Who was Mary Soames?
The Right Honourable Baroness Mary Soames, or Lady Soames, who held the titles of LG, DBE, and FRSL, was the youngest of the five children of Sir Winston Churchill, who was the prime minister of the UK in the 1940s and the 1950s. She is renowned for her work with the ‘Red Cross’ at the time of the Second World War. In addition to her activities on behalf of several public associations, Lady Mary gained fame as an author, too. Apart from writing a biography of her mother, she provided various unknown pieces of information about the Churchill family to several acclaimed biographers, which are still considered to be the main sources of information about these eminent people.
Childhood & Early Life
Mary Spencer-Churchill was born on September 15, 1922, at ‘Chartwell,’ a country house in Westerham, Kent. She was the youngest of the five children of Winston Churchill and his wife, Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer-Churchill (née Hozier).
Mary attended ‘Manor House School,’ Limpsfield, near ‘Chartwell,’ where she continued studying till the age of 17. In 1939, as the Second World War broke out, Mary quit school and joined the ‘International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.’
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From 1939 to 1941, Mary worked with the ‘Red Cross’ and the ‘Women's Voluntary Service.’ In 1941, she joined the ‘Auxiliary Territorial Service,’ the women's division of the ‘British Army,’ for the period of the Second World War. With the troop, she served in various anti-aircraft batteries in London, Belgium, and Germany and was promoted to the position of junior commander, equivalent to captain.
Mary accompanied her father on several of his trips outside the country. These trips included his tour to Potsdam (after Victory in Europe Day), where he met both Harry S Truman and Joseph Stalin. In 1945, she was made a ‘Member of the Order of the British Empire’ (MBE), in acknowledgment of her commendable martial services.
She sponsored several public organizations, including the ‘International Churchill Society’ and the ‘National Benevolent Fund for the Aged.’ Additionally, Mary also served the ‘Churchill Houses’ and the ‘Church Army.’ From 1989 to 1995, she was part of board of trustees of the ‘Royal National Theatre.’
Mary was made ‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (DBE) in 1980 for her public service, mainly in Rhodesia.
On April 29, 2002, she attended a royal banquet at ‘Buckingham Palace’ in the presence of the Queen as part of the ‘Golden Jubilee’ commemorations. She was accompanied by the then-prime minister, Tony Blair; four former prime ministers; and the family members of other deceased prime ministers. The event is considered to be one of her most remarkable public appearances.
On April 23, 2005, she became a ‘Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter’ (LG), and the rank was formally bestowed upon her on June 13 at ‘Windsor Castle.’
A prominent author since her youth, Mary wrote a biography of her mother, titled ‘Clementine Churchill: The Biography of a Marriage.’ It took several years of hard work and research to complete the book, and it was finally published in 1979. It received great applause from the reading community of the time, and the popularity of the book has not faded with years. She wrote a revised version of the book in 2005, with the title ‘Clementine Churchill: The Revised and Updated Biography.’
Later, she wrote several memoirs and biographies that detailed the lives of the Churchills, including her father’s. Among them, the most notable one was the autobiographical ‘A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill's Youngest Child,’ published in 2012.
Family & Personal Life
In 1947, Mary Churchill married ‘Conservative’ politician Christopher Soames (afterward Baron Soames). They had five children, namely, Sir Nicholas Soames, Emma Mary Soames, Jeremy Bernard Soames, Charlotte Clementine Soames, and Rupert Christopher Soames. Later, the couple had 11 grandchildren.
After going through a short period of poor health, Mary died at her home in London on May 31, 2014, at the age of 91. Following her cremation, her remains were buried beside her husband’s, inside the Churchill plot at ‘St. Martin's Church,’ Bladon, close to Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
Mary Soames was believed to have inherited her black eyes and beauty from Lady Randolph Churchill, her grandmother, and her intense sagacity of public responsibility and her fondness for cigars from her father.
Her first public engagement took place when she was only 7 years old. The occasion was to initiate the construction of a small house (containing only one room), the famous “Mary Cot,” built for her by Churchill. The house was constructed in their vegetable garden and had a red brick barricade surrounding it.
Mary was known as “the Chartwell child” for her love of ‘Chartwell.’
Her mother’s first cousin, Madeline Whyte, who was called “Nana” by the Churchill children, was said to have had a great influence over Mary. As stated in an interview, Mary believed that it was for her “Nana” that, unlike her other siblings, she did not experience a severe tragedy in her life.