A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill's Youngest Child
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In this charming and intimate memoir, Winston Churchill’s youngest daughter shares stories from her remarkable life—and tells of the unbreakable bond she forged with her father through some of the most tumultuous years in British history.
Now approaching her ninetieth birthday, Mary Soames is the only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Through a combination of personal reminiscences and never-before-published diary entries, she describes what it was like growing up as the scion of one of the lions of twentieth-century statecraft. Warm memories of a childhood spent roaming the grounds of the family’s country estate, tending to a small menagerie of pets, evoke the idyllic mood of England between the wars. As she matures into one of her father’s most trusted companions, we are given rare glimpses inside the glittering social milieu through which the Churchills moved—as well as the rough-and-tumble world of British politics. With fly-on-the-wall immediacy, Mary describes the momentous debate in Parliament where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was driven from office, paving the way for Winston Churchill’s ascension and the grueling crucible of World War II.
During the war Mary served as a gunner in the women’s auxiliary, helping to shoot down the German V-1 rockets then bedeviling London. Styling herself as Private M. Churchill to avoid publicity, she led a unique double life that comes vividly alive again in the retelling. Splitting her time between luncheons at Chequers—where she spent time with the likes of Lord Mountbatten—and the turret of an anti-aircraft battery, she was never far from the center of the action. Hitler even reportedly hatched a plan, never consummated, to hire spies to seduce her in order to gain access to secret British war plans. She attended the Potsdam Conference as her father’s aide-de-camp, arranging a memorable dinner with Harry Truman and Josef Stalin (whom she acidly remembers as “small, dapper, and rather twinkly”). And when British voters overwhelmingly turned on Churchill in the 1945 election, it is left to Mary to recount the pain and devastation her father could never publicly express.
The mutual love and affection between Mary Soames and her parents pours forth from every page of this elegantly written memoir. A Daughter’s Tale is both a moving personal history and a source of untold insight into one of the enduring icons of British national life.
The wardroom I was plied with first a strong Scotch and then a brandy. It was decided not to tell my parents at this point about my narrow escape, but appearing at dinner with my hair still wet and in a dress, I was scolded by my father for wearing civilian clothes without his permission. That night I reflected that I had “bought my luck pretty cheap.… The Cmdr had said ‘Now you know a little what “preserve us from the perils of the sea” means.’ My prayers this night were not long or.
Elegant but rather shabby gentility, looked after by a devoted old family retainer, Maggie, who lived in the basement and “did everything.” This area of Notting Hill is now rather smart, much inhabited by actors (stage and screen) and members of the more intellectual professions, and used as the location for award-winning films; but then it was considered “very far out,” a borderline area where impecunious gentlefolk, such as Aunt Maudie and her equally strapped-for-cash sister, my grandmother.
Judgements. However, to all her arguments Winston was deaf—although for a time he went “quiet” on the plan to buy this place which had so beguiled him. Then, during the second half of September, while Clementine was fully occupied with their new baby, Winston presented her with a fait accompli—his offer for Chartwell had been accepted. Clementine, contrary to Winston’s earnest hope, never came to share his love of Chartwell—and never quite forgave him for his (totally untypical) lack of candour.
And I enjoyed the general brouhaha of the wedding plans. I was one of her bridesmaids on 12 December at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, where our parents had been married. Our dresses were really ravishing—white tulle over silver lamé—though I remember the camellias in my wreath pressed painfully into my head. I was deeply upset and shocked just over two years later, when, early in the New Year of 1935, Nana told me Diana and John were going to be divorced. I had seen them only as a romantic and.
Mary. P.S. We are called the ‘untouchables’ & our Sergeant Smith (male instructor) walks round with a bottle of diluted potash with which he wipes the predictors after we’ve been on them!!! As I did not want to worry my mother unduly, I did not tell her in detail about what had been a fairly horrendous night. The girl who was taken so ill was in fact in the bunk above mine, and I had climbed up to see if I could help her; as one could not put on the lights as blackout screens were all.