By D. Craig Horn
To celebrate a birthday is to celebrate a life. Churchillians from around the world celebrated the birthday of Mary Soames, Winston Churchill’s daughter, at Cannes, France, on September 15, 2011. Celia Sandys hosted a gala birthday party for Mary aboard ship during a spectacular tour to the South of France. Thirty Churchillians came together aboard the luxurious Seabourn Legend, September 9-16, for an incredible tour of many of the venues that Winston Churchill visited and painted. The tour was organized and produced by Celia Sandys and began in the port of Civitavecchia near Rome. The ship sailed to the intriguing Corsican village of Bonifacio and then on to ports across the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera, Le Lavandou, Provence, Sanary-sur-Mer, Saint Raphael, Cannes and ended in spectacular Monte-Carlo, Monaco. In addition to Celia, we were joined by Allen Packwood and Minnie Churchill who gave interesting and insightful presentations along the way about Churchill, his adventures and his painting. One guest summarized the week as “one of the greatest weeks that I have ever had.”
The onboard party included tour guests from Canada, England, France and the United States of America and who were joined by the ship’s Captain Andrew Pedder to raise a glass of champagne, Pol Roger of course, in honor of Mary. One of the night’s many highlights was a special birthday cake, hand-fashioned in chocolate by the ship’s pastry chef, into a beautiful cigar caddy inside of which were individual cakes, each in the shape of a Churchill-sized cigar. A special toast for the occasion was offered by Alan Packwood, Director of The Churchill Archives Centre at Churchill College in Cambridge, England.
Mary was presented a unique hand-painted silk scarf with her initial and with a card designed especially for her and signed by each guest. She reciprocated, not only with her appreciation but also with a surprise gift of her own. Mary’s birthday coincided with the release of “A Daughter’s Tale, The memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s youngest child.” Mary presented an inscribed copy to each guest. The weather was perfect, the venue divine and the food exquisite. As was once said about Winston Churchill himself, we were all easily satisfied with the very best.
Celia not only organized the trip but also arranged especially unique activities that included lunch at Restaurant Philip in La Fontaine de Vaucluse and a picnic on the grounds of the churchyard of St. Jean de Vie catered by the ship’s staff. Both were where Churchill painted in the 1930’s. The tour, the experience and the special birthday will forever be remembered as “Relentlessly lovely.”