“Churchill’s Secret Affair” to Air in TV Documentary

The Daily Mail has a feature length story on what may have been a secret (but brief) affair between Lady Castlerosse (born in humble circumstances as Doris Delevigne) and Winston Churchill. This took place (if it did) in spring 1930 when Churchill was out of power and began on a visit to Lord Beaverbrook’s villa in the South of France. According to the Mail, he there met Doris and painted her portrait. He may also have bedded her later on at the Ritz Hotel in Paris after the painting was completed. Her story is told in a previous post but missing this latest development. The Mail goes on to elaborate:

It’s not easy to think of Churchill — the soon-to-be hero of World War II, his greatness captured in the film Darkest Hour, now winning Baftas and probably Oscars — as a bad boy in this way. Certainly he was a passionate man when it came to politics. But in matters of sex, he was pretty much a non-starter, always seen as a steadfast, one-woman man loyal to the formidable Clemmie, and not interested in romance. His biographer, the politician Roy Jenkins, calls him ‘probably the least dangerously sexed major politician on either side of the Atlantic since Pitt the Younger’. So did he really stray in those dog days between the world wars? A book by biographer Lyndsy Spence hints very strongly that he did and a Channel 4 documentary next month called Churchill’s Secret Affair pursues the same theme.

The Mail’s story by Tony Rennell goes on to discuss a better documented subsequent affair between Doris and Randolph Churchill, Winston’s son. Waugh is called in as a witness to this. According to the Mail:

At the San Carlo restaurant, the writer Evelyn Waugh recorded how Castlerosse hurled a vase at Randolph but he ducked and it knocked out Lady Birkenhead, whose husband had been on a wartime expedition to Yugoslavia with Randolph.

The article fails to note that Waugh was also a member of that same WWII expedition which is soon to be dramatized in a play. See previous post. The Mail’s  account is probably based on a 1960 letter Waugh wrote to Ann Fleming where he recalled an incident in the 1930s that involved Randolph’s “knocking out Margaret Birkenhead at the opening night of the San Carlo Restaurant.” A footnote to the letter explains: “Before the war, at the opening of a restaurant, possibly the Malmaison, Lord Castlerosse threw a vase at Randolph Churchill and narrowly missed Lady Birkenhead” (Letters, pp. 552-52). Lord Castlerosse was for a time a gossip columnist at the Daily Express and Doris, then his wife, contributed. Whether they were so employed at the time of the vase-throwing incident isn’t explained in the article. The Mail dates Randolph’s affair to 1932, so that may when the incident reported by Waugh took place.

The UK Channel 4 documentary about all this entitled “Churchill’s Secret Affair” is scheduled for next Sunday, 4 March at 8pm. It is described as: “An explosive documentary revealing new evidence of Winston Churchill’s secret affair and how it came to haunt him.” Here are the details. A UK internet connection will be needed, and it will presumably be posted for streaming on 4oD after the broadcast.

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