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Love notes with an Indian link

London, Nov. 24: More than 40 personal and affectionate letters written by Winston Churchill to Pamela Plowden, the first great love of his life, are to be sold at Christie’s on December 2.

They range from his first efforts to engage her interest when he was a 21-year-old officer in India to the mellow affection of old age, recalling in 1950 that he had proposed to her exactly 50 years before.

But Pamela, whose father was the governor of Bengal and acting viceroy of India, married the second Lord Lytton of Knebworth House, Herts.

Churchill also married another but his friendship with Pamela remained constant throughout the years. For at least three years, she was the most important person in his life. He wrote constantly.

The handwritten letters from various addresses are being sold individually. The estimates range from £1,000 to £25,000-35,000.

When he first met her at a polo match in India in 1896, it was love at first sight. “She is,” he wrote to his mother, “the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. We are going to try and do the city of Hyderabad together — on an elephant.”

The relationship in its early years was hampered partly by his lack of income and clear prospects, whereas she was the daughter of a leading official in India. But by the time of his Boer War excursion as a correspondent, they were very close.

When he escaped, Pamela’s response was direct. Her telegram read tersely: “Thank God — Pamela.” Before he returned, Churchill’s mother wrote to him: “Pamela is devoted to you and, if your love has grown as hers, I have no doubt it is only a question of time for you 2 to marry.”

But the relationship had its ups and downs. In one letter, she suggested he was incapable of affection but he replied: “I shall be constant. My love is deep and strong. Nothing will ever change it. I might, it is true, divide it. But the greatest part would remain true — will remain true until death.”

After his marriage, he remained on affectionate terms with Pamela and continued to write to her for the rest of his life.

Their correspondence ends in 1961 with an ember of his past affection. “It is very nice to see your handwriting again.” Churchill died four years later.

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