Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, the Sudan, and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns.
Churchill's speeches were a great inspiration to the embattled British in World War II. His first as prime minister was the famous, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat" speech. One historian has called its effect on Parliament as "electrifying". The House of Commons that had ignored him during the 1930s "was now listening, and cheering". Churchill followed that closely with two other equally famous ones, given just before the Battle of Britain. One included the words:
... we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'.