How does it feel to have a British legend as an ancestor – is it a millstone round your neck or does it help open doors? The descendants of four iconic figures tell Andrew Preston what living with their forebears’ legacies has meant to them, as they pose for photographer Drew Gardner’s glorious re-creations of original portraits.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was twice prime minister and a noted writer, artist and historian. His great-grandson Randolph, 57, lives near Winston’s former home Chartwell in Kent with his wife Catherine.
They have four children. He works in finance and is involved in the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which encourages people to discover new ideas around the world to bring about change back home.
Sir Winston Churchill (pictured) was twice prime minister and a noted writer, artist and historian. His great-grandson Randolph, 57, lives near Chartwell in Kent with his wife.
Randolph (pictured as Winston) says that ‘standing up for freedom and democracy, that is the message from him that rings through – being able to stand up for your beliefs, for humanity and our way of life’
‘I was born on 22 January 1965 and my great-grandfather died on the 24th, so my birth was announced in the papers on the same day as reports of his death. I have a charming Osbert Lancaster newspaper cartoon – a nanny is pushing a pram, and a journalist pokes a microphone in and says, ‘Mr Churchill, please let us know your intimate memories of your great-grandfather.’
‘This 1916 portrait by William Orpen shows my great-grandfather at his lowest point [in 1915 he’d been forced to resign as First Lord of the Admiralty after the failed attack on the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli campaign]. His wife Clementine said she thought he’d die of grief with the burden of all the world on him.
‘It’s very moving and shows the pain he was feeling at the time. None of our family can anywhere near live up to him and all that he achieved.
‘So it was very humbling to dress as him, and gave me a real admiration for how the artist struck that portrait. Not a day goes by when I’m not inspired by Winston Churchill.
‘To see the leadership that he gave through the country’s dark days, and how he picked himself up from all the challenges, difficulties and failures he had over the years, is remarkable. Standing up for freedom and democracy, that is the message from him that rings through – being able to stand up for your beliefs, for humanity and our way of life.
‘I think people need to remember that we’re privileged to have the vote and live in a country where proper respect is given to the law. The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust has been such a success and it absolutely thrills our family to see how many people it supports, going out and bringing back lifechanging opportunities for their communities or their professions.
‘Having the Churchill name does take away the joy of anonymity, but it is a great privilege. One year, we were arriving on holiday in Antigua and being ushered into the terminal.
‘Claudia Schiffer was in front of us and the man at the passport counter didn’t bother looking up as she went through. His colleagues said, ‘You just had the most beautiful woman in the world there and you didn’t even look up.’
‘Then I presented myself and the chap raised his head and said, ‘Good day, Mr Churchill, did you bring your cigars with you?’
Sir Malcolm Campbell (1885-1948) held land and water world speed records, and was the first person to travel at 300mph on land. His son Donald, also a speed record breaker, died in a crash on Coniston Water in 1967.
Sir Malcolm’s grandson Don Wales, 61, a photographer and father of two who lives in Surrey, holds the world speed record for a steam-powered car.
Malcolm Campbell held land and water world speed records, and was the first person to travel at 300mph on land. His son Donald, was also a speed record breaker. His grandson Don Wales, 61, from Surrey holds the world speed record for a steam-powered car
Don (pictured as Malcolm) never met his grandfather but hopes that he would be proud of him for carrying on with speed racing
‘In 2015, I drove my grandfather’s Sunbeam Blue Bird on Pendine Sands in Wales, where he got his first land speed record in 1924. I drove it at 50mph, wearing just a leather flying hat and goggles for protection in an open cockpit, as he had.
‘I thought it wouldn’t have taken much to be flung up from the beach to knock me out. His record was 146.16mph that day, which showed his incredible bravery.
‘And to think that a hat and goggles were his only protection when he went at 301mph in 1935 is quite unbelievable.
‘My grandfather had an extraordinary life, including involvement with the Special Operations Executive during the war. I believe at one stage he shared an office with Ian Fleming.
‘I like to think that a little bit of James Bond was invented in that office. People say I look very like Malcolm, but I think that as a child I more resembled his son Donald, my uncle, when he was young.
‘I never met my grandfather but I met Donald a few times and remember the day he died in 1967. I was just six and sitting at the breakfast table when my mother, Donald’s sister, got a phone call.
‘She cried out, ‘Donald’s had an accident!’ I didn’t understand, as I thought she was talking about me. Later in the day I remember seeing a newsflash about it on TV.
‘I got into speed record-breaking in my 30s. I still hold the world steam car one – just over 148mph – and would like to set an electric car record. I hope my uncle and grandfather would applaud me for having a go.’
Sir Walter Raleigh (1552- 1618) was an explorer, soldier and writer. Tim Mander, 61, his ten-times-great grandson, is a local government officer in Somerset and father of two.
Walter Raleigh (pictured) was an explorer, soldier and writer. Tim Mander, 61, from Somerset is his ten-times-great grandson and works in local government
Tim (pictured as Walter) says that he has mixed feelings about his ancestor, as although he was a great writer he was involved in unpleasant business in Ireland
‘Sir Walter was from East Budleigh in Devon and we’re related to him through my paternal grandmother, Mary Raleigh. I have Raleigh as a middle name, as do my two sons.
‘We’ve both got long noses and I get seasick, as did he. He was at sea for weeks on expeditions but never seemed to find his sea legs.
‘I have mixed feelings about him. He went to the Americas and got to know the ways of the people he was trading with.
‘He was interested in science and a great writer. But he was also involved in pretty unpleasant business in Ireland.
‘The court was a dangerous place to be in those days and he was executed by James I for treason. A lot of family assets – he had Sherborne Castle in Dorset – were then taken away.
‘I’d like to visit places he went to in America, and I think I could use my name to my advantage.’
Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the daughter of Lord Byron, was a mathematician and pioneer of computing who inspired Alan Turing. Isabelle Kate Solly, 29, her great-great-great granddaughter, works in financial marketing and lives in London.
Ada Lovelace (pictured) the daughter of Lord Byron, was a mathematician and pioneer of computing. Isabelle Kate Solly, 29, from London, is her great-great-great granddaughter and works in financial marketing
Isabelle (pictured as Ada) says that she feels proud to be related to such a pioneer and brilliant mind
‘It was a lot of fun dressing up as Ada, but also rather strange. I believe there are physical resemblances, assuming the painter didn’t take too much artistic licence.
‘I feel proud to be related to such a pioneer and brilliant mind. I’ve been told that, like Ada, I have intuition and that I’m analytical, but also artistic and creative in equal measure.
‘I’d always known we were related but hadn’t realised how significant a person she was until I started exploring further. Her life was extraordinary for a mid-1800s woman.
‘That was in part down to her mother’s desire to prevent the development of any of the tempestuous traits shown by Lord Byron, Ada’s father.
‘She’s been an inspiration for many, including programmers and women involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). I really admire her dedication to her passion.
‘I feel inspired by her, and think a message that her life teaches us is to invest in your education because it unlocks so much potential.’
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