January 1, 1970

Celia Lee was invited by General Press, Budapest, to launch the Hungarian edition of THE CHURCHILLS – A Family Portrait, now re-titled A CHURCHILL DINASZTIA by Celia Lee and John Lee.

Accompanied by her husband John, co-author of the book, the Lees arrived in Budapest on Friday 11th November to a warm welcome from Mrs Veronika Bánki who is a multi-lingual translator and who had translated the book from English into Hungarian. The Lees were put up in an apartment in a central, though quiet, leafy, and idyllic, part of the city near to the tram stop which was most convenient for sight-seeing.

Veronika had arranged an excellent programme for the week ahead, including visits to a number of places of interest: the old part of the city which was once divided into Buda and Pest; the bust of Sir Winston Churchill in City Park, located in an avenue that now bears the late British statesman’s name. The ceremony had taken place in June 2003, and the unveiling was attended by Mary, The Lady Soames LG DBE, historian John Lukács, Foreign Minister László Kovács, Budapest Mayor Gábor Demszky, and the British Ambassador to Hungary, Nigel Thorpe. Celia and John also spent time in the National Gallery where they saw some famous paintings including the Picnic by Pál Szinyei-Merse, which appeared all the more intriguing when they learnt that Veronika Bánki was at school with the artist’s granddaughter, and at the opposite end of the artistic scale the rather terrifying Ordeal of the Bier by Karoly Lotz .

The opera Rigoletto was being performed at the State Opera House and the Lees had a box just two away from the royal box. The performance was excellent and full of action and colour and well up to the standard of the London theatre.

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Celia and John were graciously received at the Alexandra Book Store on Tuesday evening 15th November, by Mrs Katalin Lantos, Managing Director of General Press and members of her staff, and the honoured guest, Mrs Dalma Mádl, former First Lady and widow of the late Ferenc Mádl, President of Hungary.

The book launch took place on the prestigious top floor in the Alexandra Podium, where Celia and John presented A CHURCHILL DINASZTIA to a packed audience. General Press editor, Betty Bardi, officiated throughout, and Mr Gabor Zech was the interpreter. John Lee presented a commemorative crown coin of 1965, bearing on one side the head of the late Sir Winston Churchill and on the other the head of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which coin was produced by the Royal Mint at Winston’s death. Celia presented to Mrs Veronika Bánki a dedicated copy of Lady Soames’ memoirs, A DAUGHTER’S TALE.

A question and answer session followed in which the audience wanted to know how Winston came to be Prime Minister and to lead the nation against Adolf Hitler during the Second World War (1939-45). Interest was also expressed in the origins of some of the rather ridiculous myths that have been circulated about the Churchill family, and Celia had great fun demolishing the story that Winston was supposedly conceived out of wedlock in the Hotel Bristol in Paris in 1874, and Jennie’s ancestor, Clarissa Hall nee Wilcox, having supposedly experienced an unfortunate sexual encounter with an Iroquois Indian, much to the hilarity of the audience.

A generous buffet and refreshments was laid on afterwards, and Celia and John signed a good many books. Mrs Lantos then invited Celia and John with a party that included General Press’s academic adviser on the book, Professor Gergely Egedy, Mrs Veronika Bánki, Krisztina Arvai-Nagy, and Betty Bardi to the Remiz Restaurant where they enjoyed excellent food and wine. After the meal, Mrs Lantos presented Celia and John with HUNGARY, a wonderfully colour-illustrated history which contains an English translation, and a CD of Franz Liszt’s music: St. Stanislaus and Requiem. Betty Bardi presented them with a copy of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, of which she was editor.

At a dinner party given in the Lees’ honour by Mrs Bánki, Celia discussed with Prof. Miklos Lojko the desirability for a new Chapter of the Churchill Centre in Budapest. Prof. Lojko, who holds two academic chairs at universities in Budapest, The Central European University and Eotvos Lorand University, has since been in touch with Mr Allen Packwood, Director, The Churchill Archives Centre, University of Cambridge, on the subject, and arrangements for the setting up of the new chapter is under way.

Celia and John were interviewed about Winston Churchill and his family by Judit Cservenka for Hungarian State Radio, which broadcast went out on the evening of 25th November. An article about Celia’s researches for the book, focusing most specifically on Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill, is to be published shortly in the Hungarian edition of Women’s Weekly.

Throughout the week, Celia and John were treated with courtesy and kindness, and everything was organised to the highest professional standard. For the authors of the study of the Churchill family, their historic, first experience of Budapest will ever be remembered with gladness, and they look forward to returning in the future to that cultured city.

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