CHURCHILL: The Wisdom Behind the Throne

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series Lead Like Churchill
Mrs. Clementine Churchill, right, laughs heartily as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill talks at Chigwell, England, during his election campain, May 27, 1945. (AP Photo)

Mrs. Clementine Churchill, right, laughs heartily as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill talks at Chigwell, England, during his election campain, May 27, 1945. (AP Photo)

Thirty-nine years ago, one of the greatest women of the Twentieth Century, Clementine Churchill, passed away and joined her husband, my great-grandfather, Winston. They had been married for over fifty years, and although on occasion tumultuous, theirs was a relationship of overwhelming love, and on Great-Grandmamma’s part, extreme patience. As author Sonia Purnell points out, Great-Grandmamma ‘proved a genius both at patching up the wreckage caused by his [Winston’s] bad decisions, and at offering good advice.’ Purnell maintains, and from my study of Churchill’s life, I agree, Clementine’s role in Great-Grandpapa’s life was so significant that without her, his ‘career would have been a washout.’[1]

How often the vital role of women, or indeed a supportive partner or spouse has been overlooked, or indeed taken for granted. While I am sure that many can claim that they became successful because of their own hard work, few can say they remained successful due to their own merits. Whether you are a successful man, or woman, can you really say that you got there alone? I certainly cannot make such a claim. Without the support of several significant people in my own life, including my mother, my sister, and indeed, my very patient wife, I would never have made it this far in life, let alone written and had published, a book. Great-Grandpapa was unable to lay claim to his success on his own strength. Apart from the credit that he gives God, in his autobiography My Early Life, Churchill’s early career both as an officer in the British Army, and a politician from 1900, would not have been possible without the support and intervention of his American mother, Jennie. His later career success also required finesse, something his personality seriously lacked. However, wisely, Churchill deferred to Clementine, who proved on many occasions that she was very capable of fighting his corner without antagonizing his opposition, or his leaders. Following the Dardanelles disaster, it was my great-grandmother who, according to Sonia Purnell, ‘encouraged him to go to the Front,’ believing it would be good for his image. While Churchill was away serving in France, Clementine was busy ‘running nine enormous workers’ canteens.’[2] Although not necessarily a calculated political move, it certainly didn’t hurt with improving Churchill’s reputation as people realised that Mrs. Churchill, like her husband, didn’t see herself as high and mighty, but indeed equal to all, and as ready as any to roll her sleeves up, and get dirty for the boys on the Front.

Leadership is not conducted alone, and wise leaders acknowledge and respect those who helped them to the top, and never look down in-pride from above. Great-Grandpapa himself credited Great-Grandmamma with great wisdom, describing her as ‘his “sagacious military pussycat”.’[3]

This is only to give you my fondest love and kisses a hundred times repeated…I have found it quite lonely & will rejoice to see us joined together in gaiety and love.

Yours ever & always,




[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] SOAMES, Mary: Speaking for Themselves, p.640


Series Navigation<< CHURCHILL: The Courage to Listen CHURCHILL: The Character of Leadership >>

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