Sunday, January 20, 2019

DAY 2: Death in the Cruelest Season

Parliament under Snow
While Jennie made her way from Rangoon to Madras, then to Cairo and a swift boat across the Mediterranean with a dying Randolph, the approaching winter in London was dire.

Weather historians and climatologists believe these few months near the end of the nineteenth century were in fact the close of the Little Ice Age, and the peak of a decade of harsh winters that buffeted Great Britain. No month as cold as January and February, 1895, occurred again in the British Isles until 1940.
Boats Frozen in the Thames, Greenwich, 1895, courtesy

The River Thames froze for the last time on record. This caused profound shipping and trade disruptions, which in turn led to mass unemployment. Lacking any sort of social safety net, England's laborers suffered profoundly. Coal supplies began to dwindle as the barges that normally shipped the fuel were stymied on frozen rivers and canals. Soup kitchens were set up in major cities throughout the kingdom. The homeless froze to death on the streets.

Skating on the Serpentine, 1895, Historic England

There were also mass skating parties, however, with some fifty thousand people taking to the ice on Hyde Park's Serpentine. There were fires burning in barrels and speed-skating races, and some of the unemployed earned a few coins vending hot tea or tidying the park.
Jennie and Randolph disembarked at Liverpool on Christmas Eve, 1894, Randolph being conveyed to the docks on a stretcher. One month later, in the early hours of January 24th, 1895, Winston remembers racing on foot through snowdrifts covering Grosvenor Square. He had been staying with friends, as there was no room in Duchess Fanny's house. And he'd been summoned in the darkness to his father's deathbed. 

Seventy years later, Winston, too, would die on January 24th.

For more images of people, places and fashion from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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