Churchill had been determined to have a happy family – to maintain those ‘dominating virtues of human society’ – but he lived so many other lives – as a politician, as a war leader, and had so many passionate interests (writing, painting, holidays) – that his family was, to a greater or lesser degree, squeezed in among these other busy lives. There were painful consequences, of course, but Clementine had always accepted that her husband must come first (and ‘second and third’) and worked tirelessly to support him. And his children, however, they responded to the pressures of being the great man’s children, appreciated, and were proud of, all he had done for them and for the country.
Churchill’s marriage to Clementine remained the cornerstone of his private life but his family life had its share of personal sadness. Aside from the distress caused by his children’s wayward lives, he lived long enough to witness the death of many of those close to him. His mother, the beautiful and glamorous Jennie, died aged only sixty-seven, in June 1921 (she had tripped, wearing high heels, down a staircase and broke her ankle; it didn’t heal and, suffering from gangrene, she eventually had the foot amputated; after enduring several weeks of pain, she died suddenly of a massive haemorrhage). Only months later, the Churchills’ beloved ‘Duckadilly’ died, aged only two and nine months. Churchill’s oldest friend and companion, his younger brother Jack, died in February 1947, six years after the death of ‘Goonie’ (Gwendoline, Jack’s wife), in 1941. Churchill was devastated at the loss and wrote to Hugh Cecil, ‘I feel lonely now that he is not here after 67 years of brotherly love’ (Gilbert, Never Despair). And of course, his daughter Diana died before he did, aged only fifty-four, in 1963.
Sarah (born in October 1914 in the first months of the First World War) and Marigold (born just after the end of the War, in November 1918) were Churchill’s younger daughters. Life for them was to prove troubled and, in the case of Marigold, sadly very brief.
‘Many years later my father told me that when Marigold died, Clementine gave a succession of wild shrieks like an animal in mortal pain. My mother never got over Marigold’s death.’
Mary Soames, Prelude to A Daughter’s Tale
As the coffin was lowered into the ground next to his parents and brother in St Martin’s Churchyard at Bladon, within sight of his birthplace at Blenheim, broadcaster Richard Dimbleby recited a poem specially written for the occasion – redolent with Churchill’s own words and phrasing.