Exhibition on Lady Clementine Churchill extended following hit movie


An exhibition on the life of Sir Winston Churchill's wife has been extended after it experienced a surge of visitors inspired by the blockbuster movie Darkest Hour.

The portrayal of Lady Clementine Churchill by Kristin Scott Thomas has prompted crowds of people to learn more about her personal life from a unique collection of items on display at their family home in Kent, staff said.

Ahead of the 53rd anniversary of the wartime Prime Minister's death on Wednesday, the National Trust decided to extend Clementine Churchill: Speaking for Herself at Chartwell in Westerham until October.

The movie darkest hour, starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas, has boosted the exhibition's popularity
The movie darkest hour, starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas, has boosted the exhibition's popularity

Opened to mark the 40th anniversary of her death, the display features more than 60 pieces, including never-before-seen personal items like childhood photographs and a portrait by Paul Maze - the last of the Post Impressionists.

These sit side-by-side with pictures, private letters and gifts gathered from the National Trust's own archives, the Churchill family's collection and images from other contributors.

Curator Katherine Carter said the display gives visitors a chance to learn more about Clementine's resilience in the face of difficulties during her upbringing when her parents separated, her enduring relationship with Sir Winston and her love of sport.

She said: "The exhibition has been so popular. We've had really good numbers of people despite the weather and have received so many requests to extend it.

"The film has undoubtedly had an impact on how Churchill is seen in the public eye.

A portrait of Lady Clementine
A portrait of Lady Clementine

"Kristin Scott Thomas plays Clementine so beautifully that it's naturally meant a lot of people want to learn a lot more about her and her life so we've certainly found that here.

"There has been a real interest in Clementine and the role of women - in many ways she was ahead of her time as a political wife.

"She was a truly remarkable woman.

"It's been wonderful to look in detail at her treasured possessions and objects that represent her extraordinary life - particularly the items which have never been on display before. There's just so much - it really is a very personal insight into her interests and life."

The news follows Gary Oldman winning the Screen Actors Guild award on Sunday for his performance in Darkest Hour as Sir Winston Churchill.

Filming even took place at Chartwell - which Churchill bought in 1922 after falling in love with the surrounding view of the Weald of Kent.

The first few scenes showing his life before becoming Prime Minister were shot there and the rose garden was used to depict the grounds of Downing Street, Ms Carter said.

Chartwell is Sir Winston and Lady Clementine's former home
Chartwell is Sir Winston and Lady Clementine's former home

Clementine, his devoted confidante for more than 56 years and mother to their five children, was key to Churchill's success, she added.

From playing political hostess, working in his constituency and supporting election campaigns, Lady Churchill did it all - and challenged him when he needed it.

Ms Carter said: "He said anything he achieved was because of her.

"As well as being his confidante, there were times where she would challenge him, which is why he loved and respected her so much.

"It was an honest, very real marriage.

"They didn't always agree but their love for each other was so strong - letters show how they had wonderful pet names for each other."