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Mary Soames: Her Story

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 07

By David Reynolds

Mary Soames was the last surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, and the only one of their five children who really came to terms with bearing that distinguished family name. She enjoyed a fulfilled life as daughter, wife and mother before blossoming into an accomplished writer. She inherited her father’s energy and determination, while also displaying her mother’s charm and poise. But the empathy, ebullience and sense of fun were all her own.

Mary was born on 15 September 1922, the same month that her father bought Chartwell, his beloved country house on the edge of the Kentish Weald. She was by far the most junior of the surviving Churchill children (the infant Marigold having died in 1921)—eight years younger than Sarah, the next oldest. She was therefore brought up almost as an only child.

Her older siblings, Diana, Randolph and Sarah, had known a succession of homes, but Mary’s formative years were spent entirely at Chartwell. There she revelled in country life, particularly horses, and developed a lifelong love of gardening. And, whereas her brother and sisters had suffered a series of governesses, she was raised largely by Clementine’s young cousin, Maryott Whyte, who joined the Churchill household as a nanny at Mary’s birth and stayed for over twenty years. “Nana” became the centre of Mary’s youth and the nurturer of her lifelong Christian faith.
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Foreword – What We Have Lost

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 06

By Laurence Geller

For the first time in its history Finest Hour has broken its regular schedule to produce a special edition in memory of Lady Soames, our Patron from 1983 until May 31st last.

It is hard for me to put into words the sense of generational loss we all feel. As I watched the so-recent images of those remaining veterans who made it back to Normandy on the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, I was saddened to reflect that they will soon have passed too, and the live and vivid memories of those tumultuous and terrible times will have gone with them.

Mary Soames’s passing less than a fortnight before that anniversary is also a cause for grief, despite the knowledge of an amazing life, so well and fully lived. All who have had the privilege of knowing her share the pain of her loss and the loss of all she represented so well. Over the past decade and a half I had the immense pleasure of spending increasing amounts of time with her, and always enjoyed and learned from her company.
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We Will Treasure Her All Our Days

Finest Hour 164, Special Edition, September 2014

Page 03

By Robert Hardy

Chartwell, the hard winter of 1980-81: all round the Churchill house the roads were icy; snow was thick across the Weald of Kent. The house was full of action, with a large film crew, actors, noise, equipment, lights, cables, slush turning to mud, as we worked on the eight-hour script of Southern Films’s The Wilderness Years, in which I was striving, against the odds, to be the Rt Hon Winston Churchill.

Mary Soames suddenly arrived to see what was happening in the house where she grew up, laying bricks with her father, loving him absolutely. We met among the chaos and cables in the hall, between Churchill’s painting of flowers in a silver vase and the stand of his canes and sticks. She looked bewildered, regarded me and said: “The suit is about right—goodness, what a mess!”

I asked if she would like to come to my trailer in the snow on the lawn and ease her shock with a whisky. Once inside she examined me more closely: “That bow tie arrangement is very good. Papa seldom got it really neat.” Suddenly she took my hand, gazed at the ring I wore and said, “What’s that? Where did you get it?”
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Mary Soames 1922-2014 – Patron, Mentor, Friend

Finest Hour 163, Summer 2014

Page 02

By Richard M. Langworth, Editor

You may wonder why she is not on the cover. Well, we chose this particular cover with her in mind; it would greatly appeal to her. But our dear friend Lady Soames, who died peacefully at 91, surrounded by her family, at 8:35 pm on May 31st, deserves more than a hastily concocted cover. She deserves a special edition of Finest Hour, and that is what she shall have, issued between our summer and autumn issues. I say this notwithstanding that I can hear her now: “Really, dear, you are going way O.T.T. [over the top]—it’s silly to make a fuss.” Never mind, Mary, we are going to make a fuss.

Barbara and I knew her since 1983, when she attended her first Churchill Tour, which began at the Churchill Hotel, London. She soon became Patron of the International Churchill Society, now The Churchill Centre, replacing Lord Mountbatten, who died in 1979, the victim of assassins. From then on she was our constant correspondent, frequent companion at conferences and tours, sometime houseguest, loyal critic, decisive mentor and personal friend. There is no one outside our own family whom we loved more, and her loss removes one of the things that make life worth living.

What her special edition will contain may not be known until we sign off on the final proof, but we do know that the thoughts of any friend of hers are most welcome. Email [email protected] or send by mail to the address on page 4.

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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.