Scope and Contents
- 1921 - 2006
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical / Historical
In 1947 Christopher Soames married Mary Churchill, Sir Winston and Lady Spencer Churchill's youngest daughter. They had five children. After the war, during which he served in the Middle East, Italy and France, Soames became Assistant Military Attaché at the British Embassy, Paris, 1946-47, before going into politics. He served as MP for Bedford from 1950-66, during which time he acted as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Winston Churchill, 1952-55. He held two further posts (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Air Ministry, Dec. 1955-Jan 1957, then Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, Admiralty, 1957-58) before becoming a Minister, first as Secretary of State for War 1958-60 and then as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 1960-64.
In 1968 Lord Soames was appointed British Ambassador to France, with an unwritten brief to mend relations with France and prepare for Britain's entry into the EEC. He was described by one official as undoubtedly the most successful Ambassador of the 20th century. Many of the press reports of his appointment as Ambassador make humorous comments on the fact that he was taller than De Gaulle. Viscount Monck sent him a punning poem on the fact. Another official, summing up his tenure, wrote: "He has been the Great Pachyderm, winning support and affection everywhere with tremendous trumpetings, brushing aside opposition with a genial sweep of the trunk and occasionally a savage prod from the tusk."
After Paris Lord Soames served for five years as Vice-President of the Commission of the European Communities with special responsibility for External Relations. Again his capacity for making personal friends of those with whom he did not necessarily see completely eye to eye politically ensured that he was held in great affection and respect by his colleagues.
After ten years as a diplomat Lord Soames re-entered politics, becoming, after his elevation to the Lords, the Leader of that House and Lord President of the Council. His ministerial career came to an end in 1981 after what one contemporary commentator described as "a row you could hear all over Downing Street". His loss was greatly regretted by many. However Lord Soames remained active in the Lords and frequently spoke in debate.
It was during his term of service as Lord President that Lord Soames also accepted the difficult task of becoming the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia with the brief of negotiating independence within the Commonwealth. For their work in Rhodesia [later Zimbabwe] both Lord and Lady Soames were honoured; Lord Soames received a Companion of Honour while Lady Soames received a DBE.
Lord Soames made many speeches and published a number of articles and pamphlets. Two quotations from these may be said to sum up his political and diplomatic beliefs as expressed in his career: from the Winston Churchill Memorial Lecture "On Being European", University of Berne 1975, European unity " represents the triumph of the concept of government and of the state as the servant rather than the master of free men, which is morally superior to that concept which is embodied in the classical doctrine of sovereignty." From Soames's address to the Conservative Political Centre "Europe and the Wider World", 1980, "And if politics is the art of the possible, the art of the statesman must be to make possible that which is necessary."
109 archive box(es)
Language of Materials
Following the deposit of a large amount of further papers after Lady Soames's death, in 2018 this arrangement was expanded into twelve series to accommodate the new material, as the four groups originally used were no longer sufficient. New series for official and personal correspondence, diaries, photographs, cuttings, honours, memoirs, personal papers and audio visual were added. The four original groupings for Government papers, Diplomatic papers and Soames’s speeches and publications were left broadly as they were (though with numerous additions), but their numbering had to be completely changed, partly because of the new series, but also because multiple boxes of similar material had previously been given the same reference number.
Other Finding Aids
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- 2004-07-06 11:35:55+00:00
- Language of description
- Script of description