Royalty, Family and Friends Gather at Westminster Abbey
Paul H. Courtenay Reports
A Service of Thanksgiving celebrating the life The Lady Soames LG DBE, the beloved Patron of The Churchill Centre, took place at Westminster Abbey on November 20th. Mary Soames, the youngest and last-surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, died on 31 May 2014 at the age of 91; a private family funeral took place a few days later. Some 1,300 people attended the service in the Abbey including family, friends and royalty. Many members of The Churchill Centre were present to pay their last respects. Some had travelled from as far away as California, British Columbia and Alaska, as well as Denmark and Portugal—a measure of their admiration and love for such a special person.
Her Majesty the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were represented by their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. HRH Princess Alexandra was also in attendance while ten other members of the royal family were also represented (mostly by Knights Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, to which Lady Soames had been appointed by the Queen in 2005).
Naturally, the Soames family was there in force. Lessons were read by Sir Nicholas Soames, Mary’s eldest son, and by Sir John Major, the former prime minister. Three of Mary’s grandchildren processed through the Abbey bearing her Orders, which were presented to the Dean and placed on the High Altar. A granddaughter read a passage from A Daughter’s Tale: the Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child, and two other granddaughters read prayers. The new Duke of Marlborough was also present (his father having died just five weeks earlier).
The address was given by the Hon William Shawcross, a historian and close family friend. He spoke movingly about Mary’s life and achievements with occasional light-hearted reminiscences, striking exactly the right tone. The vast congregation joined in singing three well-known hymns, finishing with one of Sir Winston’s favourites which had been sung at his State funeral nearly fifty years ago: The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Everyone left the Abbey, having been uplifted by the significance and conduct of the ceremony: a sad, but triumphant adieu.
To view the full programme for the service, please click here.
To learn more about Winston Churchill, please visit www.winstonchurchill.org