Monday, September 01, 2008

The Churchill Series – Sept. 1, 2008

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

This Sept. 8 will mark the 100th Anniversary of the marriage of Clementine Hozier to Winston Churchill. I’m posting a series within the Series running up to Sept. 8.

We start today with a look at a newspaper article published at the time of Churchill’s death in January 1965 – “Churchill's Marriage 56-Year Triumph.”

The article follows indented in full with my comments interspersed in plain.

If you wish to read the article first free of my “interruptions” it’s right here.
Now for those ready to press ahead the article begins:

When Winston Churchill, a pugnacious 34-year old politician, married Clementine Hozier in the society wedding of 1908, Lord Rosebery, a family friend, commented: "The union will last six months, with luck. Their marriage will fail because Winston is not the marrying kind."

The marriage not only endured for more than 56 years, it was a triumph -- in Lord Ismay's words probably "The most ideal marriage there has ever been." Churchill's autobiography, My Early Life, published in 1930, ended with the words: "...until September, 1908, when I married and lived happily ever afterwards."
The marriage was a indeed “triumph.” It was also many other things that are great and good in this life.

But it was not, as you’ll see in this series, one in which everything went along “happily ever afterwards.”

IMO Churchill used the fairy tale “happily ever afterwards” as the closing words of My Early Life for two reasons. He knew readers would understand, without his going into details about his marriage, that he felt he had a wonderful wife and a very satisfying marriage. And it gave his book “a happy ending.”
The triumph was due almost entirely to the devotion and tact of Clementine Churchill. Right from the start of their marriage, the shy, dignified beauty plunged into the whirl of publicity ad controversy in which her husband reveled.
Devotions and tact Clementine Churchill certainly had. She also had very high intelligence. Her physical courage was the equal of Churchill’s. And IMO she was a better judge of WSC than he was of himself.

The next few series posts will offer specific examples of those strengths she brought to their marriage.
She shared his unpopularity as Home Secretary before the First World War, the bitten accusations of being a traitor to his class that Tory peers hurled at him when, as president of the Board of Trade in the Liberal Government of Herbert Asquith, he attacked the House of Lords as an outmoded institution.

In 1922, when her husband was ill and unable to fight his Dundee by-election campaign, Clementine went on the hustings and faced a hostile mob that yelled "Your husband is a warmonger" and “How could you bring up a bairn on a shilling a week?"
Everything in these last two paragraphs is on the money.

The reference to “a bairn,” a word Scots sometimes use for "child," may well have been to the Churchill’s infant daughter, Mary, born just a few weeks before Clementine journeyed from London to Dundee to campaign for Winston still hospitalized following an appendectomy, in those days a serious operation.

Since Clementine was nursing Mary and did not want to leave her for even a short time in the care of others, she carried Mary to campaign appearances, at many of which the crowds were hostile.
She was the only person who could handle the unpredictable Churchill; soothing tantrums, insuring he had precious hours of relaxation during the Second World War, sometimes advising him on a course of action or a speech, but always so tactfully that he thought the idea was his own. Often she would quietly comment as he drafted a fiery speech: "Winston, I wouldn't say that." He usually took her advice.
Clementine wasn’t the only person who could handle “the unpredictable Churchill.” But that’s not central to the purpose of this series, and this post is getting long.

So I’ll end here and pick up on the rest of the article tomorrow.
She had a taxing job providing meals to meet Churchill's exacting standards. He liked plain English food best, superbly cooked, and relished fine champagne and brandy.

Sometimes there were dinner-table arguments at which Clementine acted as peacemaker.

During the war, Clementine had to plot to save her husband from his own frantic energies and carelessness of personal safety. She knew the only way to get him home before nightfall on his tours of bombed-out London was to go along with him.

It was Clementine who, with Lord Beaverbrook, arranged for stations on the London Underground to be turned into a gigantic air-raid dormitory during the 1940 blitz, with 2,000,000 bunks set up along the platforms.

Once she said: "I never think about after the war You see, I think Winston will die when it is over...He is 70 and I am 60, and we are putting all we have into this war, and it will take all we have."

From the birth of their first child, Diana, in 1909, Clementine resolved to keep the family as far as possible from the limelight.

Diana grew up to be the intellectual dreamer of the family. Her two marriages -- to Sir John Milner Bailey, son of a South African millionaire, and to Duncan Sandys -- ended in divorce, and she died in 1963.

The unpredictable Sarah, born in 1914, was always an individualist. Her mother nicknamed her Mule, because of her stubbornness.

Randolph, born in 1911, never achieved the political stature expected of him as a young man, though he has had a headline-making career as politician, journalist and gadfly.

Mary, born in 1922, has been least in the news. She is married to former Agriculture Minister Christopher Soames and is writing her mother's biography.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the Churchill's married life was the death of their daughter Marigold Frances at the age of 3 in 1921. Clementine Churchill would never speak of it even decades after the event.

Churchill once said jokingly of his wife that they had tried "two or three times in the last 40 years to have breakfast together, but it was so disagreeable we had to stop or our marriage would have been wrecked."

In one of his books, he wrote: "It was much the most fortunate and joyous event which happened to me in the whole of my life. For what can be more glorious than to be united in one's walk through life with a being incapable of an ignoble thought."
End note: I want to thank the Chruchill Centre which hosts the article here at its site.


Danvers said...


With reference to your recent posts on Zimbabwe:

Christopher Soames - Churchill's son-in-law, by then Lord Soames, was the politician appointed by then British PM Margaret Thatcher as the "last Governor" of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) when it was handed over to Black Majority rule in 1980.

He was utterly out of his depth and was totally ignorant of the realities of the settlement, and was totally out manoeuvred by Mugabe. He capitulated to Mugabe and .... the rest is history.

I am sure WSC was spinning in his grave at the fraud Soames perpetrated on the people of Zimbabwe.

Mad Bob blames the British for the
current conditions in Zimbabwe. I am sure the Zimbabwean People feel similarly - albeit for very different reasons!