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Finest Hour 164

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 36

By Richard M. Langworth



For our last cover I chose a still life I knew she would love, anxious to send her a copy. Instead I find myself sitting down to record the loss of the person who, next to my wife, was the most significant in my life as a writer. We cherish memories of her boundless acts of generosity, which changed our lives forever.

We met in 1983 at the Churchill Hotel, London, on the first of eleven Churchill Tours, many of which she attended. She had a reputation as a determined guardian of the flame, and I wondered if she would view a “Churchill society” as gratuitous or frivolous. No: Lady Soames (“call me Mary”) was entirely approachable and grateful for our work. She was soon a familiar voice on the telephone, as interested in our doings as any doting aunt.

Two years later she and Lord Soames attended the second tour’s dinner for Anthony Montague Browne, her father’s last private secretary (FH 50), held at the Pinafore Room, Savoy Hotel, meeting place of The Other Club. Speaking first, Mary said it was a priceless opportunity to declare what the whole family owed to Anthony: “Until my father drew his last breath, Anthony was practically never absent from his side.” As for us:

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 21

A Churchill Family Album: A Personal Anthology / Family Album: A Personal Selection from Four Generations of Churchills. Allen Lane / Houghton Mifflin, 1982 et seq., 200 pages.



What a delight this book is! Long one of my favorites, it stands with Randolph Churchill’s Churchill: His Life in Photographs (1955) and Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Photographic Portrait (1974).

Melding careful photo selection with insightful captions, the book is drawn largely from the author’s own records and the albums of her mother, with input from many other collections. The 429 photos trace more than a century from Sir Winston’s parents to his great-grandchildren. A few pictures are familiar, but many are not.

Only a family member could add such images to the Churchill saga. Most photos in the public domain have been used so many times that to print them again seems almost superfluous. Lady Soames, with few exceptions (and these are needed for continuity), has no truck with old chestnuts. The ten sections trace Sir Winston’s life from his childhood to Clementine’s widowhood. They include cartoons, drawings, paintings, letters, and newspaper or magazine headlines and pictures. Nor are they all about people. Some show places (such as Chartwell, Chequers, or Cabinet War Rooms), other events (notably VE Day), and private occasions like birthday celebrations.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 21

By Richard M. Langworth

The Profligate Duke: George Spencer-Churchill, Fifth Duke of Marlborough, and His Duchess. HarperCollins, 1987, 256 pages.



“This book is about unimportant people,” our author explains, “but I have found my dramatic personae every bit as interesting in their characters and emotions, in the complexities of their relationships, and in the events of their lives, as those of the...central figures in the history of the Marlborough dynasty.”

A reader correctly summarizes: This is “an interesting sketch of the author’s ancestors and of the late 18th and early 19th century milieu in which they lived. Aficionados will note characteristics of the Fifth Duke—musical ability, a love of exotic plants, and a tendency to wander beyond marriage—that show up in later generations. Lovers of Blenheim will appreciate descriptions of palace life.”

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 23

By Paul Addison

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. London and Boston 1999, 702 pages.



In the fifty-six years of married life Winston and Clementine Churchill were often apart, Winston often in search of action and adventure. Clementine too was affected by wanderlust, and sometimes set off for distant parts, leaving Winston at home. In 1935 she sailed away for a three-month cruise to the Far East. VE-Day found her in Moscow at the end of a tour of the Soviet Union. Whenever apart they exchanged long letters, supplemented by occasional notes and telegrams. Hence this remarkable edition of 800 exchanges out of some 2000 between them, which opens with a letter from Mr. Winston Churchill to Miss Clementine Hozier on 16 April 1908, and closes with a note from Clemmie to Winston on 18 April 1964.

Mary Soames is a fine editor. Her unrivalled knowledge of the subject is complemented by literary and historical skills which are gracefully worn but highly professional. Through footnotes linking passages and biographical notes she dispenses just the right amount of background information.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 22

By Merry N. Alberigi

Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter. HarperCollins / Houghton Mifflin, 1990, 256 pages.



Only two previous books were published on Churchill’s paintings, one of them by himself, yet painting was a vital element over half his life. His artistic talent emerged at age 40, following his dismissal from the Admiralty during the Dardanelles crisis in 1915. Painting distracted him from despair then, and became his faithful companion for more than forty years.

Mary Soames chronicles this very personal aspect of her father’s story as only she could, by weaving his hobby of painting into his life as a statesman, husband and father. He lived in another time of world wars, of house parties, of trips abroad for one’s health, aspects she brings alive, as for example after his loss in the 1945 election: “Those who have neither experienced nor witnessed it cannot imagine the void which opens under the feet of a politician removed from power.”

Skillfully deploying the words of her parents, their friends and herself, the author displays an easy, organized style, deftly tying together her diary entries with numerous personal anecdotes. The book begins in May 1915 when, dismissed, shattered and depressed, he turned to oils to combat his demons. Over the next forty-five years Churchill was to paint more than 500 oils, half of them during the 1930s, which Lady Soames considers the peak of his skills.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 24

By John G. Plumton

A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child. Doubleday / Random House, 2011, 352 pages.



Randolph Churchill is said to have regretted -the difficulty of acorns surviving in the shade of a great oak. Yet in some cases acorns thrive, and fall not far from the parent. One example was Mary Churchill, later Lady Soames, whose personal story was wonderfully told in her long-awaited autobiography.

Here she recounts the rapid-fire events of her first twenty-five years, culminating in her marriage to Christopher Soames in 1947. She was born at the same time as her father purchased Chartwell, a house she has treasured all of her life. Her book brings Chartwell alive as a home better than any guidebook.

She opens with a poignant account of the sad death of Marigold Churchill, the beloved “Duckadilly.” A year later Mary arrived: “Perhaps I was, for my parents, the child of consolation.” We meet Maryott White (“Cousin Moppet” or “Nana”), her mother’s cousin and Mary’s godmother, nanny and lifelong friend. With her parents often in London and abroad, “Nana in all matters ruled my existence—always loving and always there.”

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 20

By Christopher H. Sterling

Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage. Penguin / Houghton Mifflin, 1979. Updated and revised edition, Mariner Books, 2003, 752 pages.



Lady Soames’s first book, this loving yet measured biography, recently updated with more illustrations, is a warmly readable account of Sir Winston’s “other half,” and the strong marriage that stretched from 1908 to 1965. Clementine survived him by a dozen years, through the centenary of his birth and beyond. Re-reading this account many years after the original is a delightful reintroduction to a formidable lady, without whom it is hard to imagine Winston Churchill accomplishing as much as he did.

The most startling “new” fact herein is that Henry Hozier was almost certainly not Clementine’s father. That was most likely the dashing but short-lived equestrian William George “Bay” Middleton, one of several lovers of the headstrong and passionate Blanche Hozier, who had an unhappy marriage. Lady Soames makes clear that while Clementine suspected toward the end of her life that Hozier was not her father, she never knew who was.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 32

By Mary Soames

INAUGURAL MEETING, N. TEXAS CHAPTER, INTERNATIONAL CHURCHILL SOCIETY, 19 FEBRUARY 1986



I am excited and honoured to be here at the first gathering of the North Texas Chapter, and if I’ve had anything to do with people wanting to come then I am indeed happy. You will realise how deeply moving it is for me to see how revered, so long after his death, is my father’s memory, which the International Churchill Society does so much to keep fresh and green.

It makes me proud that you have all come here today to meet me. And as you are setting out on your way, may I venture to say to you what I hope the International Churchill Society does? It does a lot of things, of course—but I hope especially it will continue to take a particular care and pride in keeping the record straight.

There are a lot of stories told about famous people, and I find that as time goes on it is rather like the lens of a camera: Virtues and faults come out of focus. Inaccurate statements said in some paper or book are copied lightheartedly, and reproduce themselves all over the place. Few people take the trouble to go back to the source and find out if that really was what happened. I like to hope that the Society will, above all the other things, regard itself as the guardian of the true picture and try always to bring that camera back into true focus.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 06

By Laurence Geller



For the first time in its history Finest Hour has broken its regular schedule to produce a special edition in memory of Lady Soames, our Patron from 1983 until May 31st last.

It is hard for me to put into words the sense of generational loss we all feel. As I watched the so-recent images of those remaining veterans who made it back to Normandy on the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, I was saddened to reflect that they will soon have passed too, and the live and vivid memories of those tumultuous and terrible times will have gone with them.

Mary Soames’s passing less than a fortnight before that anniversary is also a cause for grief, despite the knowledge of an amazing life, so well and fully lived. All who have had the privilege of knowing her share the pain of her loss and the loss of all she represented so well. Over the past decade and a half I had the immense pleasure of spending increasing amounts of time with her, and always enjoyed and learned from her company.

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Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 13

By Niels Bjerre

“She encouraged us to keep the flame alive....”



It is twenty years since I received my first letter of appreciation from Lady Soames, a few weeks after the opening of my first Churchill exhibition by the actor Robert Hardy at the Royal Arsenal Museum. I was touched by her deep interest in what we were doing, and received her letter of approval with deep pride.

I am among those fortunate enough to have met her on many occasions, not least in October 2000, when she came to open “Remember Winston Churchill,” an exhibit at the newspapers building at Kongens Nytorv, marking the 50th anniversary of her father’s visit to Copenhagen. As a little surprise, I collected her in the same Humber Super Snipe that had carried her father through the streets in 1950. We conveyed her to the Scandic Hotel, where she had a splendid 18th floor suite looking out over the city.

A few hours later we drove to the opening, where she was warmly greeted by a trumpet fanfare used by the World War II Danish Resistance. The invited audience included former Premier Paul Schlüter; Mærsk McKinney-Møller of the Mærsk shipping line; the Churchill Club’s Knud Pedersen; British Ambassador Philip Astley; and René Højris, who lent part of his vast Churchilliana collection. Lady Soames gave a warm speech saying she was thrilled to see the affection that the Danish people still had for her father, and we toasted her with Pol Roger champagne.

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