Jennie's final injury and death is invaluable (she was the first of the Jerome sisters to die), while his sister, who after her marriage was known as Clare Sheridan, blazed a trail through the world of Arts and Letters. As a journalist, writer and sculptor she made a name for herself denied to women a generation earlier.

Clare Sheridan in later life, sculpting a bust of  her cousin, Winston
But Clare's passion for life and people was learned at her mother and aunts' feet. She dallied in Bolshevism, and supported the 1917 October Revolution--causing a rift with her cousin Winston. Among her intimates were Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Vivien Leigh, and Vita Sackville-West. While traveling in the United States in the 1920s, she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin.

Leonie with six year-old Winston

Leonie, the youngest Jerome sister, was dark like Jennie and considered the most intellectual of the three women (notably, her nickname was The Wise, while Jennie's was The Beautiful, and Clarita's The Good.) She was also Jennie's equal as a classical pianist of near-professional caliber. Leonie met and fell in love with Jack Leslie, son and heir of the first baronet Leslie--his father, an Anglo-Irishman who'd been a member of Parliament for Glaslough, in County Monaghan. The Leslies had long been a powerful family of soldiers and politicians, and they deplored Jack's choice of an American as his bride. They refused to attend the wedding ceremony at Grace Church in Lower Manhattan, and resisted meeting or acknowledging Leonie until after the birth of her first child--also named John, called Jack. Jack eventually changed his name to Shane after a bout with conversion to Catholicism; he became in time the third baronet.  

Leonie as Brunhild at the 1897 Devonshire House Ball

Leonie was Jennie's favorite correspondent and frequent companion, as she divided her time between a house in London and Glaslough; her children were among Jennie's favorite nieces and nephews. 

The Jerome sisters sustained each other through the Great War, when Winston and Jack Churchill were fighting in France along with Clarita's Hugh and Oswald, Leonie's sons, Shane and Norman, and Clare Sheridan's husband Wilfrid. Norman was killed early, by a sniper at Armentieres in 1914, and hastily buried behind the lines; Shane found the grave, exhumed Norman's body, and had it recoffined for burial in an established British cemetery--a process about which he wrote every detail to his mother. After the Armistice, Leonie and her husband traveled to Armentieres to lay flowers on Norman's grave.

Wilfrid Sheridan, Clare's husband, was killed in 1915 at the Battle of Loos, while leading his men of the Rifle Brigade. The rest of the extended Jerome cousins survived the Great War.

Although the Leslie family still owns and lives on the thousand acre-estate surrounding Castle Leslie, the house itself is now a hotel. You can virtually visit Leonie's home by clicking here.

Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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