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Obituary: Yvonne Spencer Churchill 1924-2010 Print E-mail

By Celia Lee

Mrs. Peregrine Spencer-Churchill (Yvonne) as she preferred to be known, died peacefully and with dignity just before half past midnight on 14th December 2010, in a private room at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, off the Fulham Road, London. Members of the Churchill family, including her beloved Mrs. Minnie S. Churchill and Mr. Simon Bird, the Honourable Celia Sandys, her niece Sally, the Lady Ashburton, Mrs. Jennie (Churchill) Repard and her children, her full-time carer, Sally Jones, her nephew Mr. Guillaume Jehanin, her late brother's son, who came over from France, her devoted lawyer of many years, Mr. Robert Sykes, Celia and John Lee, and her circle of dedicated friends who visited her at home on a regular basis, kept up a vigil by her bedside.

Her closest friend and confidant from the "Fairdown days" was the Honourable Iris Dawney, former Lady-in-waiting to the Princess Margaret, who was a regular visitor to Yvonne's home for many years.
My connection with Yvonne and her late husband Peregrine was one of strangers being introduced on a glorious, sunny day, in July 2001, by Basia Hamilton the portrait painter and artist.

I had just published JEAN, LADY HAMILTON (1861-1941) - A SOLDIER'S WIFE, the biography of the wife of General Sir Ian Hamilton who was Basia's husband's Ian's great uncle. The Spectator had given my book a rave review spread over two pages and nominated it book of the week. Yvonne and Peregrine had seen the article and asked Basia about me and we lunched with Peregrine and Yvonne at their country home "Fairdown" in Hampshire.

For some time Peregrine had wanted to write a book about the Churchills which gave his father, Major John Strange Spencer-Churchill (Jack), his rightful place in the family history. Yvonne asked me to write the book but I turned it down at that time. Peregrine was at this time in his late 80s and began writing the book with John and I helping him. He died suddenly the following year, and at Yvonne's request I took over, but his writings were lost when his computer hard disc was cleaned down to be sold without his manuscript having been printed out.

Yvonne gave me full access to the letters and papers of Lord and Lady Randolph Spencer-Churchill, Jack and Goonie, and Peregrine's papers. I began from scratch and spent five years researching the papers. Yvonne moved to London later that year into a flat just round the corner from Lennox Gardens and we saw each other on a regular basis.

Peregrine's death was an enormous loss to her but the thought of the book gave her something to live for. For nearly nine years we practically lived out of each other's pockets. Hardly a week went by without contact and we even telephoned each other when I was on holiday.

Yvonne Jehanin's own story is one of a young girl, aged only 15 years, when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Yvonne was French, the daughter of a lawyer, living in Paris, when the Nazi marched in and took over. She worked as a teacher teaching French including to English people living in Paris.

It is not entirely clear how or why, but Yvonne took a job, working for Peregrine Churchill and his new wife, Patricia neé Somerville-Marsh, who he married in 1954. They had a house in Dorset and a flat in London in Lennox Gardens, in the exclusive "Sloane Ranger" area where Diana Spencer had a bachelor flat in the 1980s, before she married Prince Charles. Yvonne told me laughingly: "I was their (Peregrine's and Patricia's) au pair girl." She said she taught them French and took care of their horses and they could all ride.

This happy trio was soon broken up when Patricia, who had been married before and was aged about 40, was diagnosed terminally ill with cancer. Yvonne took on the role of nurse, and nursed her through her illness until she died. Yvonne then returned to Paris and resumed teaching.

One day Peregrine, who owned his own engineering company, set out to a business meeting in Paris. Having been delayed travelling, he arrived in the City late at night. He had not booked himself into a hotel and could not get in any place for the night. The only address he knew in the whole of Paris was Yvonne's. He turned up at her flat in a taxi around midnight and asked her if he could sleep on the sofa. When Yvonne got up the next morning Peregrine had already gone to his meeting.

He arrived back that evening and by way of thanking her for her kindness invited her out to dinner. Yvonne got dressed up and she was a fine looking woman in her day, standing about 5 feet 8 inches in her stockings, with a perfect figure. She was very much an intellectual with an active interest in everything of value.

They dined together and love blossomed, despite the eleven year disparity in their ages, Peregrine having been born in 1913, and Yvonne in 1924.

He invited Yvonne to England and the courtship continued, and they were married in the Brompton Oratory near Lennox Gardens on 22nd December 1957.

When Peregrine died suddenly in 2002 of a heart attack, Yvonne was insistent that the book must be written as a tribute to his memory so I obliged with my husband John Lee as co-author coming in towards the end to analyse the army careers of Winston and Jack Churchill. Yvonne lived every day for that piece of history to be written and she was most helpful to me. Peregrine adored her, they had the happiest of marriages, and she was devoted to his memory. There was a large drawing of him ever on the wall by the artist John Merton. Yvonne would look up at it and say: "Peregrine was unique".

Yvonne never met her parents-in-law Jack and Goonie, Goonie having died of lung cancer in 1941, and Jack of a tumour at his heart in 1947. But she knew Winston quite well and she could tell a story or two about him. She said that when he became famous as Prime Minister following the Second World War and recognised as a world leader, he used to sit in his study and ring the bell for his butler to come and prepare his cigar. When Jack was alive he used to say to him: "Get up and get it yourself", which story Peregrine had told her. Yvonne was very fond of Winston's wife Clementine, affectionately referred to as "Aunt Clemmie". After Winston's death in 1965, Peregrine and Yvonne spent their Christmases with Aunt Clemmie and Minnie and young Winston and their children.

For Christmas 2007, we published a high quality version of our study of the Churchill family titled: WINSTON & JACK THE CHURCHILL BROTHERS, especially for Yvonne and the Churchill family. There was a packed, private book launch of about 300 people, and we were sponsored by Pol Roger, courtesy of Danielle and Christian Pol Roger and Mr.Bill Gunn at their company in England. His Grace the 11th Duke of Marlborough travelled from Blenheim Palace as guest of honour. Mary, The Lady Soames LG DBE, gave the main address. Dr. John H. Mather, who is an expert on Lord Randolph's health jetted in especially from the US as one of the speakers. For Yvonne it was a night to remember, and Peregrine's spirit could now rest in peace.

Yvonne's ashes are to be interred in the grave with Jack's and Peregrine's in the historic churchyard of St.Martin's, Bladon, Oxfordshire in January 2011. She was 86 years old past in May. They are buried next to Lord and Lady Randolph and Winston and Clemmie.

If I were asked to write Yvonne's epitaph in a single line, for this woman with a mind of her own, it would be as the title of the famous ballad by Frank Sinatra: "I did it my way".


Donations to Médecins Sans Frontières and Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital c/o J.H. Kenyon, 49 Marloes Road, W8 6LA.

 
Yvonne Spencer Churchill 1924-2010 Print E-mail

We were informed of the sad news that Yvonne Henriette Marie Spencer Churchill passed away in her sleep on Monday, 13 December. Yvonne was the second wife of Henry Winston Peregrine Spencer Churchill and daughter-in-law to Major Jack Spencer Churchill, who was the brother of Winston Spencer Churchill. They had been married since 22 December 1957.

Yvonne has taken ill suddenly on Friday just before bedtime. Yvonne's caregiver called her private doctor just before 10:00 pm. He arrived promptly and diagnosed that she had the symptoms of a brain hemorrhage. An ambulance was immediately called and she was taken to Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, but she had fallen into unconsciousness and she was no longer responding. And so it was to the end.

The Churchill family and Yvonne's friends, including Celia and John Lee, who had looked after her since Peregrine died suddenly in 2002, took it in turns to sit by her bedside. She died quietly and peacefully in her sleep, in a private room, just before 12:30 pm on Monday without having regained consciousness.

Celia Lee said that she and her husband John were over with Yvonne the Sunday before last, and "Yvonne was in good form and good health, all dressed up as usual and looked quite well. She looked as though she would live to be 100".

A pre-Christmas tea party had been organised to take place at Yvonne's flat this Sunday past. John Lee had the food ready, the presents were wrapped and the cards written. Alas never to happen.

Yvonne's lawyer Robert Sykes advised by e-mail on Tuesday that the funeral will take place in January.

Read the obituary written by Celia Lee here.

 

 
Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy Releases Their Annual Blue Book Print E-mail

The Toronto, Ontario based Churchill Society for the Advancement of Parliamentary Democracy has just released thier annual Blue Book. The Book contains all of the speeches from their 26th annual dinner, which was held last November. This is the first time that they have released the Book in electronic format.

This year's Blue Book contains an address by historian Lynn Olson entitled, "Troublesome Young Men" after her book of the same title. This past year's Excellence in the Cause of Parliamentary Democracy Award was presented to The Rt. Honourable Herb Gray by Chairman Robert A. O'Brien.


 
President of Chile Savours a Touch of Churchill Magic Print E-mail

Sebastian Piñera visits Cabinet War Rooms ahead of appointments today with David Cameron and the Queen

By Martin Hickman

 

THE INDEPENDENT, Monday, 18 October 2010 - Basking in the glory of the miners' rescue, Chile's President, Sebastian Piñera, started a state visit to Britain yesterday with a tour of Sir Winston Churchill's underground, Second World War headquarters.

 

In the Churchill War Rooms in Whitehall, London, where the prime minister orchestrated the war effort and rallied the public during the Blitz, Mr Piñera refrained from uttering the words "blood, toil, tears and sweat" from his boyhood hero's 1940 speech, which he had kept at his side during the miners' ordeal.

 

Instead, he sat in Churchill's wooden chair and pulled from a suit pocket a small hessian sack containing a lump of rock taken from the San Jose mine, from which 33 miners were freed last week after 69 days below ground. He also offered as a gift to the War Rooms' director, Phil Reed, a facsimile of the first, red-lettered note from Los 33 saying "Estamos Bien en el refugio, los 33" ("We are doing well in our refuge, the 33.")


Overseen by Mr Piñera in a 22-hour operation, at the end of which he hugged every miner as they emerged from the emergency chute bored 622 metres under the Atacama desert, the extraordinary rescue has lifted his poll ratings and Chile's international standing, providing the ideal springboard for his long-planned tour of Europe

A billionaire businessman, the Harvard-educated economist is hoping that his visit will underline Chile's transition from an insular dictatorship to a democratic economic power - and attract inward investment. He is also hoping to banish any lingering memories of Augusto Pinochet, the last Chilean head of state to make headlines in the UK during his arrest 12 years ago for murdering civilians during the 1970s.

 

Read the entire article here at The Independent

 

©THE INDEPENDENT

 
27th International Churchill Conference Chairs Hold Newsreel Meeting at USC Print E-mail

Columbia, South Carolina, Monday, September 20, 2010

USC/MIRC Movietone Newsreel

Craig Horn, North Carolina Churchillians, Ken Childs, Bernard Baruch Chapter (South Carolina), co-chairmen of the 27th International Churchill Conference, March 24-26, 2011, in Charleston, SC, and Judy Kambestad, Churchillians of Southern California, and Conference Manager, met with Greg Wilsbacher, Curator, Newsfilm Collections, Moving Image Research Collection (MIRC), and staff at the University of South Carolina to preview the first pass at editing newsreels. Judy Kambestad had edited nine hours of film, most of it ‘historic' or unedited and unseen outtakes, down to two hours. Footage includes Churchill speaking on India in 1931. 1942 includes a speech to workers with Clementine and Mary Churchill in Yorkshire; arriving home by plane from Russia and the Far East; later trip in Moscow; and in Dover with General Smuts. 1943 includes Casablanca; partial speech to U.S. Congress; North Africa; Canada; Mary Churchill (The Lady Soames, LG, DBE) at Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia, USA visiting WACs base; Honorary Degree at Harvard; Tehran; watching paratroopers; and Mary Churchill, Second Subaltern, British Auxiliary Territorial Service, christening a US bomber with Coca Cola. In 1944 Churchill, Clementine and Mary watch a ‘buzz' bomb demonstration. Portions of the one-hour silent outtakes of unseen D-Day Normandy landings by the Canadian and British armed forces will be used at the end of the DVD.

 

It was decided at this meeting to edit the film to 45 minutes for the gift DVD for conference registrants, and a 30-minute DVD for classroom use. Select footage of all the newsreels will be shown during the conference, including both silent and Movietone Newsreels as shown in theaters made from the silent footage. This historic footage is drawn from USC's Fox Movietone News Collection, which includes rarely or never before seen materials from newsreel and armed forces cameramen. The gift DVD, done in Ken Burns' style with narration, subtitles, and music, will never be sold. There will be a conference edition only for registrants. USC/MIRC maintains the copyrights and is partnering with the Churchill Centre to produce this DVD.

 

Conference registration will be on the website November 1, 2010. See the Calendar of Events for details.

 

©Photo Courtesy of USC/MIRC Movietone Newsreel

 
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