The Place to Find All Things Churchill


Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 40

By Paul H. Courtenay

A married woman cannot normally display her paternal arms except in conjunction with those of her husband.  This is a marital coat, showing the husband’s arms on the dexter side (right side as seen by the bearer of the shield), and the wife’s paternal arms on the sinister side; this is known as an impalement. The heraldic description is as follows:

Gules, a chevron Or between in chief two mallets erect of the second and in base two wings conjoined in lure Argent [SOAMES] impaling.

Quarterly 1st and 4th Sable, a lion rampant Argent, on a canton of the last a cross Gules [CHURCHILL], 2nd and 3rd grand-quarterly Argent and Gules, in the 2nd and 3rd grand-quarters a fret Or, over all on a bend Sable three escallops of the first [SPENCER]; and, as an augmentation of honour, in chief an escutcheon Argent charged with the Cross of St George Gules and thereon an inescutcheon of the arms of France, namely Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or.

Around the shield is the Garter with its motto Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense [Shame on him who thinks evil of it], indicating the bearer’s honour as a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter [LG]. Suspended below the shield from the ribbon of the Order of the British Empire is the badge of a Dame Commander of the Order [DBE].  Above the shield is the coronet of a Baroness.

Supporters: Dexter, a lion guardant winged Argent gorged with a collar gemel Gules;

Sinister, a falcon wings elevated and addorsed and belled Or holding in the beak a lure Gules feathered Argent.

Motto: Fiel Pero Desdichado [Faithful but Unfortunate] is the Churchill family’s Spanish motto.

Progression of Honours

1922: Miss Mary Churchill.
1945: Miss Mary Churchill

MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for war service.

1947: Mrs. Christopher Soames MBE (upon marriage).

1965: The Hon Mrs. Soames MBE (her mother, Lady Churchill, is given a Life barony as Lady Spencer-Churchill).

1972: The Hon Lady Soames MBE (her husband receives a knighthood, becoming Sir Christopher Soames).

1978: The Baroness Soames MBE (“The Hon” is dropped when Sir Christopher becomes The Baron Soames).

1980: The Baroness Soames DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on advancement from MBE).

2005: The Baroness Soames LG DBE (on appointment as a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which was founded in 1348).


1.  A Baron and Baroness (usually “The Lord/Lady —”) use the more formal titles only in the most legalistic circumstances.

2.  A Baron has the prefix “The Rt Hon.”

3.  A Baroness by marriage sometimes uses the prefix “The Rt Hon,” but this is considered over the top and unnecessary.

4.  As a DBE, Lady Soames would be styled “Dame Mary,” but not if she or her husband hold a higher honour. By 1980 she was already a Baroness (higher than DBE).

5.  An LG would be styled “Lady Mary,” but not if she or her husband hold a higher honour. By 2005 she was already a Baroness, a higher honour than LG and DBE.

6. “LG” is very prestigious: there are only twenty-four KGs and LGs, excluding Royal persons, but several hundred Baronesses.

“Dame Mary” would ignore the higher LG, which would make her “Lady Mary”; but both these titles are subsumed by her higher status as Baroness. “Lady Mary, The Lady Soames” is more correct, but is, I think, ponderous. Her preferred and correct title is therefore The Lady Soames LG DBE.

Related Story

Join Now

Join or Renew NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >

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.