Husband and Father

"You must have four children. One for Mother, one for Father, one for Accidents, one for Increase." –Letter to Clementine Churchill

Churchill's bonds to his family ran strong and deep. Clementine - confidante and companion - supported, advised, and challenged Winston throughout his career. When apart, Winston and Clementine maintained their relationship through constant and affectionate letters.

Churchill took special delight in their five children: Diana (b. 1909), Randolph (b. 1911), Sarah (b.1914), Marigold (b.1918), and Mary (b. 1922). At Chartwell he built an elaborate tree house for his three older children and a little brick summerhouse for Mary. The children learned to be quiet while their father was writing. But, later it was time for high-jinks out-of-doors - imitating animals was a favorite - or charades and theatricals in the parlor.

Winston and Clementine were not spared heartache. Marigold's death, at age three, plunged them into profound grief. Churchill's relationship with Randolph was often stormy. Sarah's marriage to a vaudeville comedian was not warmly welcomed. Diana struggled with depression and nervous breakdowns, committing suicide in 1963. But, Churchill loved his children to the end.

Ultimately, Randolph would begin the official biography of his father, completing two of the eventual eight volumes before his death in 1968. Mary would write a book about her father as a painter and a biography of her mother, as well as edit her parents' remarkable letters.

Hearth and Hobbies

"The foundation of a hobby and new forms of interest is therefore a policy of first importance to a public man... The seeds must be carefully chosen; they must fall on good ground; they must be sedulously tended, ... To be really happy and really safe, one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real."

In mid-September 1922, Churchill took his children, Diana (13), Randolph (11), and Sarah (7) on a country outing - to see Chartwell. Sarah recalled, "Chartwell was wildly overgrown and untidy, and contained all the mystery of houses that had not been lived in for many years." The children loved the place and begged their father to buy it. Only later did they learn he already had. Clementine, in London about to give birth to daughter Mary that same week, was also unaware of the purchase.

Twenty-five miles south of London, this 80-acre estate that overlooked the rolling hills of Kent became the Churchill family home for forty years.

From 1922 to 1924 Churchill completely rebuilt and expanded Chartwell - at substantial expense - to accommodate his family and work. In subsequent years, Churchill constructed several new buildings with his own hands. He laid the bricks for them and the garden walls himself. Proud of his skill as a bricklayer, he took out and apprentice card in the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers.

Churchill landscaped and planted gardens and orchards. He expanded the lake, included an island, and added a rockery and waterfall, a water garden, goldfish ponds, and a heated swimming pool.

In 1946, a group of friends purchased Chartwell and gave it to the National Trust with the provision that the Churchills could remain in residence for their lifetime. Just as the nation recognized the Duke of Marlborough's service with Blenheim Palace, Chartwell represents an act of gratitude for Churchill's leadership. Open to the public, it remains substantially as it was when the Churchills lived there.

Reigning Cats and Dogs

"Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you. Give me a pig. He just looks you in the eye and treats you as an equal."

Churchill was a lover of animals - large and small, domestic and barnyard - and they, in turn, were attracted to him.

Churchill's first long-lasting passion was horses. His days in the cavalry made Churchill a championship caliber polo player. He competed into his fifties and continued to ride and own horses. He philosophized, "No hour of life is lost that is spent in the saddle."

At Chartwell, Churchill indulged his love of animals. The lakes were stocked with ducks and black swans, and the ponds with goldfish. Winston tried for two years to manage a dairy herd, but the pedigreed Middle White pigs were his pride.

Cats and dogs had the run of the house and grounds. One secretary recalled finding Churchill working in bed one morning with a bird on his head, a cat across his ankles, and a dog at his side.

Even at the official residence at 10 Downing Street, Churchill's pets wandered occasionally into luncheons and official meetings. Once during World War II, Rufus, his beloved poodle, ventured into a Cabinet Room meeting. "No, Rufus." Churchill said, "I haven't found it necessary to ask you to join the wartime Cabinet."


“Leave the past to history especially as I propose to write that history myself.”

Winston S. Churchill