Monday, September 08, 2008

The Churchill Series – Sept. 8, 2008

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

To mark the 100th Anniversary Winston and Clementine Churchill’s marriage this Sept. 12 I’ve been running a series within the Series focused on the lifetime of love and support they gave each other.

Today’s post contains excerpts from a letter Clementine wrote Winston while taking a brief holiday in France in 1921. Winston had remained behind in London to tend to government business.

The F. E. Smith Clementine refers to was Churchill’s closest friend. They were each godfather to the other’s only son and together they founded The Other Club, composed of “agreeable people.” The club’s by-laws state its sole purpose was “to dine.”

Clementine didn’t like F. E., tried to discourage the friendship and even asked Churchill to break it off. She thought Winston drank and gambled too much when with Smith. But there’s nary a hint of any of that in the letter.

The Lt. Col. Maclean mentioned in the letter is John Bayne Maclean, the Canadian founder of The Maclean Publishing Company and Maclean’s Magazine, still today one of Canada’s most respected print publications.

Maclean and Churchill had recently clashed over a number of issues involving Anglo-Canadian relations.


18 February 1921

Hotel Bristol

My Darling Winston,

Here I am feeling rather lonely in this vast hotel full of middle-class English people. But I have made the acquaintance of your formidable foe Lt. Col. J. B. Maclean.

I told Colonel Maclean that I had heard that he was a strong Imperialist and that you were one also, & that being so he ought to “wait & see” before attacking you.

He then talked a lot about F. E. & said that a lot of his prejudice against you was owing to the fact that you were his friend – I asked him why he did not like F. E. & he said that his visit to America & Canada during the War was a series of blunders & insolences.

That at every public dinner he was drunk, that every speech he made was tactless, patronizing & in bad taste, that at one town when he arrived some pretty women were asked to meet him at dinner & that he made a bet he would kiss all seven of them before the evening was out etc – etc – etc –

I told Colonel Maclean that since all these happenings F. E. had become Lord Chancellor & that he was said to be one of the greatest Lord Chancellors that had ever been, that he couldn’t have been nearly as drunk as he seemed, that he was a tremendous sportsman (hunting, tennis, etc), that his wish to kiss the seven ladies only indicated his general admiration of transatlantic women & that anyhow you weren’t in the least like him.

I then encouraged him to talk about Canada & himself which he did at enormous length.

He is naïf, vain, touchy, kindhearted, horribly energetic and vital. …


You can easily visualize Churchill smiling and nodding as he read the letter.

For the last 56 years of his life Winston Spenser Churchill had no wiser or more devoted friend than Clementine Hozier Churchill.

The letter excerpts are found on pg. 231 of Speaking for Themselves: The Personal Letters of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Edited by their daughter, Mary Soames. (Black Swan, 1999)