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Clementine
Cover of Clementine
Clementine
The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill
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“Engrossing…the first formal biography of a woman who has heretofore been relegated to the sidelines.”–The New York Times

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Woman of No Importance, a long overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman who was Winston Churchill’s closest confidante, fiercest critic and shrewdest advisor that captures the intimate dynamic of one of history’s most fateful marriages.

Late in life, Winston Churchill claimed that victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible” without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years. Why, then, do we know so little about her? In this landmark biography, a finalist for the Plutarch prize, Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine Churchill her due.
Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine Hozier was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, when the prime minister’s daughter was desperate for his attention. Yet their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. "You know,"Winston confided to FDR, "I tell Clemmie everything."
 
Through the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, in the tense days when he stood against Chamberlain and the many months when he helped inspire his fellow countrymen and women to keep strong and carry on, Clementine made her husband’s career her mission, at the expense of her family, her health and, fatefully, of her children. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship. Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world.
 
"Sonia Purnell has at long last given Clementine Churchill the biography she deserves. Sensitive yet clear-eyed, Clementine tells the fascinating story of a complex woman struggling to maintain her own identity while serving as the conscience and principal adviser to one of the most important figures in history. I was enthralled all the way through." –Lynne Olson, bestselling author of Citizens of London 

“Engrossing…the first formal biography of a woman who has heretofore been relegated to the sidelines.”–The New York Times

From the author of the New York Times bestseller A Woman of No Importance, a long overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman who was Winston Churchill’s closest confidante, fiercest critic and shrewdest advisor that captures the intimate dynamic of one of history’s most fateful marriages.

Late in life, Winston Churchill claimed that victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible” without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years. Why, then, do we know so little about her? In this landmark biography, a finalist for the Plutarch prize, Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine Churchill her due.
Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine Hozier was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, when the prime minister’s daughter was desperate for his attention. Yet their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. "You know,"Winston confided to FDR, "I tell Clemmie everything."
 
Through the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, in the tense days when he stood against Chamberlain and the many months when he helped inspire his fellow countrymen and women to keep strong and carry on, Clementine made her husband’s career her mission, at the expense of her family, her health and, fatefully, of her children. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship. Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world.
 
"Sonia Purnell has at long last given Clementine Churchill the biography she deserves. Sensitive yet clear-eyed, Clementine tells the fascinating story of a complex woman struggling to maintain her own identity while serving as the conscience and principal adviser to one of the most important figures in history. I was enthralled all the way through." –Lynne Olson, bestselling author of Citizens of London 

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    CHAPTER ONE
     
    The Level of Events
     
    1885–1908
     
    Fear defined Clementine Hozier’s earliest memory. Having been deposited by her nurse at the foot of her parents’ bed, she saw her “lovely and gay” mother, Lady Blanche, stretch out her arms toward her. Clementine yearned for her mother’s embrace yet she froze on the spot at the sight of her father slumbering at her mother’s side. “I was frightened of him,” she explained much later.1 By then the damage had been done. Clementine was never to gain a secure place in her mother’s affections nor would she conquer her trepidation of the forbidding Colonel Henry Hozier, who, she came to believe, was not her father anyway. For all the fortitude she would show in adulthood, her instinctive insecurity never left her.
     
    The Hoziers were living on Grosvenor Street, in central London, a far cry from the romantically haunted Cortachy Castle, in the Scottish Highlands, where Lady Blanche had grown up. Clementine’s mother was the eldest daughter of the tenth Earl of Airlie, whose ancient Scottish lineage was enlivened by castle burnings and Jacobite uprisings. Her seraphic face belied her own rebellious spirit, and her parents, their family fortunes much reduced by the earl’s gambling losses, had been keen to marry her off. They were thus relieved when in 1878, at the age of twenty-five, she became engaged to Colonel Hozier, even though he was fourteen years her senior and only come-lately gentry of limited means.
     
    Lady Blanche’s mother, also called Blanche, was a Stanley of Alderley, a tribe of assertive and erudite English matriarchs who combined radical Liberal views with upper-class condescension. They thought new clothes, fires in the bedroom and—above all—jam the epitome of excessive indulgence. Champions of female education, the Stanley women had cofounded Girton College in Cambridge in 1869. No less formidably clever than these eminent forebears, the elder Blanche had later mixed with the likes of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, the Tory prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, his bitter Liberal rival William Gladstone, and John Ruskin, the art critic, designer and social thinker. She had made her ineffectual husband switch the family political allegiance from Conservative to Liberal and was equally forceful with her tearful granddaughter Clementine, who was not her favorite. It was evidently unfitting for a girl of Stanley blood to show her emotions.
     
    Hozier’s family made its money in brewing, gaining entrance to society thanks to the profits of industry rather than the privilege of birth. Although his elder brother became the first Lord Newlands and Henry himself received a knighthood in 1903 for his innovative work at Lloyd’s of London after a distinguished career in the army, the Hoziers remained essentially nouveau: middle-class stock who earned their own living.
     
    In the eyes of many in the City, Henry was a “flamboyant” personality, but the Lloyd’s archives suggest a darker nature. He had graduated top of his class from Army Staff College and was decorated with the Iron Cross by Emperor Wilhelm I when serving as assistant military attaché to the Prussian forces during the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and this and his service in Abyssinia and China appear to have gone to his head. His colleagues at Lloyd’s thought he was a “born autocrat” with an “excessive love of power” and an absence of humor. He also apparently suffered from an “excessive” fondness for spending the...

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 28, 2015
    In this first fully researched biography of Clementine Churchill, British political reporter Purnell (Just Boris) reveals a smart, savvy, and independent-minded woman who disagreed with her husband on such political issues as women’s suffrage, and on personal matters such as “holidays, gambling, and even their own son.” Based on extensive interviews with three generations of the extended Churchill family, as well as archival work in Britain and the U.S., Purnell’s work aids readers in appreciating Clementine’s personality, her domestic life, and the political context that she and Winston lived in and helped to shape. While she spent much of her 57-year marriage apart from Winston, Clementine was fiercely loyal and immensely helpful to him, as shown through anecdotes featuring key figures with whom she and Winston interacted, especially during WWII. Purnell shows empathy for her subject, but she doesn’t spare criticism, particularly in portraying her as a distant, somewhat neglectful mother of the couple’s five children—all of whom led troubled lives, except their youngest daughter, Mary. This exemplary biography illustrates how Clementine’s intelligence, hard work, and perseverance in often difficult circumstances made her every bit a match for her remarkable, intimidating husband, and a fascinating figure in her own right. Agent: Grainne Fox, Fletcher and Company.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from August 1, 2015
    The biography of Winston Churchill's unfailing champion. Political reporter Purnell (Just Boris: The Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity, 2011) offers a sharply drawn, absorbing portrait of Churchill's elegant, strong-willed wife, who was also his adviser, supporter, protector, and manager. "You are a rock & I depend on you & rest on you," Churchill wrote to Clementine during one of her many escapes from the overwhelming demands of her selfish, "dictatorial," and petulant husband. A lonely, shy child raised by her distracted and often cruel mother, Clementine married Winston after a brief courtship and immediately decided, she said, "to give her life totally" to him, putting his needs before her own and those of their children. No matter what slings and arrows were aimed at him, she was convinced of his greatness. Purnell argues persuasively for Clementine's importance to history: she functioned as her husband's astute political strategist; insisted that he consider her liberal, feminist views; vetted his speeches; and campaigned for his successes. After his reputation suffered horribly from his role in the disastrous 1915 defeat in the Dardanelles, Clementine urged him to enlist in the Great War, from which he emerged with a "military halo." During both wars, Clementine took an active role, organizing canteens for munitions workers and lobbying to improve conditions for women and children on the home front. With impeccable taste and a perfectionism that caused many servants to quit, she created a warm, welcoming home in which the rich, powerful, and influential gathered. Among her many challenges was money: frequently, they were turned out of government residences when Winston's positions changed; and he spent impulsively, buying estates that proved to be money pits and speculating in the American stock market in the 1920s, leading to a severe loss. While he worked ferociously to earn money from publications, Clementine economized. Purnell is sympathetic to the strains of Clementine's life but unapologetic about her maternal shortcomings. A riveting, illuminating life of a remarkable woman.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2015

    Clementine Churchill (1885-1977) has remained a nearly forgotten footnote in 20th-century British history; there is only one other biography of the woman, written by her daughter Mary in 1987. Purnell (Just Boris) does a remarkable job of proving that Clementine had a large impact on Winston's life. Born into an aristocratic but poor family and of uncertain paternity, Clementine Hozier was a serious, studious child who blossomed into a great beauty. Winston seems to have known immediately upon meeting her that she would be the one who could support his great ambitions and moderate his mood swings and gambling. Besides wooing Winston's critics and adversaries through her generosity as a hostess, she also edited his writing, advised him on political decisions, and volunteered in many ways throughout both world wars. Although she had feminist leanings, she was never able to convince Winston to support the burgeoning women's movement and also felt that she failed as a mother. Her significance, in many ways, can be compared to that of Eleanor Roosevelt. VERDICT A welcome addition to the canon of Churchill biographies. Clementine's life is fascinating in its own right. [See Prepub Alert, 4/20/15.]--Kate Stewart, American Folklife Ctr., Washington, DC

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2015

    Churchill once declared that victory in World War II would have been impossible without his wife, Clementine, so it's surprising that the only biography we have was published 35 years ago by her daughter Mary Soames. Now, longtime political reporter Purnell (e.g., the Economist) offers an account drawing on the year she spent doing research on a Churchill fellowship and everyone still alive who worked with Clementine. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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