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Life with My Parents: Winston and Clementine

A few questions for Lady Soames

NAIM AITALLAH : When writing about your child­hood you say that although elements of anxiety, sorrow and disappointment began to appear as the years went by, in your own recollection it is the happiness which pre­dominates. Is that in effect a tribute to your parents, who helped shield you from the darker side of life?

LADY SOAMES: I wrote those lines after describing life at Chartwell and the wonderful Christmases we had there. As life went on and I became a teenager I began to know that life wasn’t a garden of Eden, and it was disquieting to me because of my idyllic childhood at Chartwell. The first time I saw my mother cry was one of the most traumatic moments of my young life. I had very rarely seen grown-ups cry and to see this beautiful woman, whom I loved and admired and also rather feared, weeping and completely disintegrated with grief was a terrible shock to me. I saw my parents a lot because we children were never kept away in the nursery wing, and also I was very much the Benjamin, so I strayed around all over the house and never felt I was excluded from my parents’ life when they were at Chartwell.

NA: Although your mother was devoted and conscientious, there was never any doubt that Winston came first. You seem not to have had any sense of grievance about this. Did you come to mind it later?

LS: Not at all. We all felt that our parents had other very important things to do. I never felt neglected emotionally or in any other way by them. It was in my mother’s nature to be dedicated, and it was true also of my father, luckily for him and perhaps for the world as well. However, much later, when I knew my husband Christopher was going into politics, I took a vow in my heart that I would try to give my children a greater priority than perhaps we had with my mother. But I think it very important in this context to remember that when my mother was bringing up her children it wasn’t a mark of bad mothering to have nurses and governesses; it was part of the way of life in that stratum of society. <span style=”color: #4b4f4d;”

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