Winston Churchill’s Little Girl
Ray and I are scheduled to speak at the 2020 homeschool conference for Homeschoolers of Maine (HOME) next March. Maine is preparing to celebrate 200 years as a state in 2020, so HOME is planning a special emphasis on history at the 2020 conference, which is also the 30th anniversary of the HOME conference.
As we worked on special topics for the conference, I did research to make connections between Maine and topics I already enjoy speaking about. One of my most popular blog posts is “From Struggling Learner to World Leader,” which is a story about Sir Winston Churchill. I searched to see if Churchill ever visited Maine, but was never able to make a direct connection.
However, I did learn that after President Franklin Roosevelt’s secret trip to meet Prime Minister Churchill on a ship off the coast of Newfoundland in 1941, Roosevelt landed at Maine’s Rockland Harbor. It was on this secret mission that Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to the Atlantic Charter, which outlined shared objectives between the United States and the United Kingdom, almost four months before the United States entered World War II.
I also learned that shipbuilders at Bath, Maine, built the U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Winston Churchill. Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary, who by then had become Lady Soames, came to Bath to launch the ship in 1999. Dressed in a beautiful yellow suit and a pretty beige hat, she spoke the name of the ship and broke a bottle of champagne on its bow. The ship then slid into the Kennebec River.
I was curious about Lady Soames. I learned that she was a woman who spent her life doing what her father taught her: “We must all rise to the level of events.” Winston Churchill certainly did that and his daughter followed in his steps.
Little Mary Churchill was the youngest of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s children. Her childhood was different from most because, as she said, history “kept barging in on our family life.” Still, she remembered her childhood as happy. She relished spending time with famous people who came to their home for meals. She loved her father’s wonderful one-sided conversations at lunch or dinner. Sometimes meals would last as long as three hours and include singing, poems, and Shakespeare.
Mary Churchill volunteered with the Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Service during the first years of World War II. She later joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, which was the women’s branch of the British Army during the war. My husband Ray’s mother was also a member of the ATS (Ray’s American soldier father met Ray’s mother while he was stationed in Bristol, England, during the war). Mary Churchill served as her father’s aide-de-camp. She was serving in that role when he met with Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin at the Big Three Conference in 1945.
Mary married Christopher Soames, whom she had met at the British Embassy in Paris. Her family called him “The Chimp,” with affection. The couple had five children. In the early years of their marriage, her husband managed his father-in-law’s farms. He began a career in politics and became a Member of Parliament. In 1968, he began to serve in international posts. He became the British Ambassador to France, and the couple moved into the British Embassy in Paris where they had met. They later lived in Brussels where he served as the vice president of the European Community.
In 1979 Christopher became the last Governor-General of the British colony of Rhodesia during a time when the country was in great turmoil. Rhodesia became the independent Republic of Zimbabwe in April of 1980. Mary Soames was so effective in bringing calm and aid to the people of Rhodesia that she was made a Dame when she returned to England (a dame is addressed as “Lady”).
With the encouragement of her husband, Lady Soames wrote a best-selling book about her mother. She also wrote other books about her family. Lady Soames died at the age of 91, having spent her life loving her husband and children, serving others, and honoring her father and mother — worthy goals for our own lives and worthy lessons to teach our children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord,
for this is right.
Honor your father and mother
(which is the first commandment with a promise),
so that it may be well with you,
and that you may live long on the earth.
I learned facts for this article in Lady Soames obituary. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10868131/Lady-Soames-obituary.html