She played a large and influential role in the political career of her husband, Winston Churchill. But the flamboyant and ambitious Clementine Churchill-Hozier (1885-1977) would much rather have been a stateswoman in her own right.
Right from the start of their marriage, they were a strong team. Winston discussed everything with his ‘Clemmie’ and she had an opinion of her own to share with him. In many ways, she was more progressive. Clementine’s psychological and political insights were very keen, often sharper than her husband’s. He benefited from this—when he listened. Privately she didn’t hold back, but in public she loyally seconded Winston’s opinion.
And so she developed not only into a perfect hostess, as was expected of a wife in those days, but also, more surprisingly, into his most trusted political adviser, his spin doctor and his most faithful lobbyist. Despite her shyness, Clementine would even staunchly campaign on Winston’s behalf when he was embroiled in affairs of the state. Their great goal was to make him Prime Minister of Britain. And it wasn’t an easy road. During WWI, Winston, as First Lord of the Admiralty, was jointly responsible for the dramatic failure of the Gallipoli campaign and he had no choice but to resign.
After that his political career went up and down, and in the 1930s he was even sidelined because of his aversion to Nazi Germany—which at that time wasn’t shared by the majority in Britain. Clementine was totally dedicated to her domineering husband and not capable of paying much attention to anything or anyone else. As their daughter Mary would later say, “For her, father always came First, Second and Third”.
But living with Winston wasn’t easy. Clementine was often depressed and gloomy and she would go away for months on end to recover her spirits, playing a lot of tennis, even when her children were still very young. She didn’t know any better, having herself hardly known motherly love. The death of their daughter Marigold at only two-and-a-half years of age was, in a way, a turning point. Mary, the fifth and youngest child of the Churchills, was born a year later, in 1922, and was watched more closely.
- Curious to read more about the life of Clementine Churchill? You can find the full article in Issue 27.
Text Liddie Austin