Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill
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A long-overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman behind Winston Churchill
By Winston Churchill’s own admission, victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible without her.” Until now, however, the only existing biography of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, was written by her daughter. Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine her due with a deeply researched account that tells her life story, revealing how she was instrumental in softening FDR’s initial dislike of her husband and paving the way for Britain’s close relationship with America. It also provides a surprising account of her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and their differing approaches to the war effort.
Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, but their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. Beautiful and intelligent, but driven by her own insecurities, she made his career her mission. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship, and Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world.
she would eventually learn to contain her fears of female rivalry. The only whiff of sexual scandal dated to his early twenties, when a disgruntled fellow army officer alleged that he had indulged in acts of “the Oscar Wilde type.” The saga was swiftly ended by a hotshot lawyer and a libel suit: Winston won �500 in damages and an apology, and the allegations were withdrawn.30 As Winston grew accustomed to matrimony, he learned to live with his wife’s explosive temper. The slightest setback, such
of mind.” She informed Wintston that it would be extremely unwise to let “him see that you consider he has behaved badly: he only waddles off as quickly as possible & avoids you in future.”46 On February 25, she raised the stakes by issuing a reciprocal invitation to dinner at her house. She knew success depended on securing eight acceptable, amusing bridge players for the prime minister’s “comfort & happiness.” After working “like a beaver” on this and every other aspect of the evening, she was
so delighted with what seemed to be a bargain that they did not at first bother with a structural survey. Only in August, when the building’s state of health was thoroughly inspected, did the truth emerge. The whole building needed a huge amount of expensive and time-consuming work, well beyond what they could ever afford. In its current state, it was simply uninhabitable. They tried hastily to backtrack but, alas, too late. The vendor, Lord Wellesley, the future seventh Duke of Wellington,
best-dressed woman of her day.” Clementine did not hurry home at the end of the conference—she spent two leisurely weeks wandering back via Alexandria, Sicily and Naples. By the time she finally returned on April 10 she had been away for a good three months. Rested, fulfilled and happy, she was pleased to be reunited with the children. Randolph, now nearly ten, was grumpy and demanding, and Marigold was suffering from yet another cold, but Clementine was hugely moved that they had all made a
Normandy. Earlier that evening, Winston and Clementine had discussed the prospects of the gambit’s success, at length and alone, over a candlelit dinner. No doubt he had poured out his fears and she had sought, as so many times before, to stiffen his resolve. In the end, the command to proceed had been given. Looking up now as she approached, Winston turned to his wife and said, “Do you realise that by the time you wake up in the morning twenty thousand men may have been killed?”1 • • • To