Wife Katherine Beaven
6 Herbert Street in London
Eton College, Windsor
Victor Alexander "Peter" Spencer, 2nd Viscount Churchill (August 2, 1890 - December 21, 1973) was a bisexual aristocrat, actor, playwriter and jounalist.
Victor Spencer, the son of Victor Charles Spencer, 1st Viscount Churchill and Lady Verena Lowther, the daughter of 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, was born on 2nd August 1890 at 6 Herbert Street in London.
At the age of twelve he became Page of Honour to King Edward VII. His mother used the 400 pounds he was paid to buy his uniforms. Peter Spencer was educated at Eton College. His father, the 1st Viscount Churchill, was an active member of the Conservative Party and was a party whip in the House of Lords. He was also chairman of the Great Western Railway and a director of the Peninsular & Oriental Steamship Company. In his early life Peter enjoyed a good relationship with his father.
His mother, Lady Verena Lowther Spencer, became a close friend of Annie Besant. At the time Besant was leader of the Theosophical Society. Verena became a sincere disciple of Besant and became a strict vegetarian as well as a thorough believer in theosophic dogma, included reincarnation. This brought her into contact with other feminists and socialists such as Countess Muriel de la Warr. When Peter was sixteen 1st Viscount Churchill left the family home and went to live with Christine McRae Sinclair. When Peter decided to stay with his mother his father disinherited him and never spoke to him again.
Peter Spencer decided he wanted to study at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Lady Emily Lonsdale, his grandmother, offered to fund his education. On the outbreak of the First World War Spencer considered being a conscientious objector, but then decided to join the King's Own Scottish Borderers. Spencer served on the Western Front at Ypres where he was a victim of a German chlorine gas attack in 1915. He also remembered meeting his cousin, Winston Churchill, when he was visiting Sir Douglas Haig.
In 1916 his mother asked Peter to marry her friend Katherine Beaven, whose husband had been killed at Jutland: "My mother started writing to me a series of daily letters full of despair. They were all about the stories which she said my father was continuing to spread in London concerning K (Katherine Beaven) and her. I had never known my mother to be in such a depressed and desperate state of mind. Then, one day, she said that she was coming over to see me. She said that she had something to discuss with me that she did not want to talk of in a letter. I managed to get leave so that we could meet in Paris. It was wartime, but she succeeded in getting there. Her appearance gave me a shock. She looked ill and crushed in spirit. The old fight had gone out of her. When she told me what it was that she had come over to say to me, I found at first that I could hardly believe what I heard. It was a simple request. Would I marry K? If I married K it would settle everything and all the endless troubles would be over. No one, my mother said, would go on believing the stories that my father had been spreading. Everything would be explained. It would be the most natural thing for my mother to be with her daughter-in-law. "
Spencer married Katherine Beaven and then returned to the front-line. He was promoted to the rank of Major but at the end of the First World War he once again came into conflict with his mother: "It was not surprising that at the end of the war my mother wanted to leave England, where things had been so unhappy for her. It was then that she proposed that she and K should come to France and make a home there with me. This I refused." After the war Peter Spencer found work as a journalist in London. He then became an actor.
Soon after arriving in New York City he was invited by Guthrie McClintic, the theatrical producer, to read for the part of Duke of St Austrey in a new play by Margaret Ayer Barnes, based on the book, The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton. Spencer was offered the part in the play that starred Katharine Cornell. The play was a great success and it ran on Broadway for over a year. Spencer found himself unemployed at the end of the run. On his return to London he became a playwright and had great success with The Late Comer.
In the early 1930s Spencer became involved in politics. He was converted to socialism after reading Memories of Lenin by Nadezhda Krupskaya. He also read the works of Karl Marx, Lenin, Harold Laski, Mikhail Bakunin and John Stuart Mill. Spencer joined the Labour Party and attempts were being made to get him selected to the House of Commons. However, on 3rd January 1934, his father died and he became the 2nd Viscount Churchill and as a member of the House of Lords, was unable to stand for Parliament. He decided to return to journalism and helped establish the Political Research Bureau.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Spencer decided he must play an active role in the struggle against fascism. In July 1936, Isabel Brown, at the Relief Committee for the Victims of Fascism in London, received a telegram from Socorro Rojo Internacional, based in Madrid, asking for help in the struggle against fascism in Spain. Brown approached the Socialist Medical Association about sending medical help to Republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War.
Brown contacted Hyacinth Morgan, who in turn saw Dr Charles Brook. Isabel Brown also contacted Peter Spencer. In his autobiography, All My Sins Remembered (1964) explained what happened: "Finally, a group of us - three well-known medical men, a famous scientist, several trade unionists, and one communist - formed a committee for the purpose of collecting money for medical supplies to be sent to the Spanish Government forces." At the meeting on 8th August 1936 it was decided to form a Spanish Medical Aid Committee. Dr. Christopher Addison was elected President and the Marchioness of Huntingdon agreed to become treasurer.
On his return from Spain he worked as a journalist in the United States and during the Second World War served in the US Air Force. He later remarked how different this was from the time he served in the First World War: "Twenty-five years later it had been another surprise to find myself a sergeant, far from the youngest this time, in the United States Air Force. Major to sergeant in twenty-five years, the theme was in keeping with the rest. The paradox had held."
Katherine Spencer, Vicountess Churchill, died on 1st December 1943. Soon afterwards he met Joan Black. "Joan, beautiful, vulnerable, impossible and fantastically loyal, with a child's clear wisdom, and the confused values of a contradictory grown-up, was about the most human person I had ever known in my life." The couple were married on 19th October 1949. They lived in California before moving back to London. "I thought Joan might enjoy being Viscountess Churchill in England for a while." Joan died of hepatitis on 12th May 1957.
Peter Spencer, 2nd Viscount Churchill, published his autobiography, All My Sins Remembered, in 1968. He died on 21st December 1973 at the age 83.
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