From the Summer 2014 issue of Finest Hour….
You may wonder why she is not on the cover. Our dear friend Lady Soames, who died peacefully at 91, surrounded by her family, on May 31st at 8:35 pm, in fact deserves more than a hastily concocted cover: she deserves a special edition of Finest Hour, and that is what she shall have, issued between the summer and autumn numbers.
I say this notwithstanding that I can hear her words: “Really, you are going way O.T.T. [over the top] and it’s silly to make a fuss.” Never mind, Mary, we are going to make a fuss.
Some readers knew her longer. Barbara and I knew her since 1983, when she attended her first Churchill Tour, which began at the Churchill Hotel in London. She soon became Patron of the International Churchill Society, replacing Lord Mountbatten, who died in 1979, the victim of assassins. From that time forward, she was our constant correspondent, regular companion at conferences and tours, sometime houseguest, friendly critic, decisive mentor and personal friend. There is no one outside our own family whom we loved more, and her loss removes one of the things that make life worth living.
What this special issue will contain may not be known until we sign off on the final proof, but we do know that the thoughts of any friend of hers are most welcome. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What will we say in the first-ever special edition of Finest Hour that the world will not have said by the time it appears, we hope in time for her memorial service? Notwithstanding what she meant to Chartwell, the National Trust, the Churchill Memorial Trust, the Churchill Archives Centre and the National Theatre, we will concentrate on what we know best, the memory of her parents, because that is the mission, the role she saw as uniquely ours to play: never going “O.T.T.” with praise, but striving, as she often reminded us, “to keep the memory green and the record accurate.”
I am pleased every time writer warns against declaring what Winston Churchill would do nowadays, because that was her commandment. “We don’t know, do we?” she would say. “Whenever someone declares what he would do today, I reply: ‘How do you know?’”
To reflect on what she meant to that splendid memory, and to us, will be work aplenty, and that work begins now, so you will have to excuse me. I would however like to leave you with the words of my friend Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, publisher of the official biography and for forty years a fellow “toiler in the vineyard,” in Martin Gilbert’s phrase:
“She knew how to be the daughter of a great man. She did this by being a good person.” To that I would only add that in doing so, she achieved greatness herself. —RML