The Hard Times Are a Thing of the Past for Jock V Courtesy of a Bequest from Beyond the Grave by Winston Churchill
"He is so cute and rambunctious! He sleeps on his side with his head on the pillow and loves searching around."
-- Alice Martin of Chartwell
In a real-life Horatio Alger story that against all odds somehow came true, Jock V has gone from being a homeless cat at a shelter to lord of the manor at Chartwell House. For those unfamiliar with the name, that was Winston Churchill's old brick mansion in the tiny town of Westerham in the Sevenoaks District of Kent.
Like his eponymous predecessors, the nineteen-month-old marmalade tom has four white paws and a matching white bib. (See photo above.)
Rescued by Cats Protection, whose main office is located in Haywards Heath, Sussex, Jock will live "in comfortable residence" as Churchill stipulated in his will. He will live in one of the top flats and have the run of both the mansion and its gardens.
"He is so cute and rambunctious!" Alice Martin of Chartwell cooed to Kent Online on November 29th. (See "Ginger Jock Gets Very Im-paw-tant Job.") "He sleeps on his side with his head on the pillow and loves searching around."
In addition to being pampered by the staff and generally spoiled rotten, the young kitten has, oddly enough, developed a love for water. In fact, he is known to jump into the sink at every opportunity.
Rumored to have served as Henry VIII's abode while he was romancing Anne Boleyn, Chartwell House was purchased by Churchill in 1922 and he lived there, on and off, until his death in 1965 at age ninety. (See photo of the estate below.)
When the sprawling redbrick mansion became too much of a financial hardship for him to operate and maintain, he sold it in 1946 to a group of wealthy businessmen headed by newspaper tycoon Lord Camrose (William Ewart Berry, 1879-1954) with the proviso that he and his wife, Clementine, be allowed to live there for the payment of nominal rent until they died. After his death, however, she advanced that timetable by giving the residence outright to the National Trust in 1966.
Faithful to the former prime minister's wishes, the National Trust has maintained the residence and grounds, including the presence of a marmalade tom, pretty much as they were when he lived there. Visitors thus are ushered into one of the last remaining spots on earth where time seemingly has stood still and undisturbed for the past half century.
As an avid lover of all sorts of animals, Churchill sheltered and cared for numerous cats from the outset at Chartwell. The tradition of keeping a marmalade tom named Jock did not originate however until November of 1962 when a cat fitting that description was given to him by John Rupert "Jock" Colville (1915-1987) who served as one of his secretaries during World War II.
That cat, Jock I, resided at Chartwell for thirteen years until his death in 1975 and is buried in a pet cemetery located on the grounds. Churchill's sacred treatment of cats and other animals stands in stark contrast to how Bill Clinton treated former First Cat, Socks. (See Cat Defender post of March 12, 2009 entitled "Too Cheap and Lazy to Care for Him During His Final Days, Betty Currie Has Socks Killed Off and His Corpse Burned.")
Recently on October 26th the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south London in order to officially open a new £5 million cattery which will feature state-of-the-art heated pens for up to ninety cats. While she was there an eight-week-old kitten named Lucy sank her claws into the Duchess's £1,000 designer jacket but did not do any damage. (See bottom photo.)
"The Duchess is a real animal lover and thought Lucy was adorable," a source close to her told the Daily Mail on October 27th. (See "Kitten Gets Her Claws into Camilla's Designer Jacket as Royal Opens New Battersea Cattery.") "She has worn the jacket dozens of times before and if there is anyone who doesn't give two hoots about having cat hair on her clothes it is her." That undoubtedly is a true statement because the Duchess recently adopted a homeless cat named Raybill.
By way of contrast, no one in recent memory can recall any occupant of the Oval Office either so much as acknowledging that tens of millions of cats and dogs are unjustly slaughtered each year in the United States or taking the time to visit a shelter. Obama, for example, is so selfish, self-centered, and lazy that he only cares about playing golf and vacationing at resorts.
It has not been possible to find out any information about Jock II but Jock III was described as a rather temperamental cat who sometimes would dig his claws into staffers and visitors alike. More than likely that was a bum rap and he instead simply got annoyed with strangers taking liberties with him.
Besides, even the staff at Chartwell admits that he could be rather affectionate when the mood struck him. "He was often out in the garden meeting visitors and particularly enjoyed sleeping in flower beds on sunny days," Caroline Bonnett of Chartwell told author Fred Glueckstein on July 2, 2007. (See "Churchill's Feline Menagerie" at winstonchurchill.org.)
Jock IV, on the other hand, was known as a very accommodating cat who had the staff eating out of his paws. "He spends most of his day sleeping in various chairs and beds around his apartment," Bonnett related in the article cited supra. "He tends to be much more active at night, when he gets out and about in the garden."
The petit fait that there is now a Jock V is a pretty strong indication that Jock IV, sadly, has joined his illustrious predecessors in Churchill's pet cemetery. Being top cat at Chartwell, like heading up the Vatican, is not the type of prestigious position that a cat can easily retire from even it he had half a mind to do so.
Since Jock IV had a lucky staffer as a roommate, it is probable that Jock V also has been saddled with one. That should not impinge too much on his freedom, however, in that the mansion is outfitted with cat flaps.
In spite of Churchill's obvious fondness for cats, there is some evidence to suggest that they nevertheless played second fiddle in the battle to win his affection. "I like pigs!" he once declared. "Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."
In addition to Chartwell, other notable institutions with long histories of maintaining resident felines are the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan and Ernest Hemingway's former residence in Key West. (See Cat Defender posts of October 16, 2010 and July 23, 2007 entitled, respectively, "The Algonquin Undergoes Changes at the Top but Management Wisely Decides to Retain Its Most Loyal and Beloved Employee, Matilda" and "Cat Behaviorist Is Summoned to Key West in Order to Help Determine the Fate of Hemingway's Polydactyls.")
Looking ahead, the bad times spent caged at a shelter and, possibly, even roaming the mean streets are just an unpleasant memory for Jock. There will not be either any more nights spent roughing it or days scrounging around for his next meal. Additionally, he never again will know the sorrow of being forced to go without proper veterinary care.
From now on he will dwell in the lap of luxury and, since his ship came in while he still was a kitten, that should be for a long time to come. It does not not happen too often anymore but deserving kittens, like nice guys, occasionally still come out on top.
As an added bonus, the public is invited to meet Jock and to share in his good fortune as soon as Chartwell reopens to the public on March 13th. Entrée can be secured for as little as £10.60.
Photos: Kent Online (Jock V), Ian Shaw of the National Trust's Photo Library (Chartwell), and the Daily Mail via Getty Images (Lucy and the Duchess).