Sarah Churchill at Chartwell

Sarah Touchet-Jesson, Baroness Audley (née Churchill), ©National Portrait Gallery Sarah Touchet-Jesson, Baroness Audley (née Churchill) ©National Portrait Gallery
A photo of Winston Churchill's daughter, Sarah Churchill

Sarah (1914-1982) was the second daughter of Winston and Clementine Churchill.

As a young woman Sarah rejected the life expected of an aristocratic debutante. Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Mule’ by her family because of her stubborn nature, she fought for a career of her own on the stage.

Her marriage in 1936 to the entertainer Vic Oliver was not to last but her stage career blossomed. After the war, she eloped with society photographer Anthony Beauchamp in 1949.

It was the war, she felt, that gave Sarah - much like her father - the opportunity to give of her best. The necessities imposed broke down some of the barriers that had constrained her personally and professionally, giving her opportunities to contribute and flourish. She proved herself to be a natural-born ambassador for her country.

It was decided that a member of the family should accompany the Prime Minster on his international travels as a trusted aide and protector. Mary attended the Quebec and Potsdam Conferences, while Sarah was his aide-de-camp at the meetings between the ‘Big Three’ at Cairo, at Tehran in November 1943, and at Yalta in February 1945.

As her father’s aide-de-camp, her abilities and composure earned her the respect of the leaders of her time. The independence and confidence Sarah gained during the war fuelled her career. In the war’s aftermath she moved to America as a single woman to pursue career opportunities that Hollywood provided.

The pinnacle of her film career came in 1951, when she acted and danced opposite Fred Astaire in the film Royal Wedding. Happiness arrived in 1962 with her third marriage, this time to Lord Audley, the love of her life. His death, just fifteen months after their wedding, left Sarah devastated. 

Despite significant challenges in her later years, she wrote six books, including a loving tribute to her father in A Thread in the Tapestry (1966). Later, drinking became a problem and she was arrested on a number of occasions, which she wrote about frankly in her own memoir Keep on Dancing (1981).

‘She wanted you to like her and was touched if you did’, recalled a journalist who had known her.