Winston Churchill’s ‘Little Redhead’ granddaughter, Celia Sandys, 78, who was taken on casino jollies and went to parties with Jackie Onassis and Maria Callas shares memories of her colourful childhood in new memoir
- Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys, 78, has written new memoir
- The author and journalist details her childhood trips with her grandfather
- Guests of Aristotle Onassis on his superyacht sailing on the Mediterranean
- Also remembered seeing grandfather snuggled up in bed with a newspaper
- Churchill’s Little Redhead was published on Tuesday
Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys has recalled partying on a superyacht and enjoying jollies to the casino with the politician in a new memoir.
Celia Sandys, 78, is the daughter of Sir Winston and Clementine Churchill’s eldest child, Diana and her husband Cabinet Minister Duncan Sandys.
In her new book Churchill’s Little Redhead, the author details how she and her elder sister Edwina would visit her grandparents at Chartwell, as well as watching the Queen’s coronation procession from a balcony in Whitehall in 1953.
Meanwhile she also reveals how as a teenager she would accompany Churchill on jaunts to the Mediterranean and attend lavish parties with the rich and famous hosted by Aristotle and Jackie Onassis on their superyacht.
She writes: ‘I flew home that August much worldlier than when I had left.’
Winston Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys, 78, has recalled partying on a superyacht and enjoying jollies to the casino with the politician in a new memoir
Speaking about her autobiography, she revealed: ‘Churchill is a wonderful subject to write about. And I sort of was a bit nervous about writing about myself.
‘Whether anyone would be interested to read it, well we shall see.
‘I think it’s all me on the whole, it’s all my memories, and times that I had. I mean, it’s not all about my time with him.
‘It’s about my life in general, which, you know, may seem very conceited that anyone would want to read about it, but I hope they will.’
The memoir, said to contain unique insights and revelations about the former leader, was released on Tuesday on what would have been his 147th birthday.
She said: ‘People always want to ask what was it like having Winston Churchill as your grandfather.
Celia is the daughter of Sir Winston and Clementine Churchill’s eldest child, Diana and Cabinet Minister Duncan Sandys
‘But he was the only grandfather I knew, so I thought every grandfather was just like that. He loved being with his family, that’s what he really liked.’
She continued: ‘When we were children, we spent a lot of our holidays with our grandparents.
‘And so he would like to be sitting at the dining room table with as many of his family around as possible. We really enjoyed that and we would watch films after dinner.’
How Celia’s mother Diana witnessed some of history’s most defining moments – before suffering multiple break downs and dying by suicide
Diana Churchill was sensitive and shy growing into a vulnerable young women.
She never quite found her niche, marrying twice – first, aged 23, to John Milner Bailey, the son of a diamond tycoon.
The marriage only lasted less than two years.
In fact she once told her daughter she’d got into her first marriage expressly to escape the digestive demands at home.
She remarried her second husband Duncan Sandys in September 1935.
The following year, she was photographed by Tatler cradling their first child, Julian.
She also welcomed to more children, Edwina and Celia.
During the war, she worked doing welfare work at the Women’s Royal Naval Service’s headquarters.
However there were ongoing rumour about Duncan’s infidelity as he was away with the European Movement.
By 1953, Diana was suffering from mental-health problems.
She was treated by the well-known psychiatrist Dr Carl Lambert, who was at the time the ‘society shrink’.
She was taken into a London nursing home to recover.
However it was during this time that Winston suffered a severe stroke, and Diana began to sprial.
She became a patient at Crichton Royal, a pioneering psychiatric hospital in Scotland, where she underwent insulin shock therapy.
By 1957, matters improved, with Diana separating from Duncan and becoming involved with the Samaritans.
She began working five days a week with Reverend Chad Varah, head of the Samaritans.
Diana worked at the organisation for two years but on 19 October 1963, she died by suicide.
At the funeral, her cousin Anita Leslie described her as ‘the kindest, most gallant and touching person’.
In the autobiography, Sandys described how she had received a toast from Churchill and then-US president Roosevelt following news of her birth on May 18 1943.
Celia was always close to her grandfather, visiting him at his home of Chartwell from a young age.
She writes: ‘[We would] always went to say good morning to [their grandparents] in their separate bedrooms.
‘Surrounded by newspapers, his cat snuggled up beside him. Rufus the poodle running round the room and Toby the budgerigar sweeping in to share what titbits he could find to snatch we would find Grandpapa having his breakfast in bed.’
She recalled how he would ask: ‘Is the little redhead coming?’
She explained: ‘I mean he was a very lovely family man. He liked going for nice walks in the country and I used to go with him when he was painting. I spent quite a lot of time with him in the south of France, because I used to go and stay with him.
‘I was an available grandchild of an appropriate age and so I was lucky enough to be able to be available when the older ones were off doing other things and the younger ones were too young to spend a bit of time with him, so I was very lucky indeed.’
Meanwhile speaking to the International Churchill Society, she said: ‘My grandparents’ country home at Chartwell in Kent was a major and magical part of my childhood.
‘With my sister and brother I spent many holidays there, just as Winston had spent many holidays with his Marlborough grandparents at Blenheim. And to us Grandpapa wasn’t an awesome national figurehead.
‘He was the practical grandfather who’d devised all the waterworks for his goldfish pond and built the outdoor swimming pool which, far ahead of its time in the Fifties, he actually kept heated.
‘He laid bricks for the walled garden; he really adored the place. ‘A day away from Chartwell,’ he said, ‘is a day wasted’.’
She remembers her grandfather as ‘very warm and affectionate, so pleased to see his children and his grandchildren.
‘I think he really loved the idea of sitting at his dining room table and seeing all the family around him. He loved the idea of family in an almost dynastic sense.
‘Having just written about the first twenty years of his life I can quite see why; as a child he really had no family life to speak of.
‘His letters to his socially and politically preoccupied parents are full of longing to see more of them.
‘If he hadn’t been a lonely and rather unhappy boy, then I doubt that even as a Victorian child he’d have left such a vast childish correspondence.
‘Writing home so much was a plea for love, attention — and more money!’
In 1953, then aged-10 Celia recalls watching the Queen’s coronation procession from a balcony in Whitehall.
She penned: ‘We screamed with joy as Grandpapa leant right out of his carriage and waved to us with his hat’.
Winston with Diana and her husband Duncan Sandys at the Christening of their daughter Celia, 1943
Meanwhile she also reveals how as a teenager she would accompany Churchill on jaunts to the Mediterranean and attend lavish parties with the rich and famous hosted by Aristotle and Jackie Onassis on their superyacht
As the years passed, her bond with her grandfather continued to grow, and she was invited on jaunts across Europe with him.
Her first trip with him was aged sixteen, because she was an available grandchild of the right age.
The pair were guests of Onassis and his wife on his superyacht ‘Christina O’ sailing in the Mediterranean.
The boat was formerly a Canadian frigate which he spent $4million converting into a private vessel, complete with swimming pool, luxurious bedrooms and private bar.
It featured a mosaic floor in its swimming pool, private seaplane on the top deck and bar stools covered in whales’ foreskin.
She described: ‘My grandfather loved traveling on the Christina. He said ‘I’m a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best’.
Fellow guests included opera singer Maria Callas and her husband Italian musician Giovanni Battista Meneghini.
It was during one three-and-a-half week long trip that the affair between Onassis and Callas began.
Apparently Callas was unimpressed when rival Gracie Fields, came on board at Capri and sang Volare to Churchill.
She went on to serenade Celia’s grandfather with Daisy, Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do.
In 1953, then aged-10 Celia recalls watching the Queen’s coronation procession from a balcony in Whitehall (pictured with her parents Duncan and Clementine)
She also joined him on painting trips, where he enjoyed the Mediterranean sun and trips to the casino staying at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
During these visits to the continent, Churchill would slip out to gamble in the Casino via an underground passage connected to the hotel.
When in Monaco, he would stay in the penthouse suite of the hotel and would then spend thousands gambling whilst hiding his habit from his wife Clementine, who disapproved.
While Clementine hated his gambling habits, he would often pass on his winnings to Celia, asking her: ‘Are you all right for money?’
She previously described the hotel as ‘very luxurious’, telling viewers of a 2021 documentary: ‘[It was] 20 steps from the casino and beautiful views overlooking the sea and overlooking the harbour with all the wonderful yachts in it. It was absolutely amazing.’
Churchill would often lose money and would promise Clementine that he would stop, but would then continue his habit.
Meanwhile Celia was introduced to London society during an exhausting debutante season while she worked in the china department at Harrods.
It was then that she was found asleep on a pile of ramekins by her boss.
Churchill stayed at her coming-out ball till 2am, tapping his feet along to the music.
Speaking to the society, Celia revealed: ‘Ours was a very companionable relationship towards the end of his life. It was thrilling that he came to my coming-out party at Quagliano’s, though he didn’t dance.
‘It was a very peaceful time of his life: we’d go for a drive together. I’d watch him paint, or we’d just sit together and watch the sun go down over the Mediterranean. I adored him.’
As the years passed, her bond with her grandfather continued to grow, and she was invited on jaunts across Europe with him on Onassis’ private yacht (pictured)
Churchill and Celia would often holiday on the yacht with other celebrities including Onassis (pictured)
Fellow guests on the Christina O included opera singer Maria Callas and her husband Italian musician Giovanni Battista Meneghini
She also joined him on painting trips, where he enjoyed the Mediterranean sun and trips to the casino staying at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo
After her mother’s divorce, Celia remained living in Belgravia with her sister Edwina, with the sisters sharing the top floor of their home.
Their maid would return home from the weekends to ‘Black Monday’, where the dishes were piled high in the sink.
Celia noted: ‘We had no dishwasher, so when we ran out of plates we went out to eat at the Brompton Grill.’
However Celia’s life took a turn when she was just 20-year-sold, when her mother took her own life in 1963.
Celia, who now works as a journalist, author and TV presenter, has since married three times and had four children
Celia, who now works as a journalist, author and TV presenter, has since married three times and had four children
She took a long visit to Africa and remained there with her first husband, before leaving him after five years.
When her second marriage collapsed, she fell back on her enterprise and contacts to stay afloat.
Although she had no prior experience, she began interior designing and found a job working for a Lebanese banker who liked her political connections.
She went on to marry a third time in 1958, tying-the-knot with Major General Ken Perkins, a soldier who had worked his way up from the ranks.
Their divorce came many years later, in 2000.
She now works as trustee of the Churchill Centre, and founder and chairman of Churchill Leadership, an international company specializing in leadership development training.
Meanwhile she is also an internationally acclaimed author, journalist and television presenter.
Superyacht for the superstars! Aristotle Onassis’s Christina O, where he wined and dined with wife Jackie, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Churchill can be hired for $800k a week
If you have £545,000 to spare, you could enjoy for a week what the likes of Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas once had access to for free.
The Christina O super yacht, which started life as a Canadian military frigate before it was converted at a cost of £3million, can be chartered privately.
In her military guise, the boat was present at both the Battle of the Atlantic and Normandy landings.
But her association with political, film and real royalty began when the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis repurposed what was then HMCS Stormont after buying her at scrap value.
Christened in honour of his daughter, Onassis’s new celebrity attraction boasted a swimming pool which transformed into a dance floor; a cinema; a seaplane; opulent furnishings and even an operating theatre.
Hero British wartime PM Churchill, who became a friend of Onassis in his retirement, enjoyed himself on the Christina O; as did future US President John F Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963.
His widow Jackie became Onassis’s second wife and spent a lot of time on the ship, as did the soprano Maria Callas – who was the magnate’s mistress during his first marriage.
The ship also hosted the then former husband and wife Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and was the setting for the 1956 wedding reception of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco.
Onassis’s romantic relationship with Callas even began on the ship – during a three-week cruise between Monaco and Istanbul with her then husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini.
They were joined by an 85-year-old Churchill, his wife Clementine and his parakeet Toby. A black and white image shows Callas leaning down to talk to the former PM, who was clad in a sun hat.
In 2019, supermodel Heidi Klum followed in Kelly’s footsteps by marrying her husband Tom Kaulitz on the vessel.
If you have £545,000 to spare, you could enjoy for a week what the likes of Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas once had access to for free. The Christina O super yacht, which started life as a Canadian military frigate before it was converted at a cost of £3million, can be chartered privately
Christened in honour of his daughter, Onassis’s new celebrity attraction boasted a swimming pool which transformed into a dance floor (pictured); a cinema; a seaplane; opulent furnishings and even an operating theatre
The magnate’s original bar – complete with stools covered in leather made from the foreskins of mink whales and armrests made from the animals’ teeth – has been preserved in its entirety
Even today, the ship’s 325-foot length makes it the 45th largest yacht in the world. It has sleeping capacity for 34 guests in 17 cabins and can cruise with 157 visitors on board
Onassis bought the then anti-submarine frigate at scrap value in 1954. In today’s money, he spent around £10.5million converting it into the floating palace it became.
Even today, the ship’s 325-foot length makes it the 45th largest yacht in the world. It has sleeping capacity for 34 guests in 17 cabins and can cruise with 157 visitors on board.
Onassis’s extravagant tastes saw him fit a sunken bath decorated with flying fish and fitted with golden dolphin-shaped taps.
Although these features have now gone, the magnate’s original bar – complete with stools covered in leather made from the foreskins of mink whales and armrests made from the animals’ teeth – has been preserved in its entirety.
Onassis made millions of dollars from whaling as part of his business activities.
As for Onassis’s dance floor, it sinks to form a deep swimming pool which is filled by sea water.
Churchill, who spent a lot of time in Monte Carlo in the 1950s and 1960s after his second stint as PM, enjoyed Onassis’s hospitality on the ship on several occasions.
His granddaughter Celia Sandys said in a Channel 5 documentary about the war hero: ‘My grandfather loved traveling on the Christina.
Hero British wartime PM Churchill, who became a friend of Onassis in his retirement, enjoyed successive cruises on the Christina O; as did future US President John F Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Pictured: The former PM in 1961 with Onassis (third from left), on the younger man’s super yacht the Christina O
A photo taken in March 1975 shows Richard Burton (front right) and Elizbeth Taylor (far left), who had divorced nearly a year earlier, enjoying the magnate’s company on the ship (Onassis pictured next to Taylor). Burton and Taylor were to remarry just seven months later, before divorcing for a second and final time in July 1976
Jackie Kennedy, John F Kennedy’s widow, went on to marry Onassis in 1968. Pictured: Kennedy is seen wearing a headscarf as she sits on the yacht with Onassis standing behind her
Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy are seen on the Christina O shortly before sailing to Martinique in 1969, a year after their wedding
Trace of Jackie Kennedy’s one-time presence is hard to come by today. Onassis is said to have blocked her from changing anything on board the ship. Pictured: Kennedy on the yacht in 1971, off the coast of Sardinia
‘He said ‘I’m a man of simple tastes, easily satisfied by the best’.
Historian Allen Packwood, the director of the Churchill Archives, said in the same programme that Churchill was ‘something of a trophy for O’Nassis’, who could give ‘the luxury escape that he needs’.
In the last decade of his life, Churchill enjoyed seven cruises with Onassis.
But it wasn’t just Churchill who the billionaire entertained.
A photo taken in March 1975 shows Richard Burton and Elizbeth Taylor, who had divorced nearly a year earlier, enjoying the magnate’s company on the ship.
Burton and Taylor were to remarry just seven months later, before divorcing for a second and final time in July 1976.
As for Jackie Kennedy, the couple married in 1968, six years after her husband was shot dead in Dallas.
Up until that year, Onassis had enjoyed a ten-year relationship with Maria Callas.
That relationship started in 1959, a year before he split from his first wife, Tina Livanos.
Both Callas and Kennedy were also pictured on the ship.
In her military guise as HMCS Stormont (pictured), the boat was present at both the Battle of the Atlantic and Normandy landings
Onassis’s romantic relationship with singer Maria Callas even began on the ship – during a three-week cruise between Monaco and Istanbul with her then husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini in 1959. They were joined by an 85-year-old Churchill, his wife Clementine and his parakeet Toby. Pictured: Onassis (far left), Churchill (back seated), Callas (seated right) and Meneghini (far right) aboard Christina O
A black and white image taken at the end of the three-week cruise shows Callas leaning down to talk to the former PM, who was clad in a sun hat
In the last decade of his life, Churchill enjoyed seven cruises with Onassis. Pictured: Churchill on board the yacht in 1959 with Onassis’s daughter Christina, who inspired its name
Churchill spent a lot of time with Onassis (left), who was one of the world’s richest men and the future husband of Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of assassinated US President John F Kennedy. Alan Packwood, the curator of the Churchill Archives, said that Churchill was ‘something of a trophy for O’Nassis’, who could give ‘the luxury escape that he needs’
When in the South of France, Churchill would cruise the Mediterranean on Onassis’s superyacht. Pictured: Churchill walks up the boat’s gangplank, closely followed by his grandson
Wearing a white stetson, Churchill waves to the crowds as he boards the Christina O in Monte Carlo with Onnasis’s first wife, Tina, in 1958
When Callas was joined by her then husband for a three-week cruise on the Christina O in 1959, the couple were reportedly so close that they prayed together and coordinated outfits.
Along with Churchill, his wife Clementine and his pet parrot, the party sailed between Monaco and Istanbul.
During one dinner, Callas is said to have fed Churchill ice cream from her plate.
Callas and Onassis, who were both night owls, stayed up late talking – sparking the romance which saw the opera singer’s marriage end.
Today, guests who pay to charter the vessel are treated to the sound of Callas’s voice.
But trace of Jackie Kennedy’s one-time presence is harder to come by.
Onassis is said to have blocked her from changing anything on board the ship.
After Onassis’s death in 1975, the Christina O passed first to his daughter and then to the Greek government in 1978, where it was used as a presidential yacht.
With the Greeks unable or unwilling to afford its high maintenance costs, the ship fell into disrepair and was looted.
It was then rescued in the late 1990s and has since been refitted multiple times – although Onassis’s bar and swimming pool survived the renovations.
During the high season in July and August, the Christina O costs £545,000 (€630,000) per week to rent out through chartering firm Morley Yachts. Pictured: One of the communal areas on the ship, complete with a bust of Churchill
One of the plush living spaces on the yacht is adorned with photographs of former guests and hosts one of the ship’s grand pianos
In the low season – April, May, June, September and October – prices are reduced to £484,000 (€560,000). Pictured: A photo of Marilyn Monroe – who also stayed on the Christina O – sits on a side table
Stunning photos show its enormous dining room, two grand pianos, Onassis’s bar and a spiral staircase. Pictured: The staircase
One of the ship’s grand pianos is seen in the lounge next to a picture of former guest Grace Kelly. The Hollywood star and her husband Prince Rainier of Monaco had their wedding reception on the vessel in 1956
The swimming pool which doubles up as a dance floor is now surrounded by posters which boast about the boat’s stunning history
The ship can be rented out for corporate events, wedding anniversaries, birthdays or just to cruise. Pictured: The plush yacht is seen from above
Guests can relax in a jacuzzi on board the ship, or relax on the sun beds dotted around the deck
Onassis bought the then anti-submarine frigate at scrap value in 1954. In today’s money, he spent around £10.5million converting it into the floating palace it became. Pictured: The boat is seen shortly after its conversion
Staff are seen working in Christina O’s kitchen in 1961. They would likely have prepared food for Churchill during his many visits
Onassis is seen on the ship in 1954. Among the guests are a group of nuns, who are wearing their white habits
Onassis’s whale bar is seen in 1961. On the walls are four antique guns. The bar continues to entertain guests today
During the high season in July and August, the Christina O costs £545,000 (€630,000) per week to rent out through chartering firm Morley Yachts.
In the low season – April, May, June, September and October – prices are reduced to £484,000 (€560,000).
Stunning photos show its enormous dining room, two grand pianos, Onassis’s bar and a spiral staircase.
The boat is also fitted with ‘toys’ including jet skis, kayaks and a ‘flyboard’ – which sees guests stand on a platform as they are propelled into the air on jets of water.
Heidi Klum tied the knot with her husband Tom Kaulitz on the vessel in August 2019.ictures showed her on the ship’s deck in a billowing ivory gown adorned with sequinned flowers.
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