Churchill, Diana Spencer (1909–1963)

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Churchill, Diana Spencer (1909–1963)

Eldest daughter and least known of the Churchill children. Name variations: Diana Sandys; Mrs. Duncan Sandys. Born Diana Spencer Churchill on July 11, 1909, at Eccleston Square, London, England; died on October 19, 1963, at Chester Row, London, England; daughter of Sir Winston S. Churchill (prime minister of England) and Lady Clementine Hozier Spencer-Churchill; attended Notting Hill High School, London, as a day student; studied at the Royal Academy of Arts; married John Milner Bailey (1932–1935), in December 1932; married Duncan Sandys (1935–1960), on September 16, 1935; children: (second marriage) Julian Sandys (b. 1936); Edwina Sandys (b. 1938); Celia Sandys (b. 1943).

Diana Spencer Churchill was born on July 11, 1909, at Eccleston Square in London, England, to Winston S. and Clementine Churchill . Her father proudly told parliamentarian David Lloyd George that she was the prettiest child ever seen. After some tutoring at home, Diana was enrolled, along with her younger sister Sarah , as a day student at Notting Hill High School in London. Dressed alike, the girls campaigned with their parents during elections, shared the cruelties and catcalls of politics, and even encountered bricks heaved at their father's open-top automobile. On April 28, 1925, Diana accompanied her father, now chancellor of the exchequer, from their residence at No. 11 Downing Street to present his first budget to Parliament.

In December 1932, Diana married John Milner Bailey, son of Sir Abe Bailey, the South African gold-mining millionaire and long-standing friend of Winston. Though the wedding that took place at St. Margaret's Church in Westminster was a dazzler, the marriage was not enthusiastically received in the Churchill home and a strained relationship developed between Diana and her mother that lasted most of her life. Diana and John separated barely a year later and divorced in early 1935. Diana lived alone in London but visited the Churchill home at Chartwell in Kent on weekends.

During a political campaign for her brother, Randolph, in the summer of 1935, Diana met Duncan Sandys, a diplomat who had left the Foreign Office to enter the political arena. They married on September 16, 1935. Their union produced a son Julian and two daughters Celia and Edwina. During World War II, Diana served in the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) in London, while Duncan, a Territorial Officer, was also stationed near London with an anti-air-craft regiment. Diana worked as a nurse during the London air raids.

In 1953, Diana suffered a nervous breakdown, which affected her health for several years, but Winston had a soothing influence on his daughter. In 1955, she represented him in Copenhagen for Denmark's tenth anniversary of their liberation from Nazi occupation. Diana spoke briefly and unveiled a bust of Sir Winston at Liberty College, Copenhagen University.

By 1957, Diana and Duncan had separated, and she lived in a small house on Chester Row, London, with her two daughters. Their 25-year marriage ended in divorce in 1960. When Duncan remarried in 1962, Diana announced that she would revert to the name of Diana Churchill. Following the divorce, she and her mother developed a warmer relationship, and Diana and the children were regular visitors at Chartwell. Diana also accompanied her father on his numerous visits to southern France. In the summer of 1962, Diana became an unpaid volunteer in the Samaritans, an organization that counseled those contemplating suicide or suffering from despair. With her daughter Edwina's marriage and the birth of a grandchild, Diana's life seemed more tranquil and settled, but, during the night of October 19–20, 1963, she took a massive overdose of sleeping pills and died. Following an inquest, Diana was cremated and a memorial service was held at St. Stephen's Church in London on October 31, 1963. Her ashes lie near her parents at Bladon Cemetery, near Blenheim Palace, Norfolk.

Phillip E. Koerper , Professor of History, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama

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Churchill, Diana Spencer (1909–1963)

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