Christopher Soames

Last updated

Mary Churchill
(m. 1947)
The Lord Soames
Christopher Soames (cropped).jpg
Soames in 1966
Governor of Southern Rhodesia
In office
11 December 1979 18 April 1980
Succeeded by Canaan Banana [nb 2]
Children5, including Nicholas, Emma and Rupert
Parent Arthur Granville Soames (father)
Relatives Winston Churchill (father‑in‑law)
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 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 a 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 considered as a potential challenger to Edward Heath in the 1975 Conservative Party leadership election. The eventual winner Margaret Thatcher would have withdrawn if he had stood. [8] He was created a life peer on 19 April 1978 as Baron Soames, of Fletching in the County of East Sussex. [9]

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. [10]

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. [11]


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.[ citation needed ]


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 [16]

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  1. 1 2 "The Papers of Baron Soames". Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge. Archived from the original on 4 October 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  2. "Britain's Man for Rhodesia". The New York Times. 13 December 1979. Archived from the original on 8 November 2021. 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). Archived from the original on 12 November 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  8. Campbell 2010, pp. 318–319.
  9. "No. 47519". The London Gazette. 24 April 1978. p. 4731.
  10. 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.)
  11. 1 2 3 4 Mosley 1982, p. 1435.
  12. "Lord Soames of Fletching". MPs and Lords. UK Parliament. Retrieved 28 October 2022.
  13. "No. 45713". The London Gazette. 27 June 1972. p. 7689.
  14. "No. 45554". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1972. p. 4.
  15. "No. 48212". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 1980. p. 5.
  16. Debrett's Peerage. 1985.[ incomplete short citation ]