A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s Youngest Child, by Mary Soames. Doubleday, hardbound, illus. 416 pages, £25, Amazon UK £15.59. To be published by Random House, USA in May 2012, 352 pages, $28, Kindle edition $13.99.
Mr. Plumpton is a former president of The Churchill Centre and has contributed to Finest Hour for thirty years. An enthusiastic sailor, he named his first boat Enchantress, after Churchill’s pre-World War I Admiralty yacht.
It may be apocryphal, but Randolph Churchill is said to regretted the difficulty of acorns surviving in the shade of a great oak. That’s true sometimes, but not always. In some cases, acorns thrive, and fall not far from the parent. One such example is Mary Churchill, now The Lady Soames, Patron of The Churchill Centre, whose personal story is wonderfully told in her long-awaited autobiography—and what a tale it is.
Author of five previous books on her family, Lady Soames 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 made an offer to purchase Chartwell Manor, a house she has treasured all of her life. This book brings Chartwell alive as a home better than any guidebook.
She opens with a poignant account of the sad death in 1921 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”), Clementine’s cousin and Mary’s godmother, nanny/governess and lifelong friend. With her parents often in London and abroad, “Nana in all matters ruled my existence—always loving and always there.”
Prior to going to school, Nana introduced the precocious young child to the joys of the literature: a passion that has remained throughout her life. Reading aloud by Nana began at tea-time and continued through an extended (intentionally) preparation for bed. Lady Soames recalls being enthralled the Beatrix Potter books, Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Treasure Island, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: a cornucopia of children’s classics. She was one of the first to be spellbound by her father’s renderings of Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome. A still treasured possession is a gift from her sister Sarah, “a lovely green leather-bound copy of The Oxford Book of English Verse, much faded now”). Her love of literature expanded to the theatre, and there is a litany of the great plays of the 1930s and 1940s that she enjoyed with friends and family.
Andy Walker from the BBC Radio 4 programme “Today” writes about portrayals of Churchill on stage and screen. BBC 4 Today Programme
BBC.COM, Friday, 4 November 2011—Richard Burton and Albert Finney are among the actors Warren Clarke will be emulating when he plays Winston Churchill in a new West End production, Three Days in May, but what is it like to take on the role of Britain’s wartime leader. “I’m a devotee of the man. I think he’s the greatest Englishman probably who ever lived.” So says the actor Robert Hardy, who has played Winston Churchill on no fewer than seven occasions.
Initially Hardy, who had met Churchill while playing in Hamlet with Richard Burton, thought it “an absurd and inappropriate idea” to accept the role.
But after “several very good lunches” with the producer Richard Broke he was, he recalls, “over-persuaded” to take the part.
The result was a magisterial piece of television. In eight hour-long episodes, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, detailed Churchill’s time on the back benches during the late 1920s and 30s, chronicling his dire warnings about the twin dangers of Hitler and appeasement.
Hardy’s charismatic performance was the centrepiece of a narrative that was at once detailed, dramatic and didactic.
Editor’s Note: Celia Lee and John Lee have been given the authority by The Churchill Centre to explore the possibility of a new Churchill Centre chapter in Budapest. If you have any interest or any contacts in Hungary please contact the editor and we can get you in touch.
Title: A CHURCHILL DYNASTY Authors: Celia Lee and John Lee Publisher: General Press, Budapest Price: Ár: 3800 Ft ISBN No. 978 963 643 288 1 Translation by Bánki Vera Hungarian translator Bánki Vera THE CHURCHILLS – A Family Portrait by Celia Lee and John Lee, published in English in 2010, has been translated into Hungarian by Bánki Vera for General Press for publication in Budapest, mid-November 2011.
Re-titled A CHURCHILL DYNASTY, it is the first ever study of the Churchills as a family and was commissioned by the late Mrs Peregrine Spencer Churchill (Yvonne), daughter-in-law to the late Major John and Lady Gwendeline Spencer Churchill, and niece to the late Sir Winston S. Churchill.
The story begins with Lord Randolph Spencer Churchill, younger son of the 7th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace. Lord Randolph married outside of his own social class, an American, Miss Jennie Jerome, the daughter of a New York stockbroker.
Having been educated at England’s finest, Eton Public School, and taken a Law degree at the University of Oxford, Lord Randolph, at the time of his marriage, had been newly elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Jennie was a great beauty with dark hair, large, magnetic, royal blue eyes, and a peaches and cream complexion. She was well educated, being fluent in French and spoke German, and was a fine classical pianist. But what the young couple really had in common was that they both rode like the wind and loved horses and hunting.
Jennie bore two sons; Winston Leonard, born at Blenheim Palace on 30th November 1874, and John Strange (Jack), born in Dublin on 4th February 1880.
Winston was not very successful at school because he would not get down to his studies and had difficulty passing examinations. Jack was the opposite, highly academic, frequently top of his class, and never failed an examination in his life. Celia Lee spent five years studying Yvonne Spencer Churchill’s papers which consisted: all of Lord Randolph’s, Jennie’s, and Jack’s, (both public and private), and it was due to this first ever thorough study that the true story of the Churchill family, which is now looked upon as a dynasty, really emerged.
Three days in May, by Ben Brown. A stage play starring Warren Clarke as Churchill and Robert Demeger as Neville Chamberlain. The play was staged in Cambridge during September and October and is now playing at the Trafalgar Studios Theater in the West End.
There is no doubting the enthusiasm of both Warren Clarke (Churchill) and Jeremy Clyde (Halifax) for their roles in the play “Three Days in London,” which opened at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. The two experienced actors visited the Archives Centre and responded knowledgably to being shown some of the original documents from 1940, including the diaries of Jock Colville and Leo Amery and some of Churchill’s speech notes.
The play is about the debates in the War Cabinet between 26 and 28 May 1940, at which Lord Halifax proposed using Mussolini (then still neutral) to explore peace terms with Nazi Germany. It is ground well covered by John Lukacs in his book “Five Days in London, May 1940” though interestingly John is not credited in the programme. Playwright Ben Brown has certainly drawn dialogue from contemporary sources, and has his characters quoting extensively from the Cabinet minutes and the texts of Churchill’s speeches. But, of course, he has also used his imagination to fill in the gaps and speculate on the nature of the conversations between the principal protagonists, chiefly Churchill, Chamberlain and Halifax with supporting roles by Attlee and Greenwood.
The transition from real to imaginary does not always make for smooth dialogue, and, until the second half, the play felt a bit like a series of tableaux, lacking a sustained driving narrative and momentum. The need to give background information also leads to some unlikely and unrealistic conversation, not least between Churchill and Chamberlain about their respective views in the 1930s.
I did like the decision to use Jock Colville, one of Churchill’s private secretaries and the chronicler of these events through his diary, as the narrator. His role in ushering the others in and out of the Prime Minister’s presence helps ease the transition between scenes. Warren Clarke’s Churchill is all bulldog, glowering and angry. He does convey a man of conviction under pressure.
Churchill Centre Executive Director Lee Pollock recently spoke with Edwina Sandys, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter and a prominent international artist as well as longtime Churchill Centre Board Member and supporter.
In this CB interview, Edwina talks about her background and family, her career in the art world and her new book, “Edwina Sandys Art”. Richard Kaplan, Edwina Sandys and Randolph Churchill at the Launch of “Edwina Sandys Art” Lee Pollock: Edwina, could you tell CB’s readers a little about your background and family. We know about your grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, but perhaps less about your father, Duncan Sandys, and his career in the military and in public life. Could you fill us in?
Edwina Sandys: My mother, Diana, was the first child of Winston and Clementine and she married Duncan Sandys in 1935. They were both flaming redheads as was Winston as a young man. When Diana met Duncan he was standing for Parliament as a Conservative and his opponent was none other than Diana’s brother Randolph Churchill – Diana was helping her brother. My father went on to become a minister in various governments – Minister of Supply, Housing, Aviation, Defence, Commonwealth & Colonies. He started the Civic Trust, an organization to encourage “good” urban development which supported putting the “green belt” around London to prevent sprawl. He was also an amateur painter.
LP: You were born just before the start of the Second World War. Do you have any memories of the end of the War and could you share some recollections of your grandfather’s career in public life in the decade from 1945 to 1955 and your relationship with him when you were growing up? Do you remember when you first realized that he was a unique figure in British history?
Terminating in Istanbul just in time for The English-Speaking Union (ESU) World Members Meeting. Celia Sandys, who accompanied her grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, on some of his later travels, will host our group on this cruise aboard Crystal Serenity, flagship of Travel & Leisure Magazine’s award-winning Crystal Cruise fleet. ESU Travelers will cruise in superb comfort from Athens to Istanbul through the Dardanelles retracing the cruise that Celia did with her grandfather on the Onassis yacht, Christina. Amongst the ports of call will be Mykonos, Odessa, Yalta, site of the famous Conference in February 1945, & Sochi. Lord Watson of Richmond will comment on the historic milestones along the route. The Cruise terminates in Istanbul, site of the ESU World Members Meeting. Prices start from £4769 per person sharing a twin cabin. This cruise is certain to prove to be popular, so you are invited to book as soon as possible.
To book or for more information: +44-(0)333-444-2355 (UK) +1-800-503-9534 (US) [email protected]
Famed for her beauty and the “durable fire” of her marriage to Alfred Duff Cooper, First Viscount Norwich, Lady Diana Cooper was early admitted to a delightful friendship with Winston and Clementine Churchill. Few write better of the happiness they shared.
A group of American, Canadian and British Churchillians recently visited Blenheim Palace, following The Churchill Centre’s highly successful International Churchill Conference in London. The group, lead by International Churchill Society of Canada Board Member Gordon Walker and his wife Harriet, was welcomed by the Duke of Marlborough’s eldest daughter Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill. Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill speaks to the Churchill tour group at Blenheim Palace. The group enjoyed a guided tour of the Palace, highlighted by the historic Long Library (at some 180 feet, one of the longest rooms in any British stately home), the bedroom in which Sir Winston Churchill was born in November 1874 and Blenheim’s “Churchill’s Destiny” exhibition. Lady Henrietta joined the Churchillians for lunch in the Palace’s historic Indian Room, overlooking Blenheim’s Water Terraces and Fountain. She spoke about recent restoration projects designed to enhance the visitor experience at Blenheim as well as the Spencer-Churchill family’s commitment to maintaining the Palace as one of the great privately-owned historic sites in Britain. She also emphasized the importance of education in the Palace’s mission and welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with The Churchill Centre and its members on future activities.
By Ronald I. Cohen Rideau Canal, Ottawa The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Ottawa (SWCSO) was well represented at the recent International Conference in London by two of its three founders, namely, Pamela Reynolds and Monica Olney, as well as by at least one of its new members.
The SWCSO will be holding its inaugural meeting under the auspices of the British High Commissioner to Canada on November 30th and Allen Packwood will be our inaugural speaker. The title of his talk will be “Why Bring Churchill Back to Canada?”, in anticipation of the several Churchillian events that will soon follow, beginning with the December 30th seventieth anniversary of the inspirational “Some chicken! Some neck!” speech and the shooting of the equally inspirational Karsh photograph of the Prime Minister immediately following that speech.
Although the SWCSO membership is mounting steadily, we welcome new members situated anywhere from the National Capital Region east to L’Orignal and west to Kingston. Anyone wishing to join the SWCSO or to attend the inaugural event (the cost will be $50 per person for members of the SWCSO or any other Churchill Society) should contact Ron Cohen by e-mail here or by telephone at 613-298-7171.
TORONTO, October 12, 2011—Sixty Five Members and Guests of ICS Canada attended an “Evening With Sir Winston” at the historic Albany Club of Toronto. The theme of the event was “Churchill’s Deadly Decision,” which concerned the July 3rd attack on the French Navy. Three speakers addressed themselves to the operation. Dr Eric McGeer spoke of the terrible dilemma facing Churchill. In the summer of 1940 France had signed an armistice with Germany. This agreement stated that the French Fleet “shall be collected in ports to be specified and there demolished under German and Italian control.” Although the French Admiral Darlan had previously given assurance that he would never allow the Germans to take the ships, Churchill obviously knew that Hitler could not be trusted. With a semi-circle of German occupied countries facing Britain he had to keep control of the English Channel and could not afford to take any chance on the powerful French Fleet being used by the Axis. ICS Canada Director Gord Walker took over detailing the events of July 3rd with an ultimatum given to the French Admirals. They could join Britain in fighting Germany and Italy; sail to a British port or to the West Indies. If these were not acceptable then they had to sink their ships. The main French Fleet was in the harbour of Oran in Algeria and the admiral there, after contacting the Vichy Government, refused any of the options. This resulted in the British Navy firing and sinking or damaging most of the Fleet, with the loss of some 1,300 French sailors. ICS Canada Director Terry Reardon covered the aftermath with Churchill reporting to Parliament the next day
Churchillians in Israel can now share their interest in the 20th century’s greatest statesman with other like-minded individuals with the formation of the new Churchill Society of Israel, an affiliate of the worldwide Churchill Centre.
The Society is being organized by Russell Rothstein, a long-time Churchill admirer, with the encouragement and support of Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s official biographer. In announcing the new Society, Russell noted that “Churchill’s longstanding support of Zionism and friendship with the Jewish people make it particularly appropriate that the modern State of Israel have an local organization devoted to his memory and to preserving his thoughts, words and deeds for future generations.”
The Society is currently accepting new members and planning its inaugural event, to be held in the first half of 2012. The initial response to the announcement of the Society has been highly positive with interest from all parts of the country and from Israelis and other residents in academia, business and other walks of life.
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.