“A Certain Splendid Memory…” Dinner of the New England Churchillians, Union Club, Boston, 21 November 2014.
Yesterday at Westminster Abbey, over a thousand of her friends and admirers joined in a memorial to Lady Soames. A few weeks ago, in a special edition of Finest Hour, fifty of them wrote about her. So it is timely to remember her here in Boston, where she was with us so many times.
Timothy Robert Hardy led that issue because after all, a Shakespearean actor who doubled as her Papa is bound to know the right words, and he did.
He began with their meeting in 1981, with Chartwell a cluttered film set as he played her father in the “Wilderness Years” TV series. “What she in her kindness said of my attempt,” Tim wrote, “made me feel I was forgiven for all presumptions.”
And that was Mary, as I presume to call her—because she insisted on it the first time we met. Not because it was I. She was like that with everyone.
I knew we’d feel her loss quickly, and it hasn’t taken long. She’d be there with us now, glaring at the things people said about her father in just the last few weeks: That he starved three million Bengalis…that he wanted to nuke Moscow…that he skipped Roosevelt’s funeral in a fit of pique.
Well. She always urged us “to keep the memory green and the record accurate.” I know she would be in the fray with us now, saying “Really, my dear,” to people who write books about him—not solid books, but frothy hagiographies or populist shockers. And some who, through their fame in other spheres, are elevated to oracles, who blithely inform us what Churchill would do about ISIS or Iraq or the National Debt.
Mary always had an answer for people like that. I recommend it to you whenever you hear some self-proclaimed expert say what her father would do today. Her answer always was: “How do you know?”
“From that time on,” Tim Hardy concluded, “I have so many memories of times spent with this great lady: aristocratic, straightforward, generous, open-hearted, gentle, able to be sharp, humorous, witty, poised, loyal, with an extraordinary ability to get people to meet others with whom she thought they would become friends.” Well, sure, all who knew her thought that. But Tim says it better than most.
“There still is much to say,” wrote her sister Sarah, in the poem that closed her memorial issue, “And yet, my tongue and pen, so wont to fly, have of a sudden both run dry.”
And so I am just glad to recall—in her father’s words about his own father—”a certain splendid memory, which many Honorable Members still preserve.”