A descendant of the famous aristocratic Spencer family, Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, like his father, used the surname Churchill in public life. His ancestor George Spencer had changed his surname to Spencer-Churchill in 1817 when he became Duke of Marlborough, to highlight his descent from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Winston's father, Lord Randolph Churchill, the third son of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, was a politician, while his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie Jerome) was the daughter of American millionaire Leonard Jerome. Born on 30 November 1874, 2 months prematurely, in a bedroom in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, Churchill had one brother, John Strange Spencer-Churchill.
Blenheim Palace, the Churchill family home
Independent and rebellious by nature, Churchill generally did poorly in school, for which he was punished. He was educated at three independent schools: St George's School in Ascot, Berkshire, followed by Brunswick School in Hove, near Brighton (the school has since been renamed Stoke Brunswick School and relocated to Ashurst Wood in West Sussex), and then at Harrow School from 17 April 1888, where his military career began. Within weeks of his arrival, he had joined the Harrow Rifle Corps. He earned high marks in English and History and was also the school's fencing champion.