A catalogue of the papers of Sarah Churchill

Sarah Churchill

A still image of Sarah Churchill dancing in Royal Wedding, the film she made with Fred Astaire, 1950. Reference: Sarah Churchill Papers, SCHL 6/2/18.

Sarah Churchill was the third of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s children, born in 1914 and nicknamed ‘Mule’ by her family for her stubborn nature. She trained in ballet and pursued a career as a dancer and actress in theatre and films in Britain, Italy and the United States, running away across the Atlantic in 1936 to marry her first husband, the comedian Vic Oliver, and living in Hollywood for a time in the late 1940s and early 1950s with her second husband, the celebrity photographer Antony Beauchamp. Later as her life was increasingly dogged by personal losses, illness and alcoholism, she turned to writing, publishing A Thread in the Tapestry, a slight but vivid memoir of her father based on her original letters, and her own frank autobiography, Keep on Dancing.

Sarah Churchill

A photograph of Sarah Churchill trying to keep warm between takes on the set of the film Daniele Cortis in Northern Italy, 1946. Reference: Sarah Churchill Papers, SCHL 6/2/12.

It is those letters that are at the heart of her archive collection, particularly her correspondence with her mother Clementine Churchill and with close friends, like the artist and dilettante Villiers David. At their best, the letters are witty and readable, revealing her as a writer of mercurial talent and painting an intimate portrait of her life and of the Churchill family. For those researching Winston Churchill, her descriptions of her travels with her father to the wartime conferences in Cairo and Tehran, 1943, and Yalta, 1945; to Lake Como in the immediate aftermath of the election defeat, 1945; and to Marrakesh during the writing of The Second World War, 1947, provide invaluable insights.

Sarah ChurchillSarah Churchill

A comical extract from Sarah Churchill’s letter to her mother describing the departure from Yalta, 12 February 1945. Reference: Sarah Churchill Papers, SCHL 1/1/8.

Sarah Churchill’s papers were given to the Archives Centre by her sister, Lady Soames, in 2014. Aside from the correspondence, they also include unpublished literary work, press cuttings, photographs, audio tapes and film, which have been catalogued and conserved over the last year and are now available to researchers for the first time.

— Sophie Bridges, Archivist

Sarah Churchill’s papers

Sarah Churchill

A photograph of Sarah Churchill in Hollywood or Mexico, 1940s-50s. Reference: Sarah Churchill Papers, SCHL 6/2/18.

Sarah Churchill

Sarah Churchill’s ‘mule’ signature on a letter from Marrakesh, 11 December 1947. Reference: Sarah Churchill Papers, SCHL 1/1/11.

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