March 25, 2017

The following September, in 1922, the Churchills’ fifth and final child, Mary, was born. Mary later wrote, in the prelude to A Daughter’s Tale, that she was ‘perhaps … for my parents, the child of consolation’.

Unlike her elder siblings, she didn’t cause her parents any significant worries. She supported both her mother and father throughout their lives and, during the Second World War, worked for the Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Service from 1939 to 1941 and served in mixed anti-aircraft (AA) batteries with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), serving in London, Belgium and Germany, rising to the rank of Junior Commander and being awarded the MBE (Military).

Mary also accompanied her father as aide de camp on several of his overseas journeys, including his post-VE trip to Potsdam.

Mary married Christopher Soames, then Assistant Military Attache in Paris, in 1947. Christopher became a firm friend and ally of Churchill’s in the wake of Jack Churchill’s death and when he and his wife moved into a cottage on the Chartwell estate (‘Honeymoon Cottage’), he became farm manager – and introduced Churchill to horse-racing, a hobby that was to provide pleasure and delight for many years.

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Christopher went on to have a successful parliamentary and diplomatic career, elected Conservative MP in 1950; he became Churchill’s Parliamentary Private Secretary during his second premiership and subsequently served as Ambassador to France (1968–72) and as the last Governor of Rhodesia (1979–80). Mary supported him in these posts.

Later in life, Mary Soames served as Patron of the International Churchill Society, later The Churchill Centre (as well as of the Royal National Theatre Board of Trustees and the National Benevolent Fund for the Aged) and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter in April 2005. Lady Soames died, aged ninety-one, in May 2014.

To read an interview with Mary Soames, click here.

‘The world owes her a great debt of gratitude’: Alistair Horne, the noted historian, recounts here his memories of Mary in an article in the Spectator after her death, in 2014.

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