top of page

Clementine Ogilvy Spencer Churchill - The Woman Behind Sir Winston Churchill

Clementine Ogilvy Spencer was born into 1 April 1885 in Mayfair, London in an aristocratic family. Her parents, Lady Blanche Hozier and Henry Montague were unhappily married and thus their unfaithful relationship formed rumors such as Henry not being the father of Lady Blanche's kids. Clementine's father left when she turned six and her mother was a gambler, which put her into a social and financial problem. Her sister Kitty, died when she was 16 due to typhoid fever, which hurt clementine dearly. The unhappy start of her life stayed with her, for the rest of it.

On a morning in 1909, the newlywed Winston Churchill arrived in Bristol to greet local party members with his wife, Clementine Ogilvy Spencer Churchill. The public stop became dangerous as a militant suffragist attacked Winston to protest against his public stance against votes for women, of which Clementine was disturbed by. Clementine saved her husband from getting hit by a moving train as he was fighting with this protester. This was not the first time she saved Winston from danger.

Clementine and Churchill met back in 1904 when she was 19, and he was 29, at a dance. They met four years later and after a few months of courtship, they marries in 1908. Their marriage laster for 57 years. She, behind the curtains, was the driving force of the British prime minister, Winston. A lonely childhood was common between the two, as Churchill's parents were distant, left him in Harrow school with high debts. Churchill still managed with his high ambition to reach the parliament and contributed greatly during the wars.

Clementine was also greatly ambitious, but due to the social status of women during the early 20th century, she poured her instincts to her husband instead. “She once said early in life she would have loved to have been a statesman in her own right if only she had been born with trousers rather than petticoats,” Clementine’s biographer, Sonia Purnell. Her time was not much spent on her five kids as on creating a statesman out of her husband and supported him as he risked it all to become a prime minister. She helped him befriend his allies during the world war and kept his motivation up during his lower times.

Their kids grew up with most of them living tragic lives. Marigold died at the age of two, Diana killed herself with a drug overdose, Randolph struggled with suicide and Sarah marries three times with one of which her parents were not told of. Mary was the only child of theirs, who grew up without suicide, alcohol, or divorce.

As clementine was the shoulder Winston could lean on, their marriage was still not perfect. Her more liberal views often clashed with Winston. Their arguments led to Clementine suffering from breakdowns and her taking solo vacations, as they were often separate anyway due to Winstons demanding schedule. During one of her vacations in 1935, she had an affair with Terence Philip. Even with their problems, when it came to Churchill's career, Clementine greatly supported him. For example she stood against Charles de Gaulle as he threatened to turn French guns against Britain rather than helping them to defeat the Nazis.

By 1943, Winston suffered from pneumonia and heart problems during which Clementine flew in to nurse him back to health in Carthage. He came back on his feet and kept his ally's motivations high during the Second World War with his speeches as a statesman.

“We shall fight on the beaches, We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Clementine was widowed on 24 January 1965 and by May 17th, 1965, she became a life peer as Baroness Spencer-Churchill. As a cross-bencher, her growing hearing deficiency stopped her from taking a regular part in parliamentary life. Lady Spencer Churchill died due to a heart attack on the 12th of December, 1977. She outlived her husband and three of her five children.



Cover Image Credit: Mrs. Winston Churchill, with her daughters Mary and Sarah, after her investiture by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, where she became a Dame of the British Empire, 1946. (Credit: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

130 views0 comments
bottom of page