Monday, September 16, 2013

Clementine Churchill

Commander K. at Blenheim Palace Gardens
Site of Winston's proposal to Clemmie

Clementine Churchill (née Hozier) was the love of Winston Churchill's life.  She bore him five children and they were married for 56 years until his death in 1965.  She tolerated his "black dog" depressions.  A lifelong Liberal, she certainly did not always agree with him and once accused Winston of "rough-fisted, 'Hunnish' attitudes".   Yet she was the perfect partner for Winston.

In the summer of 1908 Winston proposed to Clemmie in the gardens of Blenheim Palace  (, see photo above).

One incident that particularly highlights Clemmie's tremendous value and importance to Winston took place just after the battle of Mers-el-Kébir.  On July 3, 1940 a British Fleet under the command of Vice Admiral James Somerville launched an attack on a French fleet that was stationed at that Algerian port.  The French had recently surrendered to the Nazi invaders, Churchill had come to power as prime minister that May and the British feared that the French fleet would be dragooned into the service of the Kriegsmarine.  Nearly 1,300 French sailors were killed and more than 350 wounded at Mers-el-Kébir.

De Gaulle, based in London, received word of the Mers-el-Kébir tragedy on the evening of July 3 "and erupted in both anger and anguish.  Churchill, at times a harsh political realist, understood the precarious position in which the action at Mers-el-Kébir had placed De Gaulle and invited the Frenchman to lunch at 10 Downing Street.  Together with Mrs. Churchill he conversed with De Gaulle, and inevitably the discussion turned to the unfortunate situation.  Fluent in French, Mrs. Churchill expressed a hope that the navies of the two countries might yet work together.  De Gaulle responded that the French Fleet might gain its greatest satisfaction by actually turning its guns on the British.
Clementine Churchill
1885 -1977
When Mrs. Churchill replied in perfect French that the remark was unbecoming for an ally or guest of Great Britain, the prime minister intervened and attempted to settle the conversation down.  However, Mrs. Churchill persisted and stated, "No Winston, it is because there are certain things that a woman can say to a man which a man cannot say, and I am saying them to you, General De Gaulle.'

Taken aback, De Gaulle, for one of the few times in his life, apologised to Mrs. Churchill and sent a large basket of flowers to her the following day.  The general and the lady remained friendly from that time on, and it was said that she was an advocate for him with her husband whenever possible."

(Source: De Gaulle: Lessons in leadership from the Defiant General, Michale E. Haskew, 2011,

Commander Kelly says, "Thank God for the strong women in our lives."

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1 comment:

Jim Hooper said...

Every mans goal should be to marr 'up'.