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Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage

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Clementine Churchill — shy, passionate, and high-strung — shunned publicity but was in the limelight throughout her adult life. As a young woman, her character, intelligence, and good looks won the attention of the impetuous Winston Churchill. Their courtship was swift, but their marriage proved immensely strong, spanning many of the major events of the twentieth century. Clementine Churchill — shy, passionate, and high-strung — shunned publicity but was in the limelight throughout her adult life. As a young woman, her character, intelligence, and good looks won the attention of the impetuous Winston Churchill. Their courtship was swift, but their marriage proved immensely strong, spanning many of the major events of the twentieth century. Written with affection and candor by the Churchills’ daughter Mary Soames, this revised and updated biography of a lionhearted couple’s life together is not only of historic interest but deeply moving.


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Clementine Churchill — shy, passionate, and high-strung — shunned publicity but was in the limelight throughout her adult life. As a young woman, her character, intelligence, and good looks won the attention of the impetuous Winston Churchill. Their courtship was swift, but their marriage proved immensely strong, spanning many of the major events of the twentieth century. Clementine Churchill — shy, passionate, and high-strung — shunned publicity but was in the limelight throughout her adult life. As a young woman, her character, intelligence, and good looks won the attention of the impetuous Winston Churchill. Their courtship was swift, but their marriage proved immensely strong, spanning many of the major events of the twentieth century. Written with affection and candor by the Churchills’ daughter Mary Soames, this revised and updated biography of a lionhearted couple’s life together is not only of historic interest but deeply moving.

30 review for Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Beth

    A comprehensive biography of a woman whose marriage thrust her into the spotlight throughout her life and into the history books forever. Clementine Hozier was born in 1885, the second daughter born into a very stormy marriage. It's unlikely that her mother's husband was actually her father and Clementine was largely raised by her mother amid ongoing custody disputes with the man she believed to be her father. Tragically, her elder sister Kitty died as a teenager, just leaving Clementine and her A comprehensive biography of a woman whose marriage thrust her into the spotlight throughout her life and into the history books forever. Clementine Hozier was born in 1885, the second daughter born into a very stormy marriage. It's unlikely that her mother's husband was actually her father and Clementine was largely raised by her mother amid ongoing custody disputes with the man she believed to be her father. Tragically, her elder sister Kitty died as a teenager, just leaving Clementine and her younger twin siblings, Bill and Nellie who were born in 1888. In 1904, she met Winston Churchill at a party. He was already well known for his war stories and publications but did not make a good impression on Clementine, who he found to be beautiful and distinctive. It wasn't until four years later that they met again and finally hit it off and were married in 1908. The couple had five children together and for the whole of their life, Clementine devoted herself to Winston, often to the point of exhaustion and illness. During her husband's time as Prime Minister during World War II, she served as a tireless source of support, wisdom, advice, and a true champion of multiple social causes of her own. She passed away in 1977 at the age of 92. This is quite a detailed account of Clementine's life and the author spent considerable amounts of time pouring over numerous documents to write it. In particular, the thousands of letters exchanged between Clementine and her husband Winston served as an invaluable resource in piecing together Clementine's thoughts on a number of events. In reading Clementine's story, the reader naturally gets much of Winston's as well, as their lives were so deeply intertwined for most of their lives. This biography is written by Clementine's youngest daughter, Mary. This provides a unique advantage in that the author is able to have easy access to family members, friends, and her own memories when writing her mother's biography and can provide her own description of her mother. Additionally, her mother approved of the writing of this book and even reviewed and edited the early chapters at the end of her life. On the other hand, having been written by a daughter does make me question the objectivity somewhat. Little true detail is shared about the author's siblings' lives, with difficulties and issues only referred to. Similarly, controversial topics, such as Clementine's destruction of a portrait of Winston, are presented more as a defense of her mother rather than an outlining of events. Similarly, the family's collective outrage at Winston's physician publishing a book about his health history is felt in the author's passionate attempt to set the record straight: "I think it should be on record that my father was never ungrateful for, nor unmindful of, Charles Moran's devoted service to him" (557). However, overall I felt Soames' biography to be as objective and thorough as possible and admired her ability to provide such a full portrait of her mother's life, both the good and the bad. Clementine was passionate, hard working, and could be antisocial and prickly at times. She was known for flying into a rage and abruptly leaving the diner table/party/house if provoked. But she was also a devoted and loving partner to her Winston and toiled endlessly for the benefit of her country and to do what she felt to be right. Winston "had no secrets from her. She never in fifty-seven years betrayed that trust by deed, or sign, or word" (107). A moving and personal account of a woman who played a pivotal role in the history of Britain and indeed the world.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    This book is the story of Clementine Churchill, wife of the legendary Winston Churchill written by their daughter. If follows Clementine until she marries Churchill and then follows both of them as a dual biography and works in the the story of their children. It is an insightful look into the lives the Churchill's. Their legacy and impact on the 20th century was huge and understanding them and their times is worthwhile. A couple random things that stood out to me, the suffragettes were surprisi This book is the story of Clementine Churchill, wife of the legendary Winston Churchill written by their daughter. If follows Clementine until she marries Churchill and then follows both of them as a dual biography and works in the the story of their children. It is an insightful look into the lives the Churchill's. Their legacy and impact on the 20th century was huge and understanding them and their times is worthwhile. A couple random things that stood out to me, the suffragettes were surprisingly annoying with some of their outrageous behavior. Clementine had a rich suitor for four years that she accepted his friendship, a flower a day, his gifts, traveled with him. But never loved him. How sad for him. :( Clementine, while close to her husband, and at times close to her children as they became adults, had few close relationships with anyone outside of Winston. How sad! "Winston and his life filled Clementine's whole existence, and when she was well and in good form she neither desired nor needed other companions or distraction. But when she was low and fretted, and her "batteries needed recharging", it was often difficult to find a good solution. As her daughters grew up, she turned to each one and found company and companionship. But daughters soon have their own lives, careers, husbands, and children. Clementine's diffidence in personal relationships made her hesitate to propose herself to other people, because she was to shy and could not bring herself to to be a little more natural and carefree in her approach. Thus in a life full of people, she knew much loneliness." This book is a biography of not merely the facts about these people, but it records their emotional relationship as found in their letters and through the eyes of their daughter. This subject was not really something that I caught/or saw growing up. My last serious relationship showed me how much I needed to learn in this area and seeing how Winston and Clementine found in each other such rest and assurance was educational. While the author portrays her parents in a overall positive light she also notes their flaws as people and relationships. This is not hagiography.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jeannie

    Eye opening

  4. 5 out of 5

    Wilhelmina Hoftyzer

    Having read several biographies of Winston Churchill, this was an interesting read, albeit, this biography of Clementine was written in a loving manner by their youngest daughter, and therefore should be read with this point of view with respect to her view of her parents. Although it has been claimed that the Churchills had a very strong and loving marriage, one wonders how much time they actually spent together in their many years of marriage, as either one or both of them often seemed to be a Having read several biographies of Winston Churchill, this was an interesting read, albeit, this biography of Clementine was written in a loving manner by their youngest daughter, and therefore should be read with this point of view with respect to her view of her parents. Although it has been claimed that the Churchills had a very strong and loving marriage, one wonders how much time they actually spent together in their many years of marriage, as either one or both of them often seemed to be away, either enjoying the south of France,often for months at a time, and often living off the hospitality of those richer than themselves, or taking "cures" for various ailments, physical and otherwise. Much of their history is also found in the writing of notes and letters to each other, which can become rather nauseating to read, because of the infantile and petty nature of most of these letters. Once again, living the life the the upperclass, Winston was known for not paying his bills in the area where Chartwell was located, and he also made use of German prisoners of war to improve his property. Clementine seemed prone to "nerves" and "agitation", & like many of the "upper class", did not actually raise her own children, but employed a succession of nannies, cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, and various other staff to service the various and many homes and apartments in which they resided. Not a whole lot was mentioned about the surviving children, possibly because they were a "disappointment" to Winston and Clementine. There there were various estrangements from their older children at times, and their lives were mentioned in perfunctory manner. The author had to mention that both her 2 sisters, & her brother had several unsuccessful marriages, she had to mention Diana's suicide, but never mentioned the fact that Randolph was considered to be an alcoholic. It is also very interesting to note that there was no apparent cut backs for this family during World War 2....one reason being given is because of the "entertaining" which they were required to do when Churchill was Prime Minister, and that they lived a very rich life while millions of people suffered during the war. Winston would often take his family on his "political" tours, giving them the "job" of aides, and it is interesting to note that they enjoyed tours of Halifax, Quebec and various others locations as a family, during the war, while millions of people did without. Winston suffered a serious stroke in 1953 which affected his mobility and he slowly deteriorated over the years, but as with President Roosevelt, much of this was kept from the public, and his outings were carefully orchestrated to make it appear that he was well. His last years appear to to have been long, lonely and very typical of a stroke victim. Of course, during this time Clementine suffered from "nerves" and would have to take "cures" in the homes of various members of the rich upper class. One begins to wonder who actually paid for the trips of the family for their tours throughout world during and after the war. The book was over 700 pages long, filled with detail, and well researched although obviously a book favourable to the legacy of Clementine and Winston. I would like to read the "other side of the story". What really transpired at Chartwell, why and who paid for all those times they were out of the country, what happened to the servants and were they well provided for after they left the service of the Churchill's. The story of Winston's time spent in the "trenches" in World War 1, does not actually depict the real story of soldiers who spent their time in the trenches. Not only was he very comfortably housed most of the time, Clementine sent him packages with his cigars, clothing and other requesta, and he may have spent 5 months in total in Belgium during World War 1, therefore not being a true war hero. He and Clementine wrote letters to each other while he was in Belgium which were not censored. This special status continued throughout their lives........he did not keep state secrets secret from his wife, and she at times meddled with his decisions. During World War 2, their inconvenience while London was being bombed and many people were rendered homeless, was to have to move into another smaller area of 10 Downing Street, but maintaining a full staff of cooks, maids, secretaries and other personnel. It is always interesting to read how people's hardship reflect their social class. For example, Clementine felt deprived of priviledges of her upper class, and was upset that the mice had eaten holes into some of the curtains which had been stored, saying something to the effect that the mice had eaten their fill, while they could not enjoy the food they were used to. I do feel that she was given way too much credit for her role, and her true character of pettiness, snobbishness, and right to entititlements have to be mentioned. Reading in between the lines, it appears that she was a difficult, high strung, demanding, nervous woman who was incapable of doing much on her own, her meddled into others affairs, and who expected to be treated as royalty. Her daughter did not spend too much time on the last years of her life, except that as with all, she became more frail in body, and also in mind as she became older. However, it was a good read, once again sending the message to us in the non priviledged class that while we may have to make sacrifices, the rich never do, & continue on with their lifestyle, their long weekend parties, their sense of entitlement, their "cures" in the sun while others struggle to put food on the table for their children.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    A fascinating perspective on Clementine Churchill - the completely overshadowed wife of Winston, yet was a singular force of strength and comfort to this powerful, consuming public figure. The author Soames steadily treks through this woman's life, how Clementine's outlook on life developed during a stressful childhood, for example, and how she and her famous politician husband had points in common and interests that diverged. If one wants to read yet another book to understand Winston himself, th A fascinating perspective on Clementine Churchill - the completely overshadowed wife of Winston, yet was a singular force of strength and comfort to this powerful, consuming public figure. The author Soames steadily treks through this woman's life, how Clementine's outlook on life developed during a stressful childhood, for example, and how she and her famous politician husband had points in common and interests that diverged. If one wants to read yet another book to understand Winston himself, this surely fills in numerous gaps. Soames is also able to describe the cultural norms of the time, and how those were broken down by the chaos of war. She observes the world open to women of that day, and how Clementine filled the space and enlarged the sphere for them at the same time. Any story that follows the full trajectory of life is poignant and illuminating: lessons learned, responsibilities that accumulate, regrets, and finding inner strength to live through periods of acclaim and derision. Great read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kolumbina

    A comprehensive book on life, marriage and governing of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine Churchill. A very rich book, full of original letters between Winston and Clementine, a lot of political facts, history, family life, finances... Clementine Churchill was a great companion to Winston C., great PM's wife (should be an example to current PM's wives around the world), a very ambitious person who did a lot of very positive things for societies, for art, for women, countries damaged by t A comprehensive book on life, marriage and governing of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine Churchill. A very rich book, full of original letters between Winston and Clementine, a lot of political facts, history, family life, finances... Clementine Churchill was a great companion to Winston C., great PM's wife (should be an example to current PM's wives around the world), a very ambitious person who did a lot of very positive things for societies, for art, for women, countries damaged by the wars. All these things suited her much more than motherhood to her 5 children. And Winston was a talented writer (Nobel prize for literature), liked painting, twice PM and also weak or perhaps not enough time for their children.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Found this to be a fascinating biography of Winston's wife. Without her, he would not have been the great man history knows. She saw in him his grievous flaws and found ways to save him from himself. Much like the Franklin Roosevelts, most of their children were sacrificed to the demands of history. Clementine, an unloved child who never really knew who her father, did not make a great mother, but she was a true partner to Winston in more direct and intimate ways than have been revealed in earli Found this to be a fascinating biography of Winston's wife. Without her, he would not have been the great man history knows. She saw in him his grievous flaws and found ways to save him from himself. Much like the Franklin Roosevelts, most of their children were sacrificed to the demands of history. Clementine, an unloved child who never really knew who her father, did not make a great mother, but she was a true partner to Winston in more direct and intimate ways than have been revealed in earlier biographies.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Print

    A lovely, insightful portrayal of Winston and Clementine Churchill's lives and marriage. A lovely, insightful portrayal of Winston and Clementine Churchill's lives and marriage.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Pam Venne

    WOW! Of all the biographies I have read, this one grabbed me and held my attention. Purnell, the author, did excellent research and wove it into a compelling story of the little-known woman behind the infamous Winston Churchill. The book follows the history of both families and how Clementine and Winston were introduced through both wars and their deaths. I found fascinating details about both of them. The most striking characteristic was the resolve that Clementine had to do whatever it took to WOW! Of all the biographies I have read, this one grabbed me and held my attention. Purnell, the author, did excellent research and wove it into a compelling story of the little-known woman behind the infamous Winston Churchill. The book follows the history of both families and how Clementine and Winston were introduced through both wars and their deaths. I found fascinating details about both of them. The most striking characteristic was the resolve that Clementine had to do whatever it took to support the man she loved and help him achieve the goals they both knew he was destined to attain. Purnell, sums up the book deliciously by ending it with..."She shored up his inadequacies, moderated his extremes and stopped him from making countless mistakes. She was in a way his ultimate authority, his conscience and the nearest he had to a direct line to the people. Without her by his side sharing the burden, it is difficult if not impossible to imagine his becoming the single-minded giant who led Britain, against almost impossible odds, to a victory over tyranny. The way she managed a character described by Attlee as "fifty percent genius, fifty percent bloody fool" was itself a type of genius. Clementine could not have invested more in a partnership that was almost certainly the most important of its time. Theirs was the ultimate coalition. Nothing has bee seen like it to this day." Yes, I ask, why do we know so little of this powerhouse of a woman? Clementine Churchill was an enigma of her time. Had Winston passed away 20 years earlier I am certain we would have seen her as a major force in the policical change arena in Great Britain.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alayne

    A fascinating (and long) biography of Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill by her youngest daughter, Mary Soames. The life she lived with Winston for 57 years was quite incredible, and their love for each other for that same length of time was strong and tender. She was 91 when she died, 11 years after her husband. I had a vague knowledge of the life of Winston Churchill, but knew nothing of Clemmie. I found this a really good autobiography, and was constantly referring to the family A fascinating (and long) biography of Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill by her youngest daughter, Mary Soames. The life she lived with Winston for 57 years was quite incredible, and their love for each other for that same length of time was strong and tender. She was 91 when she died, 11 years after her husband. I had a vague knowledge of the life of Winston Churchill, but knew nothing of Clemmie. I found this a really good autobiography, and was constantly referring to the family tree at the front of the book as names came and went. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    I love history (The Who, what, and why) and how we got to this place in time. There is a wonderful love story that evolves with Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. A bit bizarre at times is all I’ll say do I don’t spoil it for anyone. Clementine was virtually unknown to many of us but she emerges as a wonderful spirit, brave and not wanting the station in life she found herself. She learned to deal with adversity and found the bravery inside she never realized she had. A great read

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter Burton

    A very good biography,albeit quite long,which portrays an inside view of the great statesman and his marriage to Clementine.This has no real revelations but shows a loving relationship which sustained both through many political crises.It was good on their early campaigns as Liberals and their troubles in the Dardanelles campaign and its failure.An interesting book but probably only for enthusiasts of Churchill’s life and times.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Katie Hilton

    This is a fascinating, heavily annotated look at the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill. They were an extremely close couple, and they wrote letters to each other constantly. Their daughter, Mary Soames, compiled this look at a 50+ year marriage -- a partnership that played a pivotal role in saving civilization during its darkest modern period. If you are interested in Winston, don't miss this book. This is a fascinating, heavily annotated look at the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill. They were an extremely close couple, and they wrote letters to each other constantly. Their daughter, Mary Soames, compiled this look at a 50+ year marriage -- a partnership that played a pivotal role in saving civilization during its darkest modern period. If you are interested in Winston, don't miss this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    I can see how this memoir by Clementine Churchill's youngest daughter would be indispensable for anybody doing research on such a fascinating subject as her mother. However, I found it was not as riveting a read as Sonia Purnell's more recent biography. Still, it was nice to get insights from one so close to Churchill. 3.5 I can see how this memoir by Clementine Churchill's youngest daughter would be indispensable for anybody doing research on such a fascinating subject as her mother. However, I found it was not as riveting a read as Sonia Purnell's more recent biography. Still, it was nice to get insights from one so close to Churchill. 3.5

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I wanted to Peruse this book to find out how Clementine Churchhill livedthe last years of her life from 1950 till 1977 when she passed away. It was very detail but jump back-and-forth a lot. The author was her daughter

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tia

    Thought this was repetitive and too long. Very glad to get it finished.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Robert Davidson

    Fascinating insights into a marriage written by Winston and Clementine's daughter who did not gloss over their "Ups and downs". Clementine was a strong character in her own right and had great perception of people encountered through their life. History may have turned out differently if he had married someone else. Fascinating insights into a marriage written by Winston and Clementine's daughter who did not gloss over their "Ups and downs". Clementine was a strong character in her own right and had great perception of people encountered through their life. History may have turned out differently if he had married someone else.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    A well researched biography of the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill. Soames provides vivid incites into the family life and legacy of the Churchill's and their progeny. A modern marriage in many ways, Clementine found time for herself and at the same time assisted in helping Churchill rise to power while quieting the lesser qualities of his enormous personality. A well researched biography of the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill. Soames provides vivid incites into the family life and legacy of the Churchill's and their progeny. A modern marriage in many ways, Clementine found time for herself and at the same time assisted in helping Churchill rise to power while quieting the lesser qualities of his enormous personality.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mandi

    I thought this was really interesting. I got a good little bit of British history, a really touching love story (yes there are rumors of the affairs but I chose to not think about them while reading this), and learned a bit about Winston Churchill. I would recommend it!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Mcdonald

    An exceptional biography consisting of magical back and forth letters between the Churchill's. A vivid incite into an intimate relationship of the complicated lives of the famous. The book can be pick up now and then...read now and then...so it never has to end! An exceptional biography consisting of magical back and forth letters between the Churchill's. A vivid incite into an intimate relationship of the complicated lives of the famous. The book can be pick up now and then...read now and then...so it never has to end!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Young

    This is a great book about Winston and Clemmie because it is mostly their letters to each other, edited and commented on by their daughter. A very personal look at THE MAN. Loved it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    It's a bear - may take awhile It's a bear - may take awhile

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jo

    This book is put together through the letters of Clemmie and Winston. It is really personal. I like it. Makes me want to write more to my fam.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Very interesting, it tells a lot of history of course, but easy to read. clementine was an admirable woman,

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Pelican Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare (2000) A Midsummer Night's Dream (The Pelican Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare (2000)

  26. 5 out of 5

    Noel

    After a while got bored reading who she had lunch with.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cecilia Chiolero

    It was very interesting. It also gives an insight of how people in power lived, especially at the beginning of last century. Very detailed, but pleasant to read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Corrie

    One of the most remarkable and inspirational books I have read recently.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    As with anything English this book was wordy and tedious but the story and history was wonderful.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    In depth look into the marriage of this power couple and how C contributed to W's life and work. In depth look into the marriage of this power couple and how C contributed to W's life and work.

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