National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons

Electronic Newsletter, April, 2001



DATE: APRIL 29, 2001

Our Washington Luncheon this year was a great success. Highlighted by a moving and illuminating speech by Arabella Churchill, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill KG, 106 members and guests of the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons came from 25 states. I am pleased to include with this Newsletter the text of letters from the President of the United States and the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia as well as Arabella Churchill's speech.

I am delighted to report that our Society is doing extremely well and to present our seventh Electronic Newsletter, concerning our Annual Luncheon. I plan to send an additional Electronic Newsletter next month with additional information.

Please visit our WebSite  News Page and Table of Contents. Please E-mail us using the Feedback Page. The link to the Newsletter on the WebSite is:

If you are not a member of our Society and are eligible I hope that you will join. If you are not eligible but share our interest in history and genealogy we encourage you to remain on our Email list. We also welcome your participation in our ongoing genealogical research projects.

Letter from the President of the United States

The White House


April 12, 2001

I send warm greetings to the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons on the occasion of your annual luncheon and in particular to your guest speaker, Arabella Churchill.

I am honored to join you in welcoming to Washington this granddaughter of the great Anglo-American statesman Sir Winston Churchill, to whom freedom-loving peoples everywhere owe such a great debt. Sir Winston is held in the highest esteem in the United States. America recently demonstrated its deep respect for this historic world leader by commissioning a U.S. Navy warship, the U.S.S. Winston S. Churchill.

I salute the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons for its commitment to memorializing the Magna Charta. This document provided the fundamental guarantee of rights and liberties in English law. We recognize this great document as the inspiration for many of the liberties we enjoy in America. Best wishes to all of you for an enjoyable visit to our Nation’s Capital.

/s/ George W. Bush

Letter from the Mayor of Philadelphia

"Whereas....Arabella Churchill, the granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, K.G. and a member of the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons, will be visiting Philadelphia as the guest speaker for the national society's annual luncheon.

Educated at Ladymead and Fritham House, she is the Founder and Director of the Children's World Charity in England. The Children's World Charity has been working continuously for 20 years with special schools throughout Somerset and Avon, providing drama participation workshops, music and dance workshops, puppetry and creative play for children with special needs. These needs include severe learning difficulties as well as emotional and behavioral challenges.

Ms. Churchill also runs the Theatre and Circus Fields at the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. This Festival stages more than 1,000 theatre and circus performances, workshops and events over a weekend. Last year 85,000 people attended the Festival. Started in 1971 as a free event, the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts has grown to become the most successful music and arts festival in Europe.

The National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons was instituted in 1909 to honor the principles of constitutional liberty embodied in the Magna Charta and to perpetuate the memory of those who compelled King John to grant the Magna Charta. Through her involvement with the arts as a creative and learning tool, Ms. Churchill will be able to bring new insights into the role that democracy plays in our creative lives, and further enhance our understanding of the many facets of the Magna Charta.

Now, therefore....I, John F. Street, Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, do hereby extend a warm and cordial welcome to Arabella Churchill as she visits Philadelphia to address the National Society Magna Charta Dames and Barons during the Society's national luncheon in our City of Brotherly Love and sisterly affection.... /s/ John F. Street, Mayor. Given under my hand and the Seal of the City of Philadelphia, this fourteenth day of April, two thousand and one."

Speech by Arabella Churchill for the Society of Magna Charta Dames and Barons Easter Monday, April 16, 2001

Mr. Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to be here on this Easter Monday to address the Annual Luncheon of the National Society of Magna Charta Dames and Barons.

Thank you, Ted, for your kind remarks and I thank Ted and Carol for the tremendous hospitality they have shown us over this last weekend in Philadelphia. We have had a very enjoyable and very amusing and interesting time. Thank you very much.

Some of you I have also had the pleasure of meeting before today; some of you in Philadelphia over the weekend and several of you at Chartwell, the lovely house in Kent, where my grandfather, Sir Winston Churchill, lived for so many years. It’s really nice to see you again.

While it’s not the most architecturally beautiful of houses, Chartwell, where my grandfather used to live in Kent, has the most fantastic position - its situated on the side of a valley overlooking the "Garden of England" - you can see for miles without an ugly object in sight which is very rare now a days in England I am sad to say - my grandfather always said he had bought the house for the view.

The very earliest parts of the house date from the 16th century, but many additions have been made over the years, particularly in Victorian times. My grandfather made some very large scale additions, adding three beautiful enormous, light and airy rooms, when he purchased the property in 1922.

These additions were very costly. Although my grandfather earned large sums of money, at times, with his writings, we have never been a rich family - and my poor Grandmother, who had Scottish blood, and was far more circumspect than my Grandpapa, was terrified that he was going to bankrupt the entire family by these extravagant additions, by the swimming pool and the lakes he created in the valley.

Chartwell is now owned by the National Trust, and they keep it beautifully, it really is lovely, all the beautiful interior decoration that my grandmother did, and she had exquisite taste, has been maintained in perfect condition and her favorite flowers are placed every day in rooms, all fresh and beautiful; the newspapers are laid out daily on the tables, and it really does still feel like a family home where Grandpapa could walk into the room at any moment.

He was a man of immense character, capabilities, charisma and charm - a great believer in freedom - and I treasure Chartwell, and visit the house and gardens there as often as I can because they still hold a strong "aura" of Winston Churchill in the air:

- in the sun-flooded dining room where so many fascinating conversations and discussions have taken place over the years,

- in the studio where he painted so many fine pictures,

- in the kitchen garden where he built so many of the walls himself with his own hands, he was very proud of his brick laying skills and he actually became a member of the brick layers union - it was a matter of some pride to him - he could build extremely good walls;

- I remember him also in the swimming pool, into which he used to belly flop gleefully, like a large white porpoise,

- in his small bedroom where I used to visit him, surrounded by dog, cat and budgerigar, the bed piled high with newspapers, as he ate his breakfast,

- and, most of all, I remember him in his large beamed study where he paced the floor, late into the nights, dictating to a team of secretaries as he created his great biographies and histories, his many newspaper articles and his wonderful speeches.

He had a great grasp of the English language and he was blessed with the gift of oratory. His wartime speeches reached the hearts and souls of every British man, woman and child, reassuring them that the fight they were waging was honorable and true, and strengthening them in their resolve to maintain their freedom and "never surrender" to the tyranny of Hitler.

Unlike my grandfather, I am afraid I am not a great orator, and, indeed, I am not much used to public speaking - so please, don’t expect a proper "speech" - but I am more than delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you today to try and link together the threads between my grandfather, Magna Charta, rights and freedoms for men, women and children - and then to link these with the work that I undertake in England with the Children's World Charity.

In 1956 Winston Churchill wrote of the Magna Charta: "Here is a law which is above the King, and which even he must not break. The reaffirmation of a supreme law and its expression in a general charter is the great work of Magna Charta; and this alone justifies the respect in which men have held it…."

When King John went to Runnymede in 1215 to meet his Barons to discuss their grievances and, in order to prevent a civil war, agreed to seal a Great Charter, the Magna Charta, a real step forward was taken in English and in World history.

Although the first version applied only to the rights of the Barons, the formal version of Magna Charta issued on 19 June 1215 had a minor but vital word change, replacing the term "any baron" with the term "any freeman" in stipulating to whom the provisions and freedoms applied.

This word change, over time, helped justify the application of the Charter's provisions to a greater part of the population. While freemen were a minority in 13th Century England, the term would eventually include all English, just as "We, the People" has come to mean all Americans in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In its principles and subsequent interpretations the Magna Charta was to have a profound and significant influence on rights and freedoms, not only in England in the 13th Century but across much of the civilized world for centuries to come.

Before the penning of the Declaration of Independence, in 1776, the Founding Fathers searched for an historical precedent for asserting their rightful liberties from King George III and the English Parliament. They found it in Magna Charta - a momentous achievement for the English Barons and, nearly six centuries later, an inspiration for angry American colonists.

As your forefathers developed legal codes for the colonies, many incorporated liberties guaranteed by Magna Charta and by the 1689 English Bill of Rights directly into their own statutes.

By the 1760's the colonists had come to believe that in America, they were creating a place that adopted the best of the British system, but adapted to new circumstances; a place where a person could rise by merit, not birth; a place where men could voice their opinions and actively share in self-government.

When it became clear to the colonists that they would have to fight for their rights, the seal adopted by Massachusetts on the eve of the Revolution summed up the mood - a militiaman with sword in one hand and Magna Charta in the other.

Ideas about freedom and rights grow and progress with time, and what developed from Magna Charta in America were the wonderful beliefs stated in the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

I don't think such a noble truth has ever been put down in such simple but stirring language - it's truly wonderful!

I well remember my grandfather quoting those words to me when I was young girl - and I remember being very moved by the force and belief with which he declaimed the words - because large truths always moved him very deeply.

Winston Churchill loved America - as you probably know, his mother, the beautiful Jennie Jerome, was American. Once, when addressing Congress, he joked that if his father had been American and his mother had been English, rather than the other way around, he might have gained a place in Congress himself!

He thought very highly of America and of its freedoms. He loved your President Roosevelt very much, and, of course, he and the entire British nation were deeply grateful for America's vital support during the dark days of World War Two.

He was delighted and deeply honored when he was granted Honorary Citizenship of the United States of America, and that, along with the Order of the Garter, he regarded as his highest honor.

There is a fundamental drive for freedom and liberty within humans. Grandpapa had this fundamental drive in particularly strong measure. Throughout his long life he believed in, and constantly upheld, the ideals of freedom and liberty - and worked continuously towards improving the rights of the common man.

Everyone knows about his leadership during World War Two, and his speeches which instilled conviction, hope and courage into the hearts of the British people and indeed the hearts of other nations, so that they would "never surrender" their fight for the freedom of Britain, Europe and the "free world".

But not so many people know about his efforts for social reform during his long life. For example, it was Churchill who brought in legislation for that very English institution the "tea break" into the working man's day. In 1897 he instituted working men's compensation and in 1910 state-sponsored insurance schemes for sickness, unemployment and old age.

As Home Secretary his prison reforms were very advanced for the period, providing lectures, concerts and decent aftercare for prisoners, and the very first principal of his 1910 Prison Reform Act was "to prevent many people from getting to prison at all."

And there were many more instances throughout his long life where he was really was trying to improve the lot of the common man.

Because, unlike many leaders, Churchill had great empathy with the man in the street, and he never lost sight of the ideal concept of democracy - it was his constant guiding light.

In 1947 he wrote: "We hold that there ought to be a constant relationship between the rulers and the people. Government of the people, by the people, for the people, still remains the sovereign definition of democracy."

Rights for women have developed more slowly than rights for men. It was only after the First World War that women in England gained the right to vote.

Even now, on the whole, women are more poorly paid than men, and find it harder to achieve positions of real power - but hopefully the improvements that were made in this area in the last century will continue to develop and grow in the new millennium.

Rights for children have developed even more slowly. 1979 was designated International Year of the Child, and steps were taken to try to secure more rights for children throughout the world. Much more work needs to be done in the field of children's rights - particularly in under-developed parts of the world.

My special interest is in the rights of children, particularly those who are born with, or develop, disabilities - and who have "special needs".

In 1981 I founded the Children's World Charity to provide educational, creative and social benefits for all children - with particular reference to children who have special needs. I still work as full-time Director of the Charity, which celebrates its 20th birthday next month.

Since its inception Children's World has run more than 100,000 child-sessions of drama, dance, music and creative play with children who have special needs at special schools throughout the South West of England.

Children's World now undertakes work with all abilities of children - from "able" mainstream children right through to children who have profound and multiple difficulties, including those with emotional and behavioral disorders.

All children deserve art and creativity in their lives, and Children's World runs regular workshops in schools and special schools for all ages and abilities of children, who benefit tremendously from the creativity, stimulation and fun that Children's World provides.

In the past, "Special needs" children rarely met with normal children in the course of their school or social life, and so, 15 years ago, we started Integrational Workshop Weeks, working for a week at a time with children from special needs schools and their neighboring mainstream schools giving able children and not so able children unique opportunity to come together and to play and create together.

We believe that children with special needs should have the right to such opportunities - and Children's World's integrational work, offering safe and enjoyable opportunities for all abilities of children to work, create and play happily together, has been tremendously well received and appreciated by schools and special schools alike.

There are so many benefits really, educational, creative, social, increased self-confidence is a particularly strong one and fun; the other great thing which came out of the integrational workshops is that the normal mainstream children came out of our projects with a far more positive attitude towards disability, which we really hope will remain with them as they grow up and will help create a fairer world.

It’s sad enough that some children are born with disabilities - it’s far far worse when those children are then teased, or bullied, or excluded from society.

Happily, in England, more and more children with special needs are now being moved from special schools into mainstream education. This is an excellent thing, but much more money needs to be put into the process if it is to work well for all children.

Children's World is currently running a very exciting Inclusion Project, working with mainstream schools to help them develop really good "Whole School Inclusion Policies".

David Blunkett, who is Britain's Education Minister has said: "When a school embraces Inclusion wholeheartedly, then the benefits are felt by all the children." Children’s World believes that to be true, and we are doing all we can to make it a reality.

Our exciting and innovative drama and discussion workshops on the negative aspects of "name-calling", "bullying" and "exclusion" and the positive aspects of "friendship", "co-operation" and "making things work for everyone" are bringing real benefits to children in local schools, so that all members of a school are working together to make school as happy and positive an experience as it can be for everyone.

We really hope that the inclusion work we are currently undertaking will prove to be replicable, so that eventually it will bring benefits to children all over the country.

This all sounds a bit serious and dreary- I would like to say that actually the work of Children’s World despite the fact that it is very serious and has serious aims and achieves serious results, is tremendous FUN!

We work on it being fun, because we believe strongly that when children are having "fun", they are far more open to educational learning, to creativity and to the better aspects of their natures, which we wish to cherish and nurture.

We do have some copies of the Annual Report which are over by the door. Please take one if you would like to know more about the work of Children’s World Charity.

People sometimes say, "How wonderful you are to work for children in this way!" I have to say it isn’t wonderful of me at all! If anything it's selfish - I get just as much back out of Children's World as Children's World gets out of me. I feel very grateful to have such a fascinating rewarding job where I have the opportunity of working and feeling of use. It gives a real purpose to my life, it gives me something to get up in the morning for, makes me leap out of bed.

It's great to have something to believe in and it’s great to have something to fight for! Children's World believes that the rights of children to develop their potential is restricted and restrained in many ways - sometimes by their environment and sometimes by their disabilities. The aim of the charity is to push for more rights and freedoms for children, and to assist all children in rising above their restraints and disabilities.

I am very proud to be the granddaughter of Winston Churchill, who did so much for the causes of freedom and democracy in his long life. His memory and, I believe, his genes, spur me on, to achieve what I can, in my own small way, in trying to push for more rights for children, and assisting children to achieve their full potential in a fairer world.

And, of course, you and I should all be very proud of our common ancestors who brought into being the Magna Charta, the symbol of freedom which has done so much over the centuries to create human rights throughout the world.

But we must not rest on our laurels. Sadly there are still many many inequalities in the world today and many lacks of freedom. On this Easter Monday may I urge you to choose a worthwhile cause -there are so many and they all need help - and continue the work of your ancestors of whom you are justly proud. Take a cause, make it your own, promote it, do what needs to be done - and keep the wheels of freedom and the best sort of progress rolling forward - so that a fairer and better world can be created for everyone in the new Millennium.

Thank you very much for listening, and may I wish you a happy Easter.


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Best wishes.

I hope that each of you are well. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or suggestions. 

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