5 JUNE 1982, Page 20

Sutherland's Churchill

Sir: Arthur Marshall, in his review of Roger Berthoud's book about Graham Sutherland (29 May), has made some strictures about my parents, Winston and Clementine Chur- chill, some of which may be merited, but some of which I find trivial and contrived. And in one instance, in my view, Mr Mar- shall has used the wrong expression: when he describes Clementine Churchill's action in causing the portrait of her husband by Graham Sutherland to be destroyed as an `act of dishonour'. Although I personally always regretted and disapproved of my mother's action in regard to the picture, I cannot see that it was 'dishonourable': ill- judged perhaps — ungracious certainly for it was the gift from members of all par- ties of both Houses of Parliament. And the fact that my mother's judgment was generally sound, and her manners thoughtful and gracious, merely adds an in-

gredient to the complexity of the whole affair.

If one accepts (as not everybody did either at the time or later) the shocked view of the artistic and intellectual world, then Graham Sutherland himself (in a letter to me) used the more correct phrase, when he described the destruction of the portrait as 'an act of vandalism'. But he then went on to add . . unparallelled in modern times'. I do not know where modern times are deem- ed to start — but I find it difficult to believe he meant to place my mother in history alongside the Goths and Visigoths.

Mr Marshall is evidently hostile (or perhaps merely allergic) to my father's character and personality; and certainly it would be time wasted for me to take up filial cudgels with Mr Marshall on his behalf.

Others (untainted by the charge of consanguinity) have written their accounts of my father — including warts, and not ex- cluding virtues. I, therefore, would only like to remark that the 'spoilt child' syn- drome which Mr Marshall dwells upon at such length was a 'trace-element' only, in a character whose chief attributes were warmth and a wide humanity.

Mr Marshall writes that 'it is distressing to think' that Clementine Churchill will now be 'chiefly remembered for this disgraceful deed': I think he need not distress himself. I believe that now and in the future those who are interested enough to study the lives of Winston and Clemen- tine Churchill will acknowledge that she like Kathleen Sutherland — in Mr Marshall's own felicitous words, was 'the mainstay of his [her husband's] life'.

Lady Soames

7 St Albans Mansion, Kensington Court Place, London W8