The Lady Soames
15 September 1922
|Died||31 May 2014 (aged 91)|
|Resting place||St Martin's Church, Bladon|
(m. 1947; died 1987)
Mary Soames, Baroness Soames, née Spencer-Churchill; 15 September 1922 – 31 May 2014) was an English author. The youngest of the five children of Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine, she worked for multiple public organisations including the Red Cross and the Women's Voluntary Service from 1939 to 1941, and joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1941. She was the wife of Conservative politician Christopher Soames.(
Mary Spencer-Churchill was born and brought up at Chartwell, and educated at the Manor House at Limpsfield. She worked for the Red Cross and the Women's Voluntary Service from 1939 to 1941, and joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1941 with which she served in London, Belgium and Germany in mixed anti-aircraft batteries, rising to the rank of Junior Commander (equivalent to Captain). She also accompanied her father as aide-de-camp on several of his overseas journeys, including his post-VE trip to Potsdam, where he met with Harry S. Truman and Joseph Stalin. In 1945, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), in recognition of meritorious military services.
She served many public organisations, such as the International Churchill Society, as a Patron; Church Army and Churchill Houses; and chaired the Royal National Theatre Board of Trustees between 1989 and 1995. She was Patron of the National Benevolent Fund for the Aged.
A successful author, Lady Soames wrote an acclaimed biography of her mother, Clementine Churchill, in 1979. She offered insights into the Churchill family to various biographers, prominently including Sir Martin Gilbert, who became the authorised biographer of Sir Winston Churchill after the death of Churchill's son, Randolph, in 1968. Additionally, she published a book of letters between Sir Winston and Lady Churchill, editing the letters as well as providing bridging material that placed the letters in personal, family, and historical context. In 2012, her memoirs, based upon her diaries from childhood up to the time of her marriage, were published under the title A Daughter's Tale.
In 1980, Lady Soames was promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her public service, particularly in Rhodesia.
In 1992, Soames appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her chosen book was Memoirs from Beyond the Grave by Chateaubriand and her luxury item was a supply of fine Havana cigars.
One of her more notable public appearances came on 29 April 2002 when she dined with the Queen at Downing Street as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, alongside Prime Minister Tony Blair, and the four surviving former prime ministers at the time, as well as several relatives of other deceased prime ministers.
She was made a Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter (LG) on 23 April 2005, and was invested on 13 June at Windsor Castle.
Mary Soames married the Conservative politician Christopher Soames (later created Baron Soames) in 1947 and they had five children:
On 31 May 2014, Lady Soames died at her home in London at the age of 91 following a short illness. Her ashes are buried next to those of her husband within the Churchill plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Since 24 September 1982, with the death of her sister Sarah, she had been the last surviving child of Winston Churchill.
Six months after her death, on 17 December 2014, Sotheby's London auctioned 255 items out of her collection on behalf of her heirs, including paintings by and memorabilia attached to her father. According to Sotheby's, the sale "realised an outstanding total of £15,441,822, well above pre-sale expectations of £3.6-5.5 million."
Books written by Mary Soames (titles may vary between UK and US editions):