“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
Sonia Purnell is a biographer and journalist who has worked at The Telegraph and Sunday Times, and the author of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II. Her first book, Just Boris, a candid portrait of London mayor and Brexit champion Boris Johnson, was longlisted for the Orwell prize. Clementine (published as First Lady in the UK) was chosen as a Book of the Year by The Telegraph and Independent and shortlisted for the Plutarch Award for biography.
Read an Excerpt
Clementine sat bolt upright in the Strangers’ Gallery, eyes fixed on her husband in the Commons Chamber below. For years the house had mocked Winston and his bellicose warnings about the Nazi threat. Now that his predictions had come true she saw how the house was finally uniting with him in a “temper for war.” At dawn that fateful morning—September 1, 1939—Germany had attacked Poland with brutal force. As the news grew worse by the hour, Neville Chamberlain had finally made a somber and weary admission to Parliament: “The time has come when action rather than speech is required.” MPs waited feverishly for Winston to intervene, but he left without saying a word. (Continues…)