Diana Churchill Biography

Diana Churchill, the oldest daughter of former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, was a British officer who served in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during World War II. She played an active role in her father’s election campaigns and even accompanied him to Parliament. Additionally, she participated in her brother’s political campaigns and ultimately married Duncan Sandys. However, Diana’s life took a tragic turn when she experienced a nervous breakdown in 1953, which had a lasting impact. Sadly, she passed away in 1963 from an overdose of barbiturates, having taken her own life. Diana was laid to rest at St Martin’s Church near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.

Quick Facts

  • British Celebrities Born In July
  • Also Known As: Diana Spencer-Churchill
  • Died At Age: 54
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Duncan Sandys (m. 1935 – div. 1960), John Milner Bailey (m. 1932 – div. 1935)
    • Father: Winston Churchill
    • Mother: Baroness Spencer-Churchill, Clementine Churchill
    • Siblings: Marigold Churchill, Mary Soames, Randolph Churchill, Sarah Churchill
    • Children: Celia Sandys, Edwina Sandys, Julian Sandys
  • Died on: October 20, 1963
  • Place of death: London
  • City: London, England
  • Cause of Death: Drug Overdose
  • More Facts:
    • Education: Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Childhood & Early Life

Diana Churchill was born Diana Spencer Churchill on July 11, 1909, in London, England, to Winston and Clementine Churchill. After seeing his daughter, a proud Winston Churchill claimed that she was the prettiest child he has ever seen.

After being homeschooled for a while, Diana enrolled at ‘Notting Hill High School’ as a day student where she would later be joined by her younger sister Sarah Churchill. After graduating from high school, she went to the ‘Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’ (RADA). Though she spent five terms at the academy, becoming an actress was never her intention.

Diana and her brother Randolph faced kidnap threats from a women’s militant group called ‘suffragettes,’ during their youth. Hence, they were often accompanied by detectives who wore plain clothes to conceal their identities. Diana enjoyed ice-skating and often accompanied her brother to ‘Holland Park’ where they practiced ice-skating.

Career

Diana and her sister Sarah Churchill would often dress alike and accompany their parents during election campaigns. On April 28, 1925, she accompanied her father to Parliament, when he presented his first budget.

During the ‘Second World War,’ which took place from 1939 to 1945, she served the ‘Women’s Royal Naval Service’ as an officer. She also worked as a nurse when London was attacked by Germany during the war.

In 1955, she represented her father at Denmark’s tenth anniversary celebration of liberation from the clutches of the Nazis. During the ceremony, she addressed a large audience at the ‘Copenhagen University’ where she unveiled a bust of Sir Winston Churchill.

In 1962, she started working with a charity organization called ‘Samaritans’ which worked toward providing support to people in emotional distress. The organization was originally created to prevent suicide across the United Kingdom.

Family & Personal Life

Diana Churchill’s father, Winston Churchill, was one of the most important British politicians who led Britain to victory in the ‘Second World War.’ He went on to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice in his political career. Diana was close to her father throughout her life and even accompanied him to southern France on a number of occasions as part of his political visits.

Her mother, Clementine, worked with the ‘Young Men’s Christian Association’ (YMCA) during the ‘First World War’ and organized canteens for munitions workers. She served as the President of ‘Young Women’s Christian Association’ and Chairman of the ‘Red Cross’ during the ‘Second World War.’

Diana Churchill had four siblings, namely Randolph, Sarah, Marigold, and Mary Soames. She was close to her brother Randolph and took part in his political campaigns. Randolph served as a Conservative Member of the British Parliament from 1940 to 1945. He also worked as a journalist and writer. While her younger sister Sarah established a career in the entertainment industry, her youngest sister Mary Soames worked with the ‘Red Cross’ before joining the ‘Auxiliary Territorial Service’ during the ‘Second World War.’

Diana Churchill married John Milner Bailey on December 12, 1932. John Milner Bailey was the son of a South African millionaire named Sir Abe Bailey. The wedding, which was a grand affair, took place at ‘St. Margaret’s Church’ in Westminster. However, Diana’s mother, Clementine, was not happy with the wedding and thus her relationship with Diana strained after the wedding.

Diana got separated from her husband barely a year after their wedding and their marriage ended in divorce in 1935. After divorcing John Milner Bailey, Diana lived alone in London and visited her parents in Kent during the weekends.

In the summer of 1935, Diana took part in a political campaign for her brother where she met Conservative politician Duncan Sandys. Diana and Duncan fell in love and got married on September 16, 1935. The couple was blessed with three children, namely Julian, Edwina, and Celia. Edwina, who was born on December 29, 1938, went on to become an artist and sculptor.

By 1957, Diana and Duncan had gone their separate ways. After their separation, Diana started living in a small house in London along with her daughters, Edwina and Celia. Her marriage with Duncan, which lasted for 25 years, ended in divorce in 1960.

After Duncan’s second marriage with Marie-Claire Schmitt in 1962, Diana announced that she would change her name back to Diana Churchill. Her name was legally changed on April 11, 1962. After her divorce, Diana’s relationship with her mother improved as she started visiting her mother quite frequently.

Starting from the early 1950s, Diana suffered from many nervous breakdowns. She was subjected to several forms of treatment, including ‘electroconvulsive therapy.’ She died from an overdose of barbiturates in October 1963. The investigation revealed that she had committed suicide. Ironically, she had joined the suicide-prevention organization ‘Samaritans’ just a year before taking her own life.

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