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Messages from Friends

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 26


Chronologically as received…

A thing to grieve over. She knew how to be the daughter of a great man. It involved being a good person.
LARRY ARNN, PRESIDENT, HILLSDALE COLLEGE, HILLSDALE, MICH.

★★★

She was the living embodiment of her Father’s ideals and spirit, our guiding light and inspiration over many years of committed service. She joined the Council in 1978 and was Chairman of Trustees in 1991-2002—a wonderful twenty-four years of personal dedication. Even after retirement as our “Fellow Emeritus” she remained interested in the Trust’s work and what Churchill Fellows were achieving, always attending our House of Commons dinners and award ceremonies. As our Guest of Honour she presented Churchill Medallions and gave a wonderful address at the award ceremony at the Guildhall in 2008. Her presence and inspiration will be much missed.
JAMIE BALFOUR, DIRECTOR GENERAL, CHURCHILL MEMORIAL TRUST

★★★
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – Thriving in the Shade

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 24

By John G. Plumton

A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child. Doubleday / Random House, 2011, 352 pages.


Randolph Churchill is said to have regretted -the difficulty of acorns surviving in the shade of a great oak. Yet in some cases acorns thrive, and fall not far from the parent. One example was Mary Churchill, later Lady Soames, whose personal story was wonderfully told in her long-awaited autobiography.

Here she 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 purchased Chartwell, a house she has treasured all of her life. Her book brings Chartwell alive as a home better than any guidebook.

She opens with a poignant account of the sad death 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”), her mother’s cousin and Mary’s godmother, nanny and lifelong friend. With her parents often in London and abroad, “Nana in all matters ruled my existence—always loving and always there.”
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – Highly Professional Skills, Gracefully Worn

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 23

By Paul Addison

Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. London and Boston 1999, 702 pages.


In the fifty-six years of married life Winston and Clementine Churchill were often apart, Winston often in search of action and adventure. Clementine too was affected by wanderlust, and sometimes set off for distant parts, leaving Winston at home. In 1935 she sailed away for a three-month cruise to the Far East. VE-Day found her in Moscow at the end of a tour of the Soviet Union. Whenever apart they exchanged long letters, supplemented by occasional notes and telegrams. Hence this remarkable edition of 800 exchanges out of some 2000 between them, which opens with a letter from Mr. Winston Churchill to Miss Clementine Hozier on 16 April 1908, and closes with a note from Clemmie to Winston on 18 April 1964.

Mary Soames is a fine editor. Her unrivalled knowledge of the subject is complemented by literary and historical skills which are gracefully worn but highly professional. Through footnotes linking passages and biographical notes she dispenses just the right amount of background information.
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – A Journey Worth the Taking

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 21

By Richard M. Langworth

The Profligate Duke: George Spencer-Churchill, Fifth Duke of Marlborough, and His Duchess. HarperCollins, 1987, 256 pages.


“This book is about unimportant people,” our author explains, “but I have found my dramatic personae every bit as interesting in their characters and emotions, in the complexities of their relationships, and in the events of their lives, as those of the…central figures in the history of the Marlborough dynasty.”

A reader correctly summarizes: This is “an interesting sketch of the author’s ancestors and of the late 18th and early 19th century milieu in which they lived. Aficionados will note characteristics of the Fifth Duke—musical ability, a love of exotic plants, and a tendency to wander beyond marriage—that show up in later generations. Lovers of Blenheim will appreciate descriptions of palace life.”
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – Lady Soames Takes on the Brush

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 22

By Merry N. Alberigi

Winston Churchill: His Life as a Painter. HarperCollins / Houghton Mifflin, 1990, 256 pages.


Only two previous books were published on Churchill’s paintings, one of them by himself, yet painting was a vital element over half his life. His artistic talent emerged at age 40, following his dismissal from the Admiralty during the Dardanelles crisis in 1915. Painting distracted him from despair then, and became his faithful companion for more than forty years.

Mary Soames chronicles this very personal aspect of her father’s story as only she could, by weaving his hobby of painting into his life as a statesman, husband and father. He lived in another time of world wars, of house parties, of trips abroad for one’s health, aspects she brings alive, as for example after his loss in the 1945 election: “Those who have neither experienced nor witnessed it cannot imagine the void which opens under the feet of a politician removed from power.”

Skillfully deploying the words of her parents, their friends and herself, the author displays an easy, organized style, deftly tying together her diary entries with numerous personal anecdotes. The book begins in May 1915 when, dismissed, shattered and depressed, he turned to oils to combat his demons. Over the next forty-five years Churchill was to paint more than 500 oils, half of them during the 1930s, which Lady Soames considers the peak of his skills.
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – A Churchill Family Album

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 21

A Churchill Family Album: A Personal Anthology / Family Album: A Personal Selection from Four Generations of Churchills. Allen Lane / Houghton Mifflin, 1982 et seq., 200 pages.


What a delight this book is! Long one of my favorites, it stands with Randolph Churchill’s Churchill: His Life in Photographs (1955) and Martin Gilbert’s Churchill: A Photographic Portrait (1974).

Melding careful photo selection with insightful captions, the book is drawn largely from the author’s own records and the albums of her mother, with input from many other collections. The 429 photos trace more than a century from Sir Winston’s parents to his great-grandchildren. A few pictures are familiar, but many are not.

Only a family member could add such images to the Churchill saga. Most photos in the public domain have been used so many times that to print them again seems almost superfluous. Lady Soames, with few exceptions (and these are needed for continuity), has no truck with old chestnuts. The ten sections trace Sir Winston’s life from his childhood to Clementine’s widowhood. They include cartoons, drawings, paintings, letters, and newspaper or magazine headlines and pictures. Nor are they all about people. Some show places (such as Chartwell, Chequers, or Cabinet War Rooms), other events (notably VE Day), and private occasions like birthday celebrations.
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Books, Arts & Accomplishments – The Mary Soames Canon 1979-2011 FINEST HOUR’S REVIEWS OF ALL HER BOOKS – Wife and Family

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 20

By Christopher H. Sterling

Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage. Penguin / Houghton Mifflin, 1979. Updated and revised edition, Mariner Books, 2003, 752 pages.


Lady Soames’s first book, this loving yet measured biography, recently updated with more illustrations, is a warmly readable account of Sir Winston’s “other half,” and the strong marriage that stretched from 1908 to 1965. Clementine survived him by a dozen years, through the centenary of his birth and beyond. Re-reading this account many years after the original is a delightful reintroduction to a formidable lady, without whom it is hard to imagine Winston Churchill accomplishing as much as he did.

The most startling “new” fact herein is that Henry Hozier was almost certainly not Clementine’s father. That was most likely the dashing but short-lived equestrian William George “Bay” Middleton, one of several lovers of the headstrong and passionate Blanche Hozier, who had an unhappy marriage. Lady Soames makes clear that while Clementine suspected toward the end of her life that Hozier was not her father, she never knew who was.
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Remembrances – She Created Her Own Sunshine

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 19

By Minnie Churchill


Mary Soames was a very important part of my family’s life. We so looked forward to her visits which were full of laughter and wonderful stories. After my father-in-law Randolph died in 1968 she took over his role and was always there for us, and I know she was always there as well for Arabella, who was young Winston’s half-sister. She came to all my children’s weddings. When Randolph and Catherine were married at Chartwell, which was the first family wedding that had ever been held there, she was full of advice.

A Long Weekend with Mary

We invited her for a lengthy weekend to our house in Lyme Regis, Dorset, together with my son Jack and a few friends for his birthday. Mary always loved the company of the young. She could be quite formidable in the nicest of ways. So we decided to have a project that might interest her. We had discovered that the MP for Lyme Regis was once the original Sir Winston Churchill, and that he lived in the next village of Musbury in a residence called Ashe House, where John Churchill, later first Duke of Marlborough, was born—or was he? We had heard that he could not have possibly been born at Ashe House, for it had been burnt to the ground and in fact was partially rebuilt forty years later.
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Remembrances – Her Ladyship: A Bookman’s Memoir

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 18

By Barry Singer


I first met Lady Soames in the Chartwell Kitchen Garden, miraculously, and on my very first visit. It was the summer of 1985, barely a year after the April 1984 opening of a tiny, Churchill-centric bookshop in New York City that I’d named for Churchill’s home in the Kent countryside—though I’d not yet even seen Chartwell myself. A summer book buying trip to England gave me the chance.

Circumnavigating the verdant Kentish landscape and finally entering the house Churchill had so loved was poignant and electrifying. Following a giddy house tour, filled with an enveloping sense of his presence, I found myself drawn to the Kitchen Garden, where I sat quietly on a bench gazing out at the vista.

In the distance, a door opened and a solitary female figure emerged onto Chartwell’s manicured lawn terrace. I observed her without thought, as she made her way toward me. It is a rather long walk from the main house to Chartwell’s brick-walled gardens. Until she entered— through a gateway in the brickwork that her father the bricklayer had once helped to construct—I really hadn’t a clue who this red-coated stroller might be. Then I recognized her. It was Mary Soames.
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Remembrances – Without Reserve: Lady Soames and the Royal National Theatre

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 15

By Richard Eyre


Mary Soames chaired the Royal National Theatre Board from 1988, during most of my time as director, and we became close friends. Her appointment was greeted by many people with surprise and by some with alarm. I heard it said by a Labour MP that her mandate would be to privatise the National Theatre, and by a Conservative that she was being put in to “sort out the pinkoes.”

My own response was one of curiosity: not so much as to why she had been chosen as to why she had accepted. She was not a regular theatre-goer and had no conspicuously advertised ambitions to hold public office. With hindsight I think Mary agreed because it was an adventure that she couldn’t refuse, and—perhaps an unsurprising thing to say about a Churchill—because it was her destiny. The National Theatre never had cause to regret her appointment, and neither, I think, did she.
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Remembrances – The End of an Era

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 16

By Celia Sandys


My memories of Mary cover so many years and so many places: Christmases at Chequers and Chartwell; staying at the British Embassies in Paris, where I got married for the second time, and in Washington D.C.; Churchill conferences; New Years’ Eves in Wiltshire; and travels on three continents.

Although she was always a major figure in our family life, it was in later years that we really got to know each other.

In 1993, we both attended the ICS conference in Calgary. I had been invited to be the speaker at the Gala Dinner. I had never made a big speech before and what scared me most was speaking about my grandfather in front of his daughter. My rather jittery performance was not improved by a lady in the audience passing out and, as I continued, receiving the kiss of life and being stretchered off to hospital. Mary made me feel that I had done very well although I knew I was a rank amateur.
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Remembrances – My Dear Mama

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 14

By Emma Soames


I write this in the week following the death of my mother: The Lady Soames LG DBE, to give her full and glorious title. I hope I can articulate from my brimming heart a few observations and memories of her without it tipping over into sentiment.

In the autumn of 1968, accompanied by our Labrador and Jim, my sister’s black pug, we all set off with my parents on the boat train to Paris. We were given a fabulous and rather tearful send off by, among others, my grandmother Clementine—you would have thought we were going to Timbuktu for five years. Eight hours later we arrived at our new home, the British Embassy in Paris, a beautiful building near the Elysee Palace that was once the home of Napoleon’s sister.

My parents had been briefed to persuade General de Gaulle to change his “non” to “oui” over Britain joining what was then called the Common Market. The General caved in and the rest, as they say, is history—albeit one that some now wish to rewrite.
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Living History – Copenhagen, 2000

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 13

By Niels Bjerre

“She encouraged us to keep the flame alive….”


It is twenty years since I received my first letter of appreciation from Lady Soames, a few weeks after the opening of my first Churchill exhibition by the actor Robert Hardy at the Royal Arsenal Museum. I was touched by her deep interest in what we were doing, and received her letter of approval with deep pride.

I am among those fortunate enough to have met her on many occasions, not least in October 2000, when she came to open “Remember Winston Churchill,” an exhibit at the newspapers building at Kongens Nytorv, marking the 50th anniversary of her father’s visit to Copenhagen. As a little surprise, I collected her in the same Humber Super Snipe that had carried her father through the streets in 1950. We conveyed her to the Scandic Hotel, where she had a splendid 18th floor suite looking out over the city.

A few hours later we drove to the opening, where she was warmly greeted by a trumpet fanfare used by the World War II Danish Resistance. The invited audience included former Premier Paul Schlüter; Mærsk McKinney-Møller of the Mærsk shipping line; the Churchill Club’s Knud Pedersen; British Ambassador Philip Astley; and René Højris, who lent part of his vast Churchilliana collection. Lady Soames gave a warm speech saying she was thrilled to see the affection that the Danish people still had for her father, and we toasted her with Pol Roger champagne.
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Living History – Potsdam, 1945-2006

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 11

By Judith Kambestad

“The Villa Urbig was just as I remembered it.”


The final summit conference of World War II was held in Potsdam in Soviet-occupied Germany. As its site, the Russians chose the once-luxurious and relatively unscathed suburb of Babelsburg, giving two days’ notice to residents to clear out (never to return).

Frau Gerick, owner of Villa Urbig, and her 16-year-old niece Marie Louise, moved in with relatives in what remained of their home in Berlin. Their gardener stayed behind, told them who was in their house, and managed to bring them some personal items they had left behind.

Forty-five years later, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification of Germany, repossession of the villas was offered, given proof of ownership or inheritance, a token payment of one deutschmark, and the owner’s agreement to restore and live in the property. Neither Gericke nor her sister could afford to restore the villa, so it was turned over to the government and purchased by a German businessman as a wedding present for his bride. They restored the 10,000-square-foot villa to its appearance in the 1930s, including the artistic forest scene wallpaper in the dining room. The Berlin Wall had actually stood between the villa and the lake. When we were there the wall had been taken down and the area was heaps of dirt and rock. The owners were planning to landscape the grounds and to add a boat dock.
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Living History – HMS Renown, 1943

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 10

By Vic Humphries

You look like a gang of bloody pirates.” —WSC


I send my condolences to the family of Lady Soames, the vivacious passenger I so well remember aboard HMS Renown on a transatlantic adventure long ago. I am proud to say that we scanned the Atlantic 24/7 whilst the family slept safely in their cabins.

On 12 August 1943, as an 18-year-old radar operator, I boarded HMS Renown in Scapa Flow. On the 24th we set sail across the North Atlantic into the teeth of a hurricane—my first long voyage in the Royal Navy. We had no escort, since she was a fast ship, which would easily have outdistanced any accompanying cruisers.

My cruising station was a surface warning radar set atop the mast, 95 feet in the air, reached by a steel ladder. Everything was secret and we had no idea where we were going. We finally arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the captain told us we were to pick up a VIP. We were only supposed to stay twenty-four hours, but the Italians had just capitulated, which apparently delayed our guest a bit longer. We finally sailed on 14 September 1943, carrying our VIP, the Prime Minister, along with his wife and daughter.
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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.