Friday, September 12, 2008

The Churchill Series – Sept. 12, 2008

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

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the marriage of Winston Spencer Churchill, age 33, and Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, age 23.

The wedding took place on a Saturday at 2 PM at Saint Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

The usually tardy groom arrived with his best man, Lord Hugh Cecil, twenty minutes early to cheers from the large crowds gathered in front of the church and Parliament Square.

Inside the church he greeted guests and took his seat on a front pew along with Cecil and his friend and future Prime Minister Lloyd George.

At two minutes past two the usually prompt Clementine had not yet arrived. But a minute or two later cheers could be heard outside St. Margaret’s and a few minutes after that the bride entered the church.

What follows is from Jack Fishman’s My Dearling Clemtine: The Story of Lady Churchill, something of a potboiler, but accurate on the wedding:

The church was decorated with palms and chrysanthemums and arum lilies. The chancel and altar were wrapped in white flowers, chrysanthemums and camellias in a setting of green.

The bride, a picture of white in her satin dress and veil of Brussels net, carried a white bouquet of lilies and myrtle and a prayer book bound in white kid. On her head was a simple coronet of orange blossoms. ...

The brides only jewelry was a pair of diamond earrings – a gift from the groom.

… The clergy came down t the chancel. As his bride approached, Winston put out his hand and shook hers warmly.

The ceremony began.

[The groom’s profession of vows was audible throughout the church; the bride’s could barely be heard.

Bishop Welldon, who’d been Headmaster at Harrow when Winston was a student there, was preached the wedding sermon.]

Bishop Welldon uttered prophetic words, “The sun shines on your union today.
“Allow me to remind you how much you may be to each other in the coming days, in the sunny hours and in the somber hours.

“There must be in a statesman’s life many times when he depends on the love, insight, penetrating sympathy, and devotion of his wife.

"The influence which the wives of our statesmen have exercised for good on their husbands’ lives is an unwritten chapter of English history too sacred perhaps to be written in full.

“May your lives prove a blessing, each to the other, and both to the world”
A large reception followed that ceremony. The wedding cake was five feet tall and the champagne flowed.

The bride and groom stayed only a brief while before departing for Paddington Station from whence they traveled to Blenheim Palace, Winston’s birthplace where just a month before he’d proposed to Clementine. The following day they left Blenheim to begin their honeymoon.

By the standards of their class and time, the Churchill’s honeymoon in Italy (the lake district and Venice) was very brief. It lasted just a few weeks because, as Clementine explained to friends, Winston had to be “back in London on October 4 to resume his Parliamentary duties.”

And so Winston and Clementine began their fifty-six years of married lives which would “prove a blessing, each to the other, and both to the world”

I hope you all have wonderful weekends.


Afterword: It’s a pity most people pass by St. Margaret’s Church which is just a few yards from Westminster Abbey. The church has many historic associations besides the Churchill wedding. Oliver Cromwell worshiped there and Sir Walter Raleigh is buried beneath its alter, to name just two. It’s a beautiful church. You can read more about it here.