Diana Sandys, née Churchill

Diana Sandys (née Churchill), With kind permission of Edwina Sandys Diana Sandys (née Churchill) With kind permission of Edwina Sandys
Archive black and white photograph of Diana with her family and father Churchill

Diana Churchill (11 July 1909 – 20 October 1963) was the eldest child of Winston and Clementine Churchill.

Diana Spencer Churchill was born at Eccleston Square in London. Her father proudly told Lloyd George that she was the prettiest child ever seen. She was the eldest child and the one with the lowest profile.

After some tutoring at home, Diana was enrolled, along with her younger sister Sarah, as a day student at Notting Hill High School in London. Dressed alike, the girls campaigned with their parents during elections.    

On 28 April 1925, Diana accompanied her father, now Chancellor of the Exchequer, to present his first budget to Parliament. In 1926, Churchill wrote of Diana to Clementine: ‘Diana is going to be a great feature in our lives in the next few years, she has wonderful charm and grace’. Diana attended finishing school in Paris, before ‘coming out’ in 1928.

In December 1932, Diana married John Milner Bailey, son of Sir Abe Bailey, a long-standing friend of Churchill. Though the wedding was a dazzling affair, the marriage was not popular with her parents and a strained relationship developed between Diana and Clementine. Diana and John divorced in 1935; Diana lived alone in London but visited Chartwell in Kent on weekends.

During a political campaign in 1935 for her brother, Randolph, Diana met Duncan Sandys, a diplomat who had left the Foreign Office to enter the political arena. They married in 1935 and had a son Julian (1936-1997) and two daughters, Edwina (b.1938) and Celia (b.1943).

Churchill had a soothing influence on his daughter and in 1955 she represented him in Copenhagen for Denmark's tenth anniversary of their liberation from Nazi occupation. Diana spoke briefly and unveiled a bust of Churchill at Liberty College, Copenhagen University.

By 1957 Diana and Duncan had separated, and she lived in a small house in London with her two daughters before they divorced in 1960, after which, Diana and Clementine developed a warmer relationship and she and the children were regular visitors at Chartwell. Diana also accompanied her father on his numerous visits to southern France.

In 1962 she became an unpaid volunteer in the Samaritans, an organisation that counselled those contemplating suicide or suffering from despair. With her daughter Edwina's marriage and the birth of a grandchild, Diana's life seemed more tranquil and settled, but, on 20 October 1963, she took an overdose of sleeping pills and died. Her ashes lie near her parents in Bladon churchyard, near Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.