Jane Williams, Lady Williams of Elvel: 11 December 1929 – 15 July 2023

Photo: Lord and Lady Williams, at Martin’s memorial, November 2015

425 words / 2 minute read

It seems that these pages these days have focussed on people we have recently lost.  I have been fortunate to have met, for the most part through Martin, individuals who have made a difference not only to their families and friends, colleagues and communities, but to the wider world, and to historical memory.

Dolek Liebeskind, who led a Jewish revolt in Cracow in 1942, remarked a few weeks before he was killed, “we are doing this for three lines in the history books.”  Martin told me whenever he wrote about Liebeskind he made sure to give him at least four lines.  The people in these newsletter webpages that honour them would have registered even more than four lines in Martin’s life and writings.  They made history and thus they were important sources of history.

Among them is the late Lady Williams of Elvel, Jane Williams, formerly Jane Portal who became Churchill’s secretary in 1949, his last secretary.  In Martin’s book In Search of Churchill, he dedicates a chapter to what he learned from Churchill’s secretaries, many of whom he knew, corresponded with, and mined material for his Churchill biography from their letters and diaries.  The secretary I had the honour of knowing was Jane Williams.  She was a lady in every sense of the word, not only as the wife of Lord Charles Williams of Elvel, and the mother of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby of whom she was enormously proud.  She was gracious, caring in her relationships and dedicated in her efforts to ensure that history was accurately portrayed.

Regarding Winston Churchill, Jane was determined that the beliefs that Churchill was a hard taskmaster and a difficult individual were entirely false and spurious.  She worked hard to ensure that his legacy was not tarnished by these accusations, and to do her utmost to ensure that books about him be as accurate and truthful as possible.  Jane came to Churchill when he  was leader of the Opposition and busy writing his war memoirs.  She stayed with him throughout his second premiership.  She was both a witness to history, and helped to transcribe it.

Jane Williams understood how Martin’s history of Churchill was accurate and fair.  The two of them depended on each other to do what they could to ensure Churchill’s legacy was accurate and fair.  Not only have we lost a great lady and a dear friend to those who believe in what Martin called “true history”,  we have lost a lady who lived history and helped to make it.

Read: In Search of Churchill 

mg-social-icons-face mg-social-icons-twi mg-social-icons-yt

 Subscribe to Sir Martin’s Newsletter & Book Club