Wallace Henley: Jonathan Sandys, the Great-Grandson of Winston Churchill, Dies from Chronic Lung Disease

Jonathan Sandys, a descendent of Winston Churchill talks about Churchill Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in Houston. The release of the movie about Churchill, “Darkest Hour,” is set to come out Dec. 15. ( Steve Gonzales / Houston Chronicle )

Jonathan Sandys, the great-grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, died December 29 in a London hospital, of chronic lung disease.

Sandys forged new ground in Churchill studies by exploring in depth his great-grandfather’s faith, in God and Churchill, a book Jonathan and I co-authored.

Jonathan leaves behind his wife, Sara, and two young children. He also leaves the world a volume that shows how God works through people who had been tossed on history’s trash heaps, marked as failures by the haughty establishments of their day, and, as the front cover reads, “How the great leader’s sense of divine destiny changed his troubled world and offers hope for ours.”

Failures, rejections, and comebacks constituted the story of Winston Churchill, and, on a smaller—but no less painful—scale, of Churchill’s great-grandson, Jonathan Sandys.

Jonathan never knew his great-grandfather personally, Churchill having died a decade prior to Jonathan’s birth. However, Jonathan said that from childhood, “my sense of identity was framed in part by the knowledge that I was descended from one of history’s great heroes.”

Jonathan Sandys’ life in some ways paralleled Churchill’s. His great-grandfather struggled with bouts of depression so deeply and so frequently that Churchill gave it a name—“Black Dog”. Jonathan would know such emotional despair at times. Yet, as I can attest, like Winston Churchill, Jonathan Sandys refused to allow his “black dog” periods to trap him in its tight jaws.

Jonathan also struggled in school, as his great-grandfather before him. Winston’s own father scorned the boy as hopeless as a scholar. Jonathan did not have to bear such mockery from his own parents, but dyslexia hampered his capacities as a student.

This is remarkable to me, who spent a year in constant interaction with Jonathan in the writing of God and Churchill. He was determined to both write himself and review what I had written with meticulous attention, though reading was an immense challenge. I saw the pluck and determination that, on a much larger scale, had enabled his great-grandfather to keep standing and leading Britain to victory when, in 1940, defeat seemed almost certain.

Despite the dyslexia, Jonathan said, “I became a self-taught historian, consuming all the books I could find about Churchill and his era.” That research brought Jonathan to the realization that “though he was arguably the greatest leader of the twentieth century, he was only a man, not a god—no better or worse than any of us.”

Jonathan found “that someone as great as Winston Churchill had faced personal challenges similar to my own—difficulty in school, rejection, and an early reputation as a failure.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Wallace Henley