Clementine Churchill (neé Hozier)

Speaking for Herself New Clementine Churchill Exhibition at Chartwell

Chartwell, Sir Winston Churchill’s home in Kent, has opened a new exhibition Clementine Churchill: Speaking for Herself, focusing on the extraordinary life of Churchill’s beloved wife Clementine. The exhibition at the National Trust property features items that have never been publicly displayed before, including treasured childhood photographs and a portrait by Paul Maze, the Post Impressionist artist. Read More >

‘The family and the home’ The lion no longer had his roar

Churchill had been determined to have a happy family – to maintain those ‘dominating virtues of human society’ – but he lived so many other lives – as a politician, as a war leader, and had so many passionate interests (writing, painting, holidays) – that his family was, to a greater or lesser degree, squeezed in among these other busy lives. There were painful consequences, of course, but Clementine had always accepted that her husband must come first (and ‘second and third’) and worked tirelessly to support him. And his children, however, they responded to the pressures of being the great man’s children, appreciated, and were proud of, all he had done for them and for the country.

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Difficult Times Ageing was difficult for both Winston and his wife

But it wasn’t always an easy marriage. Apart from their political disagreements and heated arguments – and spinach throwing episodes – both Winston and Clementine were prone to periods of depression – Churchill with his ‘black dog’ and Clementine with all her worries and concerns about life with the great man and the children – and both were also increasingly frail and unwell. When the War was over and Churchill had been voted out of office, life was miserable. With Churchill exhausted and increasingly depressed by his enforced inactivity, the children continuing to cause concern and distress and Clementine herself suffering from ill-health, there was considerable friction in the Churchill household. They had always holidayed separately, since 1918. Now tensions at home were eased by increasing time spent apart – Churchill began to spend more and more time abroad for his health, and his painting, with Clementine staying at home, relishing the peace and quiet and recuperating from her own ailments – and these separations served to remind them of their dependence upon each other; throughout these lengthy periods of separation, they continued to write each other affectionate letters. They did, however, travel together to France in 1958, to Lord Beaverbrook’s villa, La Capponcina, at Cap D’Ail where they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.

‘I cannot explain how it is but in our misery we seem, instead of clinging to each other to be always having scenes. I’m sure it’s all my fault, but I’m finding life more than I can bear. He is so unhappy & that makes him very difficult… I can’t see any future.’
Clementine to Mary, 26 August 1945, quoted in Mary Soames, Clementine Churchill

The Younger Daughters The Churchills never got over the death of little Marygold

Sarah (born in October 1914 in the first months of the First World War) and Marigold (born just after the end of the War, in November 1918) were Churchill’s younger daughters. Life for them was to prove troubled and, in the case of Marigold, sadly very brief.

‘Many years later my father told me that when Marigold died, Clementine gave a succession of wild shrieks like an animal in mortal pain. My mother never got over Marigold’s death.’
Mary Soames, Prelude to A Daughter’s Tale

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Family Life life was a balance of the good and the bad

At various times Diana, Randolph and Sarah all caused their parent’s considerable worry and distress, their lives variously marked by depression, unhappy marriages and dependency on alcohol. Only Mary, the youngest daughter, escaped unscathed. As with all families, though, the bad times need to be balanced against the good. It is clear from the memoirs that there were plenty of fun times at Chartwell, and it must have been a source of pride to Churchill that all four of his surviving children served in uniform during the Second World War. The family would also rally round whenever he was ill or in need of support. For an interview with Mary Soames, click here. But despite Churchill’s desire for a happy, contented family life, it rarely ran smoothly for the Churchills and was not without its heartache and pain.

‘As children we soon became aware that our parents’ main interest and time were consumed by immensely important tasks, beside which our own demands and concerns were trivial. We never expected either of them to attend our school plays, prize-givings or sports days. We knew they were both more urgently occupied.’
Mary Soames, Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage

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Churchill the Father Churchill was determined to be a good parent

Churchill’s relationship with his parents was difficult. They were remote and inaccessible, often preoccupied – his beautiful heiress mother, with her social life and her numerous affairs with young men, and his father, with his politics. Churchill doted on his mother and idolised his father and as a child was constantly seeking their attention and praise (not often forthcoming). He was determined to do things differently with his own children. Winston and Clementine had five children; Diana (1909), Randolph (1911), Sarah (1914), Marigold (1918) and Mary (1922). He vowed that, unlike his father, he would spend time with them and was an affectionate and devoted parent, building a tree house at Chartwell for the older three and, utilising his bricklaying skills, a little summer house for the youngest, Mary. With Churchill spoiling his children with affection, Clementine ended up doing most of the disciplining, but she was busy supporting her husband’s political life and work – she always put Winston first – and the children were really brought up by a succession of governesses and nannies. Like their father before them, the three older children, in particular, may have suffered as all three had difficult adult lives.

‘Time passes swiftly, but is it not joyous to see how great and growing is the treasure we have gathered together, amid the storms and stresses of so many eventful and to millions tragic and terrible years?’
Letter from Churchill to Clementine, 23 January 1935, quoted in Official Biography by Gilbert

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A Partnership 'For better and worse'

Like many marriages, theirs was not always smooth sailing. A liberal, with a puritan streak and strong views of her own, Clementine disapproved of Churchill’s more disreputable contemporaries. As their daughter Mary later said, ‘sometimes her judgments about his friends were truer than his’. She was never afraid to express her opinions and they occasionally had heated quarrels. According to Mary, Clementine once threw a dish of spinach at Churchill (but missed)! And once, after a row, Clementine is reported to have burst out: ‘Winston, I have been married to you for forty-five years, for better’ – then, loudly – ‘AND FOR WORSE!’ (Anthony Montague Browne, Long Sunset) But Churchill trusted his wife implicitly and she was a valued advisor throughout their life and, although he didn’t always take her advice, he relied on her sensible and balanced approach to life and its problems. A favourite expression of Churchill’s – ‘Here firm, though all be drifting’ – could, as Richard M. Langworth notes in Churchill: In His Own Words, be easily applied to Clementine. She was Churchill’s stalwart supporter and rock throughout the troubled span of their fifty-seven-year marriage.

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Winston and Clementine The Churchills were married in 1908

When Winston and Clementine were married, Churchill was already a leading figure in the Liberal government and their life – and marriage – was played out in public from the start. They were one of the celebrity couples of the age. Thankfully, Churchill had indeed chosen ‘most wisely and most well’. Clementine Churchill was the ideal wife for Winston. As a child, she too had experienced a difficult family life and straitened circumstances (as she would in her marriage) and had the resilience to see the couple through their difficult – and, at times, harrowing – family crises and ever-present financial anxieties. But despite their ups and downs, Clementine and Winston maintained a close and supportive relationship over the years, sending each other affectionate letters during long periods of absence, sometimes decorated with drawings illustrating their pet names for each other: she was his ‘Kat’ and he was her ‘Pug’.

‘Perhaps history would have been different if my father had married a docile yes-woman … but my mother had the will and capacity to stand up to him, to confront him and to argue with him.’
Mary Soames, in ‘Life With My Parents: Winston and Clementine’, Finest Hour 91

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The Engagement Churchill proposed to Clementine at Blenheim Palace

Churchill proposed marriage to three women in his twenties, all of whom said ‘no’ (although all of them remained his friends). He met Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, ten years his junior, at a party, the Crewe House ball, in 1904 but the meeting wasn’t a success. Unusually for him, Churchill was tongue-tied and they hardly spoke.

When they met again, however, at a dinner party in 1908 (Clementine had been invited at the last minute, to fill a gap at her great-aunt’s table), they clearly got on rather better. Impressed by her beauty, her intelligence and her ability to talk politics (she was an earnest Liberal and supporter of greater rights for women, Churchill began an ardent courtship. They became engaged only a few months later, on Tuesday 11 August, when Churchill proposed to her while they were both staying at Blenheim Palace (Churchill had encouraged the Duke of Marlborough to invite her to a small house party). After failing to appear in the morning, and almost blowing his chance, Winston took Clementine for a walk in the afternoon to the Rose Garden and, sheltering from a shower in the Temple of Diana, he asked her to marry him. She agreed.

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The Engagement

Churchill proposed marriage to three women in his twenties, all of whom said ‘no’ (although all of them remained his friends). He met Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, ten years his junior, at a party, the Crewe House ball, in 1904 but the meeting wasn’t a success. Unusually for him, Churchill was tongue-tied and they hardly spoke.

When they met again, however, at a dinner party in 1908 (Clementine had been invited at the last minute, to fill a gap at her great-aunt’s table), they clearly got on rather better. Impressed by her beauty, her intelligence and her ability to talk politics (she was an earnest Liberal and supporter of greater rights for women, Churchill began an ardent courtship.

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The Woman He Loved: How Clementine and Winston Churchill Came to Be Married

Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017 Page 17 By Sonia Purnell Sonia Purnell is the author of First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (2015). All quotations in this article are taken from the book. Winston Churchill was not at all the sort of husband that Lady Blanche Hozier had had in mind for […]

Books, Arts, & Curiosities – Une Grande Dame

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 42

Review by Antoine Capet

Philippe Alexandre and Béatrix de l’Aulnoit, Clementine Churchill: La femme du Lion, Paris: Tallandier / Robert Laffont, 2015, 397 pages, €21.50. ISBN 979–1021007406


Clementine ChurchillBy coincidence, two new books on Clementine Churchill appeared, one on each side of the English Channel, in 2015. In addition to Sonia Purnell’s First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (Aurum, 2015), the first-ever biography in French also appeared in the same year, written by two well-known journalists. The difficulty for English-language authors is to appear not to rely too much on Mary Soames’s standard life, Clementine Churchill (1979, revised 2002). But French buyers of La femme du Lion (The Lion’s Wife) are unlikely to be familiar with Lady Soames’s book, which is an advantage since the authors can—and do—draw freely from it. The intended readership is not clear—probably le grand public (the general public) since there are no footnotes. A large proportion of the book reminds one of the Court Circular in the quality press, and an even larger one of the People & Celebrities gossip columns of the popular press.

The Churchill circle of family, friends, and professional acquaintances is of course enormous, and the authors have made a commendably thorough investigation of the various people and places which featured in the Churchills’ world at some stage or other of their long lives. The name-dropping aspect of the text is absolutely remarkable for its extensiveness. Inevitably—and most often, interestingly—the book offers mini-biographies of the dramatis personae, for instance Blanche Hozier, with fewer paragraphs devoted to Clementine’s father. The description of Dieppe and its British colony around 1900 is excellent.
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“Witty, Daring, and Direct”: Clementine Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt

Finest Hour 172, Spring 2016

Page 10

By Sonia Purnell


Quebc 1944

Clementine Churchill; the Earl of Athlone; FDR; HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone; WSC; Eleanor Roosevelt; W. L. Mackenzie King at the 1944 Quebec Conference

Winston Churchill was, of course, half-American—an accident of birth that at times (notably during the Second World War) came in rather useful. The relationship with the United States of his Scottish-born wife Clementine was perhaps more complicated but at times also remarkably influential.

As a young woman, Clementine had harboured reservations about America. In the 1920s, she had been wary of the way it was displacing Britain as the world’s greatest superpower and was put out by President Coolidge’s refusal to forgive Britain’s debts from the Great War.

She had taken a detailed interest in politics and the international stage ever since her high society marriage of 1908. Since then her ever-increasing understanding of international affairs, close involvement in her husband’s career, and canny judgement of people had seen her become Churchill’s de facto chief adviser and strategist during the First World War. She continued to play a role demonstrably far greater than any other political wife in Britain for the rest of Winston’s career, but in the 1920s she was clearly no supporter of a great Anglo-American alliance.

Coming to America

It was only when she came to the United States in 1930—initially to convince her impetuous nineteen-year-old son Randolph that he was too young to marry a certain Kay Halle from Cleveland, Ohio— that she began to change her mind.
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