Christopher Soames

Last updated

The Lord Soames

Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg
Soames in 1966
Governor of Southern Rhodesia
In office
11 December 1979 18 April 1980
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by
Succeeded by Canaan Banana [nb 2]
Vice-President of the European Commission
In office
6 January 1973 5 January 1977
President François-Xavier Ortoli
European Commissioner for External Relations
In office
6 January 1973 5 January 1977
PresidentFrançois-Xavier Ortoli
Preceded by Jean-François Deniau
Succeeded by Wilhelm Haferkamp
Her Majesty's Ambassador to France
In office
September 1968 27 October 1972
Preceded by Patrick Reilly
Succeeded by Edward Tomkins
Ministerial offices
Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council
In office
5 May 1979 14 September 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Shadow Foreign Secretary
In office
11 November 1965 13 April 1966
Leader Edward Heath
Preceded by Reginald Maudling
Succeeded by Alec Douglas-Home
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
27 July 1960 16 October 1964
Prime Minister
Preceded by John Hare
Succeeded by Fred Peart
Secretary of State for War
In office
6 January 1958 27 July 1960
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded byJohn Hare
Succeeded by John Profumo
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty
In office
9 January 1957 6 January 1958
Prime MinisterHarold Macmillan
Preceded by George Ward
Succeeded by Robert Allan
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Air
In office
6 April 1955 9 January 1957
Prime Minister Anthony Eden
Preceded byGeorge Ward
Succeeded by Ian Orr-Ewing
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
19 April 1978 16 September 1987
Member of Parliament
for Bedford
In office
23 February 1950 10 March 1966
Preceded by Thomas Skeffington-Lodge
Succeeded by Brian Parkyn
Personal details
Arthur Christopher John Soames

(1920-10-12)12 October 1920
Penn, Buckinghamshire, England
Died16 September 1987(1987-09-16) (aged 66)
Odiham, Hampshire, England
Resting place St Martin's Church, Bladon
Political party Conservative
(m. 1947)
Relations Winston Churchill (father‑in‑law)
Children5; including Nicholas, Emma and Rupert
Parents Arthur Granville Soames (father)
Education Eton College
Alma mater Royal Military College, Sandhurst

Arthur Christopher John Soames, Baron Soames, GCMG , GCVO , CH , CBE , PC (12 October 1920 – 16 September 1987) was a British Conservative politician who served as a European Commissioner and the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia. He was previously Member of Parliament (MP) for Bedford from 1950 to 1966. He held several government posts and attained Cabinet rank.


Early life and education

Soames was born in Penn, Buckinghamshire, England, the son of Captain Arthur Granville Soames (the brother of Olave Baden-Powell, World Chief Guide, both descendants of a brewing family who had joined the landed gentry) by his marriage to Hope Mary Woodbine Parish. His parents divorced while he was a boy, and his mother married as her second husbandCharles Rhys (later 8th Baron Dynevor), by whom she had further children including Richard Rhys, 9th Baron Dynevor.

Soames was educated at West Downs School, Eton College, and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. [1] He obtained a commission as an officer in the Coldstream Guards just before World War II broke out. During the war he served in France, Italy, and North Africa, and was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his actions at the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942. [2]

Political career

After military service during the Second World War, Soames served as the Assistant Military Attaché in Paris. He was the Conservative MP for Bedford from 1950 to 1966 and served under Anthony Eden as Under-Secretary of State for Air from 1955 to 1957 and under Harold Macmillan as Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty from 1957 to 1958. In the 1955 Birthday Honours he was invested as Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). [3]

In 1958 he was sworn of the Privy Council. He served under Macmillan as Secretary of State for War (outside the Cabinet) from 1958 to 1960 and then in the cabinets of Macmillan and his successor Alec Douglas-Home as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from July 1960 to 1964. Home had promised to promote him to Foreign Secretary if the Conservatives won the 1964 general election, but they did not. [4]

Between 1965 and 1966, Soames was Shadow Foreign Secretary under Edward Heath. He lost his seat in Parliament in the 1966 election. In 1968 Harold Wilson appointed him Ambassador to France, [5] where he served until 1972. [6] During his tenure as ambassador, he was involved in the February 1969 "Soames affair", following a private meeting between Soames and French president Charles de Gaulle, the latter offering bilateral talks concerning partnership for Britain in a larger and looser European union, the talks not involving other members. The British government eventually refused the offer, and that for a time strained Franco-British relations. He was then a Vice-President of the European Commission from 1973 to 1976. [7] He was created a life peer on 19 April 1978 as Baron Soames, of Fletching in the County of East Sussex. [8]

He served as the interim governor of Southern Rhodesia from 1979 to 1980, charged with administering the terms of the Lancaster House Agreement and overseeing its governmental transition into Zimbabwe. From 1979 to 1981, he was Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords under Margaret Thatcher, concurrent with his duties in Southern Rhodesia. [9]

Outside politics

Soames served as president of the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1973, was a non-executive director of N.M. Rothschild and Sons Ltd 1977–79, and a director of the Nat West Bank 1978–79. [10]


Christopher and Mary Soames in Lenzerheide, February 1947 May Churchill, Bestanddeelnr 902-0428.jpg
Christopher and Mary Soames in Lenzerheide, February 1947

Lord Soames married Mary Churchill, the youngest child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, on 11 February 1947. They had five children:


Christopher and Mary Soames' grave at St Martin's Church, Bladon, in 2015 Bladon, Oxfordshire - St Martin's Church - churchyard, grave of Prime Minister Churchill's daughters.jpg
Christopher and Mary Soames' grave at St Martin's Church, Bladon, in 2015

Lord Soames died from pancreatitis, aged 66. His ashes were buried within the Churchill plot at St Martin's Church, Bladon, near Woodstock, Oxfordshire.


In date order:


Coat of arms of Christopher Soames
In front of a rising sun Proper upon a lure Gules feathered Argent fesswise a falcon belled Or.
Gules a chevron Or between in chief two mallets erect of the second and in base two wings conjoined in lure Argent.
Vilius Virtutibus Aurum [15]

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  1. 1 2 "The Papers of Baron Soames". Janus Library, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  2. "Britain's Man for Rhodesia". The New York Times. 13 December 1979. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  3. "No. 40497". The London Gazette (Supplement). 9 June 1955. p. 3269.
  4. Jago 2015, p. 401.
  5. "No. 44723". The London Gazette. 26 November 1968. p. 12676.
  6. "No. 45876". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 January 1973. p. 480.
  7. "A.Ch.J. (Christopher) Soames". (in Dutch). Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  8. "No. 47519". The London Gazette. 24 April 1978. p. 4731.
  9. Renwick, Robin (17 September 2015) [2004]. "Soames, (Arthur) Christopher John, Baron Soames (1920–1987), politician". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39861.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  10. 1 2 3 4 Mosley 1982, p. 1435.
  11. "Parliamentary career for Sir Nicholas Soames". MPs and Lords. UK Parliament. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  12. "No. 45713". The London Gazette. 27 June 1972. p. 7689.
  13. "No. 45554". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1972. p. 4.
  14. "No. 48212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1980. p. 5.
  15. Debrett's Peerage. 1985.[ incomplete short citation ]