First Couples: The Churchills
THE MAIN TRAIL: A BOOK ABOUT CLEMENTINE…
Winston Churchill, Britain’s most celebrated Prime Minister of the twentieth century, felt his “finest hour” was persuading Clementine Hozier to marry him. Not surprising! According to Sonia Purnell’s new biography about the long overlooked First Lady of Downing Street who inspired and sustained her husband during decades of crises. His sense of destiny, the author maintains, would never have been fulfilled without her…
For Winston and Clemmie, love took hold their first time as dinner partners: he was fascinated by her ethereal beauty: she by the public excitement swirling about him. Smitten, he proposed within months in a garden folly—a mini Greek temple–at Blenheim Palace, his ancestral home. Fifty-seven years, 1700 letters/notes and five children later, the marriage remained the emotional centerpiece of both their lives.
Like Winston, Clemmie was descended from an aristocratic but dysfunctional family. Shy and anxiety ridden—she battled depression throughout her life–she was also intelligent, strong willed and talented. During their marriage she grew from athlete/gallery browser/legendary hostess into her husband’s most trusted political advisor: she clipped newspaper articles, edited speeches, and during wartime, was privy to classified maneuvers. But her real genius was how she managed his genius—its ups and downs. Insisting he temper self-absorption with sensitivity to colleagues and staff, she wrote, “You won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness”—a reminder he kept in his desk drawer until he left office. “She boosted but never betrayed…counseled but also challenged, chided as well as consoled,” explains Purnell.
During the Blitz, when England was bombed by the Nazis for 267 days, Clemmie represented the social conscience of the Government: she frequented bombed out neighborhoods, volunteered as a rooftop fire watcher and personally responded to the health and sanitation emergencies of strung out citizens. When, for safety reasons, the women in munitions factories tucked their hair inside turbans, she concocted a similar look with bold colored scarves. With this gesture of solidarity, Clemmie let the world know that British women were “carrying on” with confidence and style.
CONNECTING TRAILS: ABOUT WINSTON…
Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert, (Henry Holt and Company, 1991)
The official biography— years of research that combines public fact and personal detail into one volume about his life.
The dazzling war and peace epic of the life and times of the illustrious Prime Minister.
By the biographer of Eishenhower and Patton, D’Este focuses on Churchill’s attitudes towards war and his role as operational general.
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson, (Riverhead Books, 2014)
A witty, uplifting, fast-paced read about Churchill’s life and influence today by the former “blond bombshell” Mayor of London.
No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money by David Lough, (Picador, 2015)
A study of the tangled personal finances of the statesman.
SECONDARY PATHS: ABOUT THE CHURCHILL FAMILY AND THEIR FRIENDS…
Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Ralph G. Martin, (Reprinted by Sourcebooks 2008)
The well researched story of Winston Churchill’s gutsy American mother, who “shone for him like the evening star…but at a distance.”
The biography of Clemmie’s very extended family: the six daughters of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, and their eccentric (sometimes scandalous) lives as novelist, Fascist, Communist and Duchess.
The story of three Americans—CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow, Lend-Lease Facilitator, W. Averell Harriman and US Ambassador to Britain, John Gilbert Winant,—who persuaded FDR and a reluctant United States to join the fight against Hitler.
The Gathering Storm tells the story of Winston Churchill (Albert Finney) as he wages a battle against Nazi tyranny while facing obstacles in his marriage to Clementine (Vanessa Redgrave).
The Churchill Centre, founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill death, is the world’s preeminent member organization 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.
To become a member of the Centre, please click here.
Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill and his wife Clementine bought the property, located two miles south of Westerham, Kent, England, in 1922.