On this day in history : 1st April 1885 – The birth of Clementine Hozier – one day to become the wife of Winston Churchill, who said she had made – “My life and any work I have done possible”….

Clementine Churchill in 1915 – Library of Congress Prints & Photographs – Public domain

Clementine was legally the daughter of British army officer Sir Henry Hozier and his wife Lady Blanche Hozier…. However, Lady Blanche was well-known for her infidelities and so there has always been much uncertainty as to who Clementine’s actual father was, or indeed those of her sisters….

But these things often work both ways…. In 1891 Blanche’s husband caught her with one of her lovers and he sued for divorce…. But she managed to turn the tables on him by proving his own infidelities…. The warring couple separated but never divorced….

Blanche always claimed that Clementine’s father was Captain William George “Bay” Middleton, a notable British horseman and equerry to the 5th Earl Spencer, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland…. They had an 18 month long affair – however, he was reputedly sterile…. It could possibly in fact be that all of her children were fathered by her sister’s husband, Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford 1st Baron Redesdale – and who was grandfather to the Mitford sisters, who were famously in the public eye during the 1920s and 30s….

Clementine was deeply affected by the break up of her parents’ marriage – and this was intensified by the loss in March 1900 of her beloved eldest sister, Kitty, to typhoid…. Her mixed-up childhood wasn’t helped by her mother’s constant search to find the perfect love life….

Clementine was educated firstly at home, then in Edinburgh before attending Berkhamsted School and finally finishing at the Sorbonne in Paris…. When she was 18 she came to the attention of Sir Sidney Peel, nearly 15 years her senior and besotted with her…. They became secretly engaged…. Twice!

It was in 1904, when she was 19, that Clementine met her future husband, Winston Churchill, for the first time – whilst attending a ball at the home of the Earl and Countess of Crewe…. They were to meet again in 1908 at a dinner party held by Lady St.Helier…. After that they met again socially on several occasions over the following months – and exchanged correspondence…. On the 11th of August 1908, at a party held at Blenheim Palace, he proposed to her in the romantic setting of the summer house known as ‘The Temple of Diana’….

Temple of Diana – Blenheim Palace

Clementine and Winston were married on the 12th of September 1908 at St. Margaret’s, Westminster…. They honeymooned in Venice and at Veveri Castle, Moravia….and then made their home in Eccleston Square, London…. They went on to have five children:- Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold (who died at the age of 2) and Mary….

Winston Churchill and Clementine Hozier shortly before their marriage – Public domain

Theirs was a strong marriage- although they had their ‘moments’…. Clementine had no fear of her husband – as strong a character as he was – she would stand up to him, challenging his views both on personal and political matters…. She adopted more Liberal ideals….but she would never question his views in public….

Sometimes they would have flaming rows and she would display her fiery temper…. However, it was usually Winston who extended the olive branch – as he believed the sun should never set before they had made their peace…. He sometimes referred to Clementine as “She-whose-commands-must-be-obeyed”….

Winston and Clementine in 1915 – The New York Times Current History of the European World – Public domain

But Clementine was always at her husband’s side, supporting him and helping him…. His Chief of Staff, General ‘Pug’ Ismay said that without her ~ “the history of Winston Churchill and of the world would have been a very different story”….

Winston and Clementine, 25th September 1940, on board a naval auxiliary patrol vessel during a visit to the London Docks – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums

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