BRIAN LAMB, HOST:
Lady Soames, when you think back on your parents, Winston and Clementine Churchill, what comes to mind? What do you think of when you think of your mom and dad?
LADY MARY SOAMES, AUTHOR, "WINSTON AND CLEMENTINE CHURCHILL": Two marvelous, very loving and very lovable people.
LAMB: How long have they been gone?
Lady SOAMES: My father died in '65--1965, and my mother died in 1977, so quite a long time.
LAMB: Where did they meet?
Lady SOAMES: They met in London at a ball, and their first meeting was not a particularly successful one. My father saw this beautiful girl standing in a doorway and asked his mother to introduce him to her, which my grandmother did, whereupon my mother recounted how this young man was introduced and then just stood there staring at her. So my mother became extremely embarrassed and made a sign to a beau of hers who was standing nearby, who came whistling up and whisked her off to dance. And as they were dancing, he said to her, `Whatever were you doing talking to such a frightful cad as Winston Churchill?' But it was then four years later they met at a dinner party, and that time he didn't miss his chances.
LAMB: What was Winston Churchill doing when he met your mother?
Lady SOAMES: He had just become a member of Mr. Asquith's radical reforming liberal government, and he was in his first post as secretary of the Board of--president of the Board of Trade, his first cabinet post.
LAMB: Was he an elected Member of Parliament?
Lady SOAMES: He was an elected Member of Parliament.
LAMB: I remember reading in your book that they stood together for some 15 elections?
Lady SOAMES: Yes. Amazing, isn't it?
LAMB: How many times was he elected as a Member of Parliament?
Lady SOAMES: Now you've--you've got me. Very many fewer times than he stood as Member of Parliament, I tell you. He stood for about six different seats. He was a member for about four. You've really got me on technicalities. But his last--his--his longest time he held seats was when he first married my mother, when he represented Dundee in Scotland for 11--nearly 14 years, and then from the middle 1920s to two or three years before he died, he represented Woodford, and that was nearly 40 years.
LAMB: How--how many times was he prime minister?
Lady SOAMES: He was prime minister three times, which people are surprised at. He was prime minister in 1940 to '45, and then he was prime minister in what was called the caretake--caretaker government, which was in Jul--May '45 when it was quite obvious that the Great War coalition was breaking up. And a care--a caretaker government was formed, a conservative caretaker government, of which he was prime minister. And then the third time-- which, in fact, of course, came to an end with the 1945 general election, when my father and the Tory Party were hurled from power. And then his third prime ministership was from 1951 to '55, when he retired, finally, from being a minister--prime minister and from holding office.
LAMB: What's the difference in age between your mom and dad?
Lady SOAMES: Ten years.
LAMB: And when Winston Churchill met your mother, her name was?
Lady SOAMES: Her name was Clementine Hozier, and a good Scottish family, and she was brought up in quite difficult circumstances. She had quite a sort of unhappy and restless childhood. Her parents were separated and there wasn't much money, and she was very, very beautiful.
LAMB: What was she doing when she met Winston Churchill?
Lady SOAMES: Well --she didn't have a career. She'd rather wanted to go to university, but didn't. She was very well educated, but she was doing sort of small jobs, like teaching French to children, and she worked in her cousin's needlework--her dressmaking business at one time, but otherwise, -she was doing what young well-born women did do in those days, which was to come out and be in society.
LAMB: Which book is this for you? How many have you done?
Lady SOAMES: I--this is my fifth book altogether.
LAMB: What's in it, if somebody--I mean, there's a lot of--let me see if I can get the number of pages in this book. It's...
Lady SOAMES: There are about eight--well, there are about 800 pages, of which 700--about 750 are the actual letters, and the--I was very sad. I rather wanted it to be two volumes, but it's not a good concept, apparently, two volumes, so I've had to abridge and cut out a lot of the available material, but I'm satisfied that what's there shows their relationship to each other and their characters very well indeed.
LAMB: Now they had each--they had nicknames for each other that you see throughout the entire book.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: What were they?
Lady SOAMES: My mother was `The Cat,' spelled either C-A-T or K-A-T, and we were all `kittens.' And my father alternated between being a `Pig' and a `Pug.' He--I think the Pug features more in the early years, and they used to sign their letters with these charming little drawings, which where great--rather touching.
LAMB: They're--and they're in the book. And where did they--who started first with the drawings?
Lady SOAMES: You know, I can't remember. I think it was my father who started--who started the pictures, and then my mother took on very quickly. But she always thought her cats weren't as good as his pugs, but I think that's open to argument.
LAMB: Now where does the n--where do the nicknames come from? Where does `Cat' come from?
Lady SOAMES: I don't know.
LAMB: Because there is one time where I remember she signed off `Clem Pussy Bird.'
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes, then there were one or two odd--odd names along the way, but the `Clem Pussy Bird'--my father tried to draw it. It was a very exotic animal-cum-bird, but it--it wasn't--it didn't feature very much. The--the two--the--the two favorite animals were the cat and the pig.
LAMB: And what's an `Amber Pug' or...
Lady SOAMES: That was her referring, I think, to--my father had red hair when he was young, and she thought that the `Amber Pug'--it refers, I think, to the coloring of his hair.
LAMB: What did--what did you learn about your parents through the letters, and was it difficult to read any of them yourself?
Lady SOAMES: No. Of course it was an extraordinary experience. I was middle-aged myself when I read the letters for the first time, and I was overwhelmed by them. It is an extraordinary correspondence, and I learnt--I didn't learn anything very startling and new about my parents, but I think I did see different dimensions and--for instance, one effect was that it's rather fascinating as if we're hearing your parents talk to each other in their young voices, and then you hear those voices through the--because I think of the book--the letters as a dialogue, as a--as a conversation. You hear those voices maturing and the different inflections.
And then the other thing--the other things I learnt was perhaps certain things I hadn't appreciated which had had--meant a great deal to them. I mean, being--a constant thread through the letters until up to the end of the First World War had been money problems. They weren't at all well off. My mother had hardly any money at all and my father, by standards of his time and class, was certainly not a rich man. And he earned--it's very important, I think, to remember this about my father's life. He earned his keep as a journalist and writer by the sweat of his brow and pen.
LAMB: How many books did he write?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, 30 or 40, I think.
LAMB: And he wrote them all through his life?
Lady SOAMES: He wrote them pretty well all through his life. He'd already, when he met my mother in 1908--early 1900s, he'd already written three or four books, including a very well-received life of his own father.
LAMB: Got some photographs, as you know, in the book. Before we show some of them, where did you get all the photographs?
Lady SOAMES: Well, I got them all sorts of places, but an awful lot of them from my own collection of photographs and a lot from Churchill College-Cambridge and then some that kind relations or friends sent me. It's very difficult, I may say now, to find a picture of my father that hasn't been published somewhere.
LAMB: And how many of these photographs have been published before?
Lady SOAMES: Most of them. Most...
LAMB: Let's look at the first one here, which is Winston and Clementine at military maneuvers near Daventry.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: Where is Daventry?
Lady SOAMES: Daventry's in the Midlands, in England, and they loved riding. My mother learnt to ride after she had met my father, and he was very keen. And she then hunted quite a lot. She took to it like anything. And that would have been probably when my father--Does it say the date on--on the opposite paper?
LAMB: October 1913.
Lady SOAMES: 1913. Well, he would have actually been First Lord of the Admiralty, but -it was not in--in his naval uniform, which he often wore. And he was always very interested--he was also a member of what we would in the--in England call the Territorial Army. I mean, he was a yeomanry officer, a part-time soldier, peacetime soldier.
LAMB: You have a picture...
Lady SOAMES: I don't know what you call that here, but, I mean, it's--it's a reserve, really.
LAMB: We have a picture of you in 1922, I think the year you were born.
Lady SOAMES: I was born in '22, yes.
LAMB: Is this your mother?
Lady SOAMES: That's my mother with me, giving me a bath when I was very, very small.
LAMB: Where were you born?
Lady SOAMES: I was born in London.
LAMB: And what was it like growing up with the name Churchill?
Lady SOAMES: Well, for a long time it didn't mean anything to me. It might just as well have been Brown or Smith because I took it all for granted and them for granted. I had an enchanted childhood. I loved living at Chartwell. I went to day schools always, so I saw a lot of my parents. I was always around when they were at home. And I suppose it gradually came to be borne in on me, for instance, that my father was in public life and a Member of Parliament and making speeches. And when I started to read the newspapers, I would realize that his name appeared a lot in those. But it was only really in the '30s when it really came borne in on me that he was somebody very big in terms of public life.
LAMB: Here's a photograph of David Lloyd George on the left that you'll see, and who was he?
Lady SOAMES: David Lloyd George, `the Welsh wizard.' Well, he was the marvelous Welsh politician-statesman who was the prime minister for the second part of the First World War and who was a great colleague of my father's.
LAMB: And Lord Birkenhead?
Lady SOAMES: Lord Birkenhead was one of my father's best friends. He was called F.E. Smith, and he was a most brilliant, brilliant advocate and became Lord Chancellor and was eventually made Earl of Birkenhead. The interesting thing about their great friendship was, in those days, differences between parties made a very great deal of difference. My father was then a strong radical and F.E. Smith was a high Tory. And a lot of Tories and liberals simply wouldn't consort or speak, but my father always kept his friendships across the party lines.
LAMB: Next photograph is your father a--the independent anti-socialist candidate in the Abbey division of Westminster by-election, with Clementine.
Lady SOAMES: Oh, isn't that a good photograph? Now that's a photograph that has been seen very little. And, indeed, until I was looking for pictures for this book, I hadn't found it. I--and I think it was my picture researcher who produced it, and I think it's a wonderful photograph. I think it tells you such a lot about them. Look, there's my father obviously telling my mother something, and she's listening carefully and she's taking the whole situation in. They're listening to somebody else's speech at this vital election. I love--I love it. I think it's an awfully good photograph.
LAMB: You mentioned Chartwell. We have a picture of Chartwell Manor. Where is that?
Lady SOAMES: Yes. Chartwell Manor is about 25 miles from London in Kent near the village of Westerham. And they bought it in 1922, the week I was born, in fact. My mother, when she had first seen Chartwell, had loved the place. You couldn't love the house then because it was a sort of near-Victorian ruin and needed a lot doing to it. But the situation--a lot of people perhaps watching this program may have been to Chartwell because it's open to the public, but it's in the most beautiful situation, on a hilltop, looking right away over the Weald of Kent. My father fell in love with the view and with the lake and the bottom and the--all the possibilities of the place.
My mother, first of all, was taken by it, but very soon realized--wanted him not to buy it because she thought it would need too much doing to it, which indeed it did, and that it would be too expensive for them to run, which indeed it was.
LAMB: In your book, you have a number of Chartwell bulletins...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...that your father wrote. What were those?
Lady SOAMES: Those were great fun. It was--they chiefly started up--if ever my mother was away for--they were apart for, say, a week or so, he would write what he called the Chartwell bulletins, which was news from the home front. They comprised everything: the nursery, the farm, whether the cook was making good food or not, so forth and so on, also politics. And as they were very long letters, they were always typewritten, but he would always write--amend quite a lot of letters himself, his own hand, but--and also write a covering letter. But the longest series are when my mother went for a wonderful cruise right into the Pacific in the late '30s, mid-'30s, and she was away for three or four months, and then there were something like 12 or 13 Chartwell bulletins. He always numbered them as well as dating them, in any one series. And they're great fun. They're so interesting.
LAMB: You have a little symbol that you put in your book when s--when he wrote--when either one of them wrote in longhand.
Lady SOAMES: That's right. Well, no, no, no. Can I just correct you there to say that all the letters in that book are handwritten except for where it's stated at the top of the letter, where it says `typewritten.' The little pen symbol is where my father usually, or my mother, has annotated a typewritten letter in their own hand, made a typewritten--made a handwritten insertion. It's rather sad that in the sort of printed book, of course, you don't see visually these--these differences.
But it--it's quite curious. From about 1918 onwards, my father, in fact, quite a lot of his letters were dictated and typed to my mother. He was--at that time, he'd stopped completely writing, for instance, his own books in his own hand. He dictated--dictation to him was like a sort of natural function. His words flowed from him onto his paper almost regardless of the secretary sitting there. But my mother--she minded a little bit, but on the other hand, she'd rather have the letters.
LAMB: We have a photograph here from May of 1929, and this is your father right there in the middle, and it says that this is out of office after the defeat of the conservative government in May 1929. And he embarked in August for a three-month tour of Canada and the United States. He's traveling with a "Churchill troop," in--in quotation marks.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: Winston Churchill and Jack Churchill, his brother, with their sons Randolph on the left and Johnny--which one's Johnny, the one...
Lady SOAMES: That's right. Johnny is--Johnny is the one sitting on the steps at the back. My uncle Jack, my father's only brother, with the moustache, is in the Panama hat, and that's Randolph in the white shirtsleeves.
LAMB: Now you're related to just Randolph on there, I mean, as--as your brother?
Lady SOAMES: He's my brother. But my--my--I was a Benjamin by a long, long way. There was Diana, Sarah, Randolph and then a gap of seven years and me.
LAMB: How well did you know Randolph?
Lady SOAMES: Well, not very well. I wasn't--I'd got to know him better when I was quite sort of grown up. As a child, he was rather sort of noisy, frightening personality who ramped and raged and roared occasionally, in the house. But I--equally, he and Diana were quite far from me as a child. It was--I'd grew into them, knowing them.
LAMB: Any of your brothers and sisters alive?
Lady SOAMES: Alas, no. Sarah died in 1982.
LAMB: And Randolph married how many times?
Lady SOAMES: No, Randolph married, first of all, Pamela Digby and was married to her for six years, and she later married Averell Harriman. And he then married again, and--and--yes, that's--that's right. That's...
LAMB: And we have a photo next of William Randolph Hearst, the American journalist, there.
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes.
LAMB: And that's at his famed, as they say in the cutlines, citadel at San Simeon on the coast in California, and that's when the Churchills went to Los Angeles. He was the guest of honor at a luncheon on 18 September, twenty--eight--1929, at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios in Hollywood. And on the right is Louis--Louie B. Mayer.
Lady SOAMES: That's right.
LAMB: Did you know any of those people?
Lady SOAMES: No, I'm afraid I don't. I was then-- -in 1929, I--I was seven and well-- ensconced at home. I didn't go for foreign travel, so I'm afraid I didn't know them. But in there, there were some marvelous letters from my father written from his various ports of call while he was on this American--Canadian-American trip.
LAMB: How many years were your parents married?
Lady SOAMES: Was I in Paris?
LAMB: No. How many total years were your parents married?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, over --57 years.
LAMB: And how many years do you suspect they were apart? Because a lot of these letters suggest that they spent a lot of time apart.
Lady SOAMES: Well, I know. I've never had the patience to sit down and actually count up days together and days apart. But, of course, the--the fact of the letters highlights their absences from each other. But when they were young, particularly, their--the absences were sometimes 48 hours, and in 48 hours there would be three or four letters flying to and fro.
But politics caused absences, and later, after the war, my mother didn't really care for going to the south of France, except early on she'd played a lot of tennis there. She loved that. But later, when my father went she let him go on his own. She sometimes went for a bit, but he --he wasn't terribly companionable as a holiday--on a holiday because, you see, he would--he was always working at a book, so he'd perhaps work with his secretary all morning dictating a book, then he'd have a swim and have lunch, and then he'd spend perhaps all the afternoon painting. But anyhow, she didn't really like the south of France, so she made other plans, and by that time Sarah and Diana were big enough to go and be companions for her.
LAMB: Here's a photograph that was taken after a luncheon at Chartwell--19 September 1931...
Lady SOAMES: Isn't that something?
LAMB: ...left to right, Mr. Pug--who is Mr. Pug, on the left?
Lady SOAMES: Mr. Pug was my Pug. He's not--he's not visible in the picture. You've cut out Mr. Pug.
LAMB: Oh, my goodness. Is it...
Lady SOAMES: It--there--there--Mr. Pug is standing--is left front and just out of the picture, and is my--I didn't get into the picture, but my Pug got into the picture. Then there's Tom Mitford, who was a cousin of my mother's, and the dark man behind my father is Freddie Birkenhead--young Freddie Birkenhead, my father, my mother; next to my mother, Diana in a lovely sporting sweater and--blazer, I mean; and Randolph, and the guest of the day, Charlie Chaplin.
LAMB: Well, there's a letter in here that--in which you were--I think you met Charlie Chaplin when you were nine years old.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: And you're--what did you think of him?
Lady SOAMES: Well, I was amazed, of course. I was terribly excited, and so was Sarah. We were all in--in a great state of excitement. He was very charming. My father liked him very much.
LAMB: Why did you like him? What was it about him that you remember?
Lady SOAMES: Well, he just--well, I suppose he returned--went out of his way to be nice to us. But --but also, of course, I'd seen his films. I was absolutely fascinated.
LAMB: And he was British.
Lady SOAMES: And, of course, he was British, wasn't he? But I wouldn't have minded about that one way or the other. But I mean, of course he was a magnetic figure to us all. And while he was at the house, he suddenly--before he left, he suddenly started doing funny turns. I mean, having been, you know, perfectly straightforward all the way through and talking to my father, and suddenly just before he went, he went into the coat cupboard and came up wearing a hat sort of on the side and his hand tucked in like this--Napoleon. And then I don't know what he did. He fell on the floor and picked himself up. I don't know--he suddenly did, and he got a stick--he did a little routine for us. So, naturally, we were his slaves.
LAMB: During your book tour, how many days will you be in the United States total?
Lady SOAMES: This tour I'll spend 10 days or so.
LAMB: And what kind of a reception have you gotten for your book?
Lady SOAMES: Well, people have been very kind, and I've had one or two very nice reviews and lots of people seem to have bought the book, and I've loved talking about it because I'm so wrapped up in it.
LAMB: What do you find people here interested in the most?
Lady SOAMES: Well, I think they are interested in--in the letters, because the letters show--show so much of my parents, and ever since I read them, and I've used them for the biography wrote--I wrote of my mother, and Martin Gilbert has used them. Quite a lot of them have been published. But I, over the years, had an increasingly strong feeling that they should be shown as the dialogue they are. And that, I think, has been achieved in this book.
LAMB: What's the relationship between the Churchill family and Martin Gilbert?
Lady SOAMES: Martin Gilbert is a very brilliant and--anyhow by my standards, young historian who wrote my--who is the official biographer of my father. He went to work--Randolph started the biography off, and Martin Gilbert was then a young don at Oxford and went over to help Randolph. He was part of Randolph's team. And then, very sadly, Randolph died very--out of all time, prematurely, and the--only two volumes of the biography were complete. And Martin Gilbert was chosen by the family trustees to take up the--the--the rest of the book. And he has continued magnificently.
LAMB: How many more volumes has he written?
Lady SOAMES: Well, there were--the whole biography is eight volumes, and up to date there are 15 companion volumes, which march with the volumes, which contain a great number of the original papers and letters from which Martin wrote the book. And there are more to come. They are--they are gradually coming out, so that they--I suppose eventually there'll be about 22 companion volumes. It's a great work.
LAMB: Here's a photograph of your mother and father in the rain, in the '30s, in the West Essex constituency later named the--it is Wansted? Wanste...
Lady SOAMES: Wansted. Wansted-Woodford. It--that was the constituency I was talking about earlier, which he represented for--for--from '25 till '60, for 40 years, and I love that photograph. It--there's my mother, looking very cheerful, campaigning in the rain.
LAMB: When--and you mentioned earlier that your father ran in a number of different constituencies. That's something you don't see very often in the United States.
Lady SOAMES: No.
LAMB: Can you--was he Scot? Was he a Scotchman by...
Lady SOAMES: No. Th--that doesn't sort of figure, or didn't in those days. Nowadays the constituencies have become more territorial, and like--Sc--Scots folk like Scots members and so forth. But then you took your chance where you could get it, where there was a seat available. And, of course, you had to be chosen by the local committee and then present yourself. So that he--he--he fought elections all over the place: Scotland, the Midlands, London and finally Woodford--Wansted-Woodford, which is sort of a satellite town of London.
LAMB: Here's a photograph that has your father--it looks like he's skipping along there in celebration for the silver jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, receiving the loyal addresses from both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.
Lady SOAMES: Yes. And I love it. Do you see, I used to call that my Bonnie and Clyde theory. I'm awfully pleased with it. I was so excited, it was such a day out. I was very much the country child. To come to London was a great event for me, and obviously to go to something like that, taken by my parents, was a tremendous thrill.
LAMB: That's in 1935.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: You would have been--What?--about 13?
Lady SOAMES: I would have been 13, yes.
LAMB: And what were you doing when you were 13 years old?
Lady SOAMES: Well, I was a schoolgirl. I went to day school near Chartwell.
LAMB: The next photograph we have, I think, is of your mother alone in the Alps.
Lady SOAMES: Yes. In--my mother was amazingly courageous. She was over 50 when she decided--she suddenly took a shine to the idea of skiing, and I was--and--and she used to take me off in the school holidays, winter holidays, and we used to ski, and then we went to Switzerland, we went to Austria, and then when I had to go back to school, quite often she stayed on to ski with--with friends there.
LAMB: The next photograph is your father, Winston, in London buying a flag for--from Clementine in support of her Red Cross aid to Russ--the Russia Fund. We don't have it on the screen yet. We will. What was that about, the whole American Red Cross thing?
Lady SOAMES: Well, that was just--that was an incident in the war. There we are. That was a set-up photograph. It's rather interesting. My mother headed up the Aid to Russia Fund to help Russia after Russia came into the war in July '41. And, in fact, my father was just about to embark on one of his long journeys to see, I think, the president. Can you tell me the date of that photograph?
LAMB: December 1941.
Lady SOAMES: Right. Well, he was just going, I think, to visit the president in Washington, and my mother--there was going to be a flag day--you know, a day when you sold flags for--in aid of a charity. And my mother posed with him selling him a flag. By the time the picture was published on the flag day, my father was overseas, and it was part of a sort of--I mean, it would have been the flag day, anyway, but it was quite a clever device, a sort of --a security device.
LAMB: How often did he ride one of those ships--British ships over to the United States to visit FDR?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, quite a number of times. It would be difficult for me to count, but he used to often go in the Queen Mary, which is the great big liner, but which then was a troop carrier, and part of it used to be boarded off --for my father and his staff and everything to go over. And then he often used to travel back by-- warship, too--the Renand, King George V, so forth and so on.
LAMB: This photograph is of Pamela Churchill Harriman...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...and a three-year-old Winston Churchill.
Lady SOAMES: Isn't that charming?
LAMB: This photograph is of Pamela Churchill Harriman...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...and a three-year-old Winston Churchill.
Lady SOAMES: Isn't that charming?
LAMB: Who is Winston Churchill in this picture?
Lady SOAMES: Winston Churchill is my son--my brother Randolph's child and my father's grandson, and he is my nephew.
LAMB: And what does he do now?
Lady SOAMES: And this is a lovely--I love the way he's striding along.
LAMB: And you can see in the face--he has the face of a...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...of a Churchill.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: Well, what--what is he doing now?
Lady SOAMES: For--for many years he was a member of Parliament until the last election, when his seat ceased to exist, and he's now writing and--but he's not in Parliament. He's not in public life at the moment.
LAMB: And what impact did it have on him that he was Winston Churchill by name?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, well, a--a great deal, of course. It's a wonderful name to bear, but it also brings with it some burdens as well.
LAMB: What are those? What are the burdens?
Lady SOAMES: Well, it's difficult perhaps to really do well in your own right, but it's such an honor and it's such a wonderful thing and people--well, people who love and admire my father warm to you, and people who don't like him tend to take it out of you. But he seems to have managed very well.
LAMB: One of the things you learn is that he was a member of the Tory Party and a member of the Liberal Party.
Lady SOAMES: Now we're talking about my father.
LAMB: Your father, yes.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: Which one was he? What--what was really his true...
Lady SOAMES: Well, he was both in turn. He started off-- his first constituency he stood as a Cons--member of the Conservative Party, and then that was in the end of the century. And then in 1904 he--what he call--we call crossed the floor of the House and joined the--the Liberals because he fell out with Tory policy, and he was a radical Liberal until well after the second World War, and then the Liberals were in great confusion and broke up, and he moved by slow degrees back into the Tory Party.
LAMB: What did it mean to be a Liberal then and what did it mean to be a Tory?
Lady SOAMES: Well, it means much less now than it did in--in those days, but in those days, the radicals in the early part of the century, I mean, they brought in more sort of wholesale reforms of everything. I mean, old-age pensions, national insurance, every kind of thing. They--and they were responsible for the first Parliament bill restricting the powers of the House of Lords.
LAMB: Here's a photograph of your father, along with one familiar face on the right and another one on the left, FDR and Joseph Stalin. This is the--Winston's 69th birthday, 30 November, 1943.
Lady SOAMES: That was at Teheran for the Teheran Conference. That was a very extraordinary occasion, and they'd just had--my father had already met with Roosevelt to confer in Egypt, and then they came on up to Tehran, where they--they were joined by Marshall Stalin. And so happened my father had his 69th birthday there.
LAMB: Did you ever meet FDR or Stalin?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes I did. Oh, yes, I met FDR at the--for the first time at the Quebec Conference in 1943, and then we went and stayed at the White House and at Hyde Park, and naturally I was dazzled by him and, you know, had heard so much about him from my father who set such store by his great collaboration and friendship with him.
LAMB: I have a letter that you have in your book from 28 March, 1916, and it's from your father, Winston Churchill, to his wife, Clemmie. Who started calling her Clemmie?
Lady SOAMES: I don't know. Very--very few people ever called her Clementine. She was Clemmie to all the family, and I--I don't know when it started. Oh, certainly when my father first met her he called her Clementine, but very soon it was Clemmie and I think some of her close family called her Clem. Some of the older aunts I remember talking about her as Clem.
LAMB: This letter from 28 March, 1916, it starts off, `My beloved and darling Clemmie.' The word `darling' is probably in every letter. Is that a word that these two used or do most Brits use the word `darling'?
Lady SOAMES: I suppose so. It's quite--it's--it's quite a common expression of--of affection and love, but they always did call each other--they very rarely called each other `dear.' They always called each other `darling,' `my darling.'
LAMB: Winston Churchill wrote, `Oh, my darling, do not write of friendship to me. I love you more each month that passes and feel the need of you and all your beauty. My precious, charming Clemmie, I, too, feel sometimes the longing for rest and peace.' And then later on in the letter he says, `We know each other so well now and could play better than we ever could.' Were they that close?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes. They were very close. And, of course, that letter was written in an agonizing period of their lives when he was on the western front and just after the great disaster of the Dardanelles, and she was such a support and she had such faith in his destiny and he was very low. But, no, they did love each other very much. I mean, it wasn't a marriage without its ups and downs. I don't see really how a partnership lasts over half a century between two very high-mettle characters with quite sort of sometimes different views on things with the other. But I don't know of any time when love or loyalty failed, I must say.
LAMB: When did you know your father was mad?
Lady SOAMES: Mad meaning angry?
LAMB: Upset. Upset, oh, yes.
Lady SOAMES: No, I'm sorry.
LAMB: I know.
Lady SOAMES: Only the language divides us. I thought you meant crazy.
LAMB: No, I just...
Lady SOAMES: I was about to give you a very old-fashioned look. No, well, -when he was mad it was perfectly obvious because the heavens crashed around one. But it was all over in a minute. He used to shout quite a bit, but, I mean, he wasn't a bad-tempered person. He used to suddenly get a great sort of, you know, flare-up, but it was always very quickly over. I mean, the--the sun came out from the thunder clouds very quickly, and it was the same very much with--my mother could get very wrought up, too. She could really let go. But it was always very touchy, and I think this was one of the things I subconsciously learned from them about relationships. They always--they couldn't wait to make up any quarrel, and each could say `sorry' and did.
LAMB: When did you marry?
Lady SOAMES: I married in 1947. My husband died--I had 40 years of great happiness.
LAMB: And how many children did you have?
Lady SOAMES: I have five children with 11 grandchildren.
LAMB: And where do they all live?
Lady SOAMES: What?
LAMB: Where do they live? Do they live in--in London?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes, they're--they've living mostly in London and the countryside around. I've got them fairly near me, which is nice.
LAMB: And when you set out to do this book, how did you go about it and when did you start doing it?
Lady SOAMES: I started work on that about four and a half years ago. I had most of the papers--of course, I had read all the letters for doing my mother's biography, and I had access to all the papers, and then I had a very good assistant and between us we went back to the origins--the original letters. They've all been checked against the originals or done from photocopies, and then -there was quite a lot of sort of side research to do in order to explain--I felt that--it necessary to set the scene of these letters, because it's all quite a long time ago, and you can't read those letters without having some comprehension of the history and public events of the time, because there was never a time in their married life when public life wasn't very much involved in their private life.
LAMB: Here's some of what you wrote near the end of the book. You said, `Clementine's heart had never been in Winston's last lap as prime minister.' What does that mean in English, `last lap'?
Lady SOAMES: His last lap--well, you see, my mother really--didn't really want my father to go on after the great defeat of 1945, let alone--and become leader of the opposition and then prime minister again. She was quite-- tired. She hadn't got such a robust constitution as my father, but apart from that, somehow she had, I think, the idea that my father should retired at the sort of apex of his glory, and not fight again the Hustings and all that. That wasn't my father's idea at all. He was for battling on and -battle on he did. But I think--in fact, I know she was--she was not happy when he became prime minister again in 1951, but it doesn't mean that she didn't throw herself into it and do all that she should as a wife of a prime minister, but I can't really put it better than I've put it there, to say her heart wasn't in this last lap.
LAMB: Let me read it. She says, `Although she showed a brave face in public, behind the scenes her morale was often desperately low, exacerbated by neuritis, which had increasingly afflicted her from the end of 1953, and she was immensely touchy and difficult. Did you see that yourself?
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: `Winston himself could be maddening and on occasions behave like a spoiled--spoiled child, but now there were the times when Clementine harried him too much and could be unreasonable and unkind, and although there were some explosive scenes, Winston on the whole showed unusual forbearance, recognizing that he had imposed this extra mileage on her. Both were always eager to repair the rifts.' You said that earlier.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: So it was--you were suggesting that she was more upset than he was sometimes.
Lady SOAMES: Yes, yes. That last lap, it was difficult, you know, and she was tired, indeed had a reason to be tired, and she--it wasn't a very happy period, that, but in the end it didn't make--there are some very nice letters which come from the later years to each other. Their love lasted out all right. But she found it difficult. And it was unlike the beginning of their political life--I suppose I'm trying to point that up--when she was absolutely--hurled herself into political life and was involved in--but then she was a much younger woman.
LAMB: I've got a couple of--of sign-offs in these letters I want you--to ask you about. One of them is on page 325. This is from--this is from your mother to your father. She says at the end, `Hope you're happy and comfy at Chartwell and that your lake is behaving.' What was that all about?
Lady SOAMES: The lake is behaving. Well, I think--but if you were to read a previous letter, it would have been for--perhaps it was a Chartwell bulletin--it would have been full of my papa describing the difficulties he was having with getting the water to stay in the lakes or flow from one lake to the other. He was always interfering with the scenery and...
LAMB: But this is what I wanted to ask you about. She signs off by saying, `Tender love from your pussy not in her basket.'
Lady SOAMES: Oh, well, where did she write the letter from?
LAMB: She wrote it from Mt. Stewart.
Lady SOAMES: Mt. Stewart, yes. Well, see, they always referred to Chartwell as their basket. And so `pussy not in her basket' merely means `your far away'--you know, `your traveling cat.'
LAMB: I've got another one here I want to read you. He signed off one letter back in September of 1918, `Your ever-devoted, though vilely neglected, pig.'
Lady SOAMES: Oh, that was one of the few occasions when my father had cause to complain that my mother hadn't written letters to him, and I don't know, she l--she just didn't. But perhaps she was in a bit of a huff with him, I don't know, but anyhow, he had cause to complain. I think it's the only time in the book that that is so.
LAMB: Let's look at a picture of King George VI, if you'll tell us who he is. He's there with the prime minister. Who was King George VI? What was his name? I mean, what--what happened to him? Where...
Lady SOAMES: Well, he was--he was--he succeeded Edward VIII when Edward VIII abdicated and took charge of the Duke of Windsor. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth--King George VI succeeded and he was the--the sovereign--my father's sovereign all through my father's tenure in the--in the war. And my father came to be deeply devoted to him as a person. And the king--they had a very special relationship, really exceptional for sovereign and prime minister. And he--my father was devoted to him and--and thought both he and the queen played such a role--a marvelous role in the war, and they were such marvelous figureheads, but they're wonderful people, too.
And the king--the prime minister always has an official audience with the sovereign at least once a week. I mean, he could see the sovereign at any time if there's a crisis, but there's always a once-a-week--any--and this used to be on Tuesdays in the war and before luncheon. And at first the king received Papa, and they just talked and then my father went away. And then suddenly the king took to asking my father to stay to luncheon so that they could talk and work all through lunch. And then--sometimes the queen would be there, sometimes not. It depended what other engagements she had. And then grants--at a given point, the king arranged that the servants wouldn't be in the room. They would all--they would help themselves so that they could talk absolutely freely about anything to do with the war. But it was very nice and it very much cemented the relationship between them.
LAMB: There's a photograph of the new big three meet informally before the conference at Potsdam, and in the middle there, of course, Americans will recognize President Truman and Marshall Stalin is in that photograph there off to the left, and your father. How old was he in that picture? That was in 1945, August.
Lady SOAMES: '45? He was 60--he was 71, I think, wasn't it? Oh, he was 26 at the turn of the century.
LAMB: Was he st--was he still prime minister in August of 1945?
Lady SOAMES: Just. No, this is July, I think you'll find. Isn't it?
LAMB: It says 17 July...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...to 2 August, 1945.
Lady SOAMES: Yes, that was the date of the con--conference at Potsdam. My father was still prime minister when he went out, and it was very important for my father at that meeting because he'd never met President -Truman, and he was sort of quite tense as to how--I mean, his relationship with Roosevelt had been so important to him and to the conduct of the war, and there was still much work to be done. There was still Japan to be defeated and the post-war arrangements in Europe and all that. And I'll never forget after the first time he met President Truman he sort of heaved a huge sigh of relief. He said, `It's marvelous. He's a wonderful man. I'm going to be able--we're going to be able to do business.'
But, of course, my father went back in the middle of the Potsdam Conference to receive the results of the '45 election, and so he didn't actually go back. It wasn't for him to end the conference. Clement Attlee went back as prime minister.
LAMB: Did you ever think of running for Congress--or for House of Commons?
Lady SOAMES: No.
LAMB: Were you ever interested in politics?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes, I've been interested in politics all my life, but I've never wanted to participate.
LAMB: This is a photograph of your mother and father on November the 10th, 1945.
Lady SOAMES: Again, a conversation piece. My mother's, I think, just said something to Papa that he's taking in, do you see? Very nice, isn't it? Lovely woman, she was.
LAMB: How old were they when they died?
Lady SOAMES: My father was in his 90th year and my mother was 92.
LAMB: And what were they like at the end? 'Cause you write...
Lady SOAMES: Well...
LAMB: There's a--there's a letter in here, as a matter of fact, and I--I wanted to find it and--and read it--where your father refers to the gray days at the end.
Lady SOAMES: Yes. Well, my father in the last years of his life declined very much, but he was--I mean, in 1955 just before he retired as prime minister, he made a speech to the House of Commons, a long speech on the hydrogen bomb. The secretary who was on duty at the time said he took 20 hours of work over it and dictated every word himself. It's a magisterial speech. He then--after he retired, he--you know, over the last 10 years of his life which were left to him, it was rather like a sort of fire that is burning and dies down, and you get times when suddenly flames will spring up and be very bright, and other times it burns rather low. But certainly the last two or three years of his life he was very, very old.
LAMB: There's a photograph from May of 1949 coming up and it says I--it says here `Off to the races.' Not this one. It's the one with just the two--there you go. The two of them together.
Lady SOAMES: Oh, it's charming. That's right. Off to the races. Now my father loved--my husband played a great part in making my father keen about racing, because my husband adored horses. He hunted and rode himself, and he had a racehorse or two, and my father was much intrigued and taken by this, and went into racing and was rather successful. He had a wonderful horse called Colonist. And my mother never really enjoyed racing, but she used to go every now and then for a day, and there they are obviously in high spirits setting out for the races.
LAMB: At one point in your book, I don't remember whether it was a letter, whether you wrote, that unmarried women were not to dine alone. When--is that still the case in Great Britain?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, no, of course not. Where--I think you got it from the very beginning of the book...
LAMB: It is.
Lady SOAMES: ...when I--when--between the time that my pa--my mother and father met at the dinner party where they sort of got going and my father really was trying to court her, it was quite difficult for him because he was--he was in--in government, and although the press weren't as nosy as they are now, all the same, you know, he--and neither she nor he particularly wanted--they were engaged yet or anything. And--and I think I tried to make the point that it was quite difficult for each other--them to see each other privately because unmarried girls didn't dine alone with gentlemen.
LAMB: When did that change?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, dear, I don't know. During the war, I think. Oh, before the war, surely. I don't know.
LAMB: There was a photograph I want to show...
Lady SOAMES: You must remember my parents were both born in the Victorian era and they--their formative adolescence and young lives were sort of Edwardian standards and-- mores. They--they span a very, very long period of--of history and times.
LAMB: There was a photograph of your father with a blanket and a wheelchair, and I assume this is near the very end.
Lady SOAMES: I think that was the summer before he died. But it's rather sad, but there, he was very old.
LAMB: Did he ever take the cigar out of his mouth?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, yes, of course sometimes. He's having a smoke. Those--and those are--those are--on the left--the lady on the left is our wonderful nanny who looked after my children. That's Charlotte, my youngest daughter, and Rup--Rupert larking around actually in his father's hat. Rupert was then a little boy of five.
LAMB: What was your husband's profession?
Lady SOAMES: Well, of course, when I met him he'd just come through the war. He was a professional soldier. He went through the deserts in Italy and was--and then left the army after we married and became--and--and went into politics. And he himself had a very successful parliamentary career and became a minister--Cabinet minister and then he was--he was made an ambassador to Paris between '68 and '72. He was commissioner to--in Europe and he was the last governor of Southern Rhodesia when it--bringing it to--to elections and independence.
LAMB: We mentioned earlier your mother had neuritis and there's a photograph of her going away to get treatment on an airplane here.
Lady SOAMES: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: Wh--where was she going?
Lady SOAMES: I think she was probably going to St. Moritz to do the cure there, or there--there was another place she used to go to. I'm afraid I can't just remember. And the woman with her is such a nice person. She's Grace Hamblin, who was my mother's devoted se--she came to Chartwell in 1932 to help out in the office and she stayed for over 40 years and she became a great friend. She was my mother's secretary all through the war. I went and saw her the other day. She has a lovely--she has a dear house on the green of Westerham. She's one of our greatest friends. My mother loved her.
LAMB: And how long did your mother have neuritis?
Lady SOAMES: Well, it plagued her on and off in the '50s. It got better towards the end of her life, but it's a very tiresome thing, neuritis. It--it hangs around and comes back, as I'm sure anybody who's had it will tell you.
LAMB: Now you also point out that your mother was always on time and your father was always late.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: That--was that always the case?
Lady SOAMES: Pretty well, yes. Pretty well.
LAMB: And--and you write about some times when your mother was a little--she was mad that...
Lady SOAMES: Oh, she used to get very cross, yes.
LAMB: Why--why was he always late?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, I don't know. Some people are always late. We have a saying in England about people who are late saying, `He'll be late for his own funeral.'
LAMB: Here's a photograph of the two of them together and...
Lady SOAMES: I think it's the last photograph in the book, isn't it? Isn't it nice? I think it's very nice. I think it says it all.
LAMB: How old was he and how old was she in this picture?
Lady SOAMES: He--he must have been in his late 80s then, so she'd have been in her late 70s, beginning of 80s.
LAMB: Now are you more like him or her?
Lady SOAMES: That's not for me to tell. I don't know. I -because I'm a mix--I hope I'm a jumble of them both.
LAMB: Are--are you on time or are you late? Are you on time all the time or are you late or anything?
Lady SOAMES: No. Well, fairly punctual, but not very.
LAMB: Can we--will we know when you're mad at somebody? I mean, do you get--do you get irritated very easily?
Lady SOAMES: Yes, I do sometimes.
LAMB: And so how do I know when you're mad?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, you haven't annoyed me.
LAMB: There's a photograph with the queen, and this was, like, in 1953 or so--or '54, I think it was...
Lady SOAMES: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: ...at No. 10 Downing Street, and you can see it here. This is the night before he leaves as prime minister?
Lady SOAMES: Yes. There was a great dinner at Downing Street the night before my father -went to the palace to resign, and the queen and the duke of Edinburgh came to dinner, and I always loved that picture. It's--there's something so charming in it, the queen saying goodbye to her-- first prime minister.
LAMB: And how long had she been queen then?
Lady SOAMES: She had been queen then since the--the king died in '52, didn't he? Four or five years.
LAMB: Well, this...
Lady SOAMES: And my father was her first prime minister.
LAMB: What did he think of the idea of a monarchy?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, he was a monarchist all the days of his life, and he was devoted to the person of the sovereign. I mean, he saw the beginning of her reign develop. And he served how many sovereigns? Six sovereigns. Victoria, Edward, George, Edward, George, Elizabeth.
LAMB: And--and how do you feel about the sovereign?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, I'm a great monarchist, too. I think it's an institution which has served our country very well.
LAMB: There's a...
Lady SOAMES: And you see, it--it separates the sovereign--the head of state from the conflicts and dust and smoke of--of politics.
LAMB: By the way, do you have a favorite letter in here that you like the most?
Lady SOAMES: Out of 800, it's very difficult.
LAMB: You have an explanation about--it says here, `Two evenings later, Winston was knocked down by a car while crossing Fifth Avenue on his way to visit Bernard Baruch. He suffered severe shock and bruising and developed pleurisy, but for the fact that he had been wearing a heavy fur-lined overcoat he might have been killed.'
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: What's that story? 1931.
Lady SOAMES: 1931. Well, it's just that. And--but what was drama--difficult about it was that my father was just--he'd gone to America a week or so before he was due to start a great lecture tour, and then he was knocked down and they went to the Bahamas to recover--for him to recover and he then--he was much enfeebled, but he did do the lecture tour. He started it something like six weeks late, and he achieved it, but he was quite--he was quite badly knocked about.
LAMB: There is a photograph of--of your father along with President Eisenhower...
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: ...and Bernard Baruch.
Lady SOAMES: Yes.
LAMB: What was the friendship with Bernard Baruch?
Lady SOAMES: I'm trying to remember when my father first met Bernie Baruch. I--it was possibly just after the First World War, or it might even have been at the very end of the First World War, when I think Bernie Baruch was all--doing a government job of some kind. And anyhow they took to each other very much and they became great friends. And Mr. Baruch would always come and see my father when he was in England, and my father and, indeed, all of us in our days stayed with Mr. Baruch. He was a great friend of my father's, the most wonderful man. He seemed like 8 foot tall. He and had piercing blue eyes. And I always thought he looked like Jehovah. I told him once and he was actually quite pleased.
LAMB: At what time in your life did you enjoy your parents the most?
Lady SOAMES: Enjoy my parents most?
LAMB: The most, yeah. At what time?
Lady SOAMES: Oh, I don't know. Right from my teen-age right through the war. I was very close in the war. I mean, they were so terrific. And afterwards all through--we lived at Chartwell after the war for--not in their house, in a small house on the grounds--and I saw so much of them. They've always meant so much to me and mine. Christopher, my husband, was very close to my father, very close.
LAMB: When did you become Lady Mary Soames?
Lady SOAMES: Well, when my husband was made first of all a knight, when he was ambassador in Paris and was Sir Christopher Soames, so then I came--became Lady Soames, and then Mrs. Thatcher made my husband a peer in--in 1979.
LAMB: Put him in the House of Lords.
Lady SOAMES: Well, then I just stayed Lady Soames and there you are.
LAMB: And here's the cover of the book, and on this cover, this photograph was taken where?
Lady SOAMES: That photograph was taken during, I think, at one of their--one of their late marriage anniversaries. I think that was taken in the '60s.
LAMB: And that's it for "Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills." Our guest has been Lady Mary Soames. We thank you very much for joining us.
Lady SOAMES: Thank you. I've enjoyed it.
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