Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Churchill Series - Aug. 19, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

I’m preparing a brief series within the series to coincide with Winston and Clementine’s 100th wedding anniversary Sept. 8, 2008.

While researching for the anniversary posts, I’m reading portions of Marian Fowler’s Blenheim: Biography of a Palace (Viking, 1982).

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Churchill’s remark: “It was at Blenheim that I made the two most important decisions of my life: to be born and to marry.”

With that in mind, I thought you'd enjoy reading the following brief excerpts from Fowler’s book:

Blenheim was the chosen stage for the next crucial event in Winston’s life. Four year s before, he had met briefly at a London bal a tall young lady with lustrous ash-blond hair and green eyes flecked with brown, who seemed quite unaware of her beauty. She was Clementine Hozier, granddaughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie. …

“Let us all go to Blenheim for Monday and Tuesday,” Winston wrote to Clemmie on Aug. 7, 1908. “I want so much to show you that beautiful place, and in its gardens we shall find lots of place s to talk in, and lots of things to talk about.”

Clemmie hung back. Blenheim would be far too grand and she was visiting at Cowes and down to her last clean cotton frock.

Winston wrote again next day: “I think you will be amused at Blenheim. It has many glories in the fullness of summer. Pools of water, gardens of roses, a noble lake shrouded by giant trees; tapestries, pictures and monuments within”

Winston wooed her through Blenheim, and of course Winston won here round.

Monday, Aug. 10 found Clemmie on a Train Blenheim-bound, dashing off a note to her mother: “I shall get to Oxford at 5:20 where I shall be met by motor. I feel dreadfully shy and rather tired.”

Next afternoon, Winston and Clemmie went for a walk. It began to rain and they took shelter in the Temple of Diana which William Chambers has built for the 4th Duke. Clemmie and Winston sat side by side on its stone bench, looking out at the serene, dimpled lake caught between thrusting, solid pillars.

“If that beetle reaches that crack,” Clemmie said to herself, “and Winston hasn’t proposed, then he isn’t going to.” But the miracle happened. Winston proposed and she accepted.

When they emerged to clearing skies and diamante grass, Clemmie swore Winston to secrecy until they could tell her mother, but Winston, seeing a little knot of people on the lawn, including Sunny [, his cousin and the current Duke,] raced ahead, arms waving wildly, and blurted out his glorious news. (pgs. 213-214)
More tomorrow.