• Weird History

Helena Bonham Carter's Grandmother Was Even Cooler Than The Quirky Actress

Helena Bonham Carter has crafted a reputation for being a one-of-a-kind actor who never lets the world define her. But the life of her grandmother Lady Violet Bonham Carter shows that being bold, brave, and bright is apparently a family trait.

Born Violet Asquith in 1887 to an earl and future prime minister, she was part of Britain's highest political circle. As a young woman, Violet befriended Winston Churchill. Their friendship lasted until his passing in 1965.

But her life was more than her relationships with influential men. Her marriage to Maurice Bonham Carter in 1915 may have changed her surname, but it did not slow down her activism. Committed to justice and democratic principles, Lady Violet remained politically active until the end of her life in 1969.

  • She Was Winston Churchill's Best Friend

    Violet Asquith first met 32-year-old Winston Churchill - the future British prime minister - at a dinner party in 1906 when she was 19. She later recalled how Churchill "seemed to me quite different from any other young man I had ever met."

    Violet and Churchill became fast, lifelong friends. After Churchill passed in 1965, she published the book Winston Churchill As I Knew Him.

    Rumors have long swirled that Violet harbored romantic feelings for Churchill. She later clarified, "I had not been in love - though I could not have loved him more - [and] - our relationship was an intimacy of minds - [and] words [and] an emotional one."

  • Photo: William Orpen / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Was One Of Hitler's Most Wanted

    Lady Violet watched in horror as political tensions rose in Germany during the 1930s. As she remarked shortly after the Führer's rise to power:

    In Germany freedom as we conceive it seems to have perished in the last few weeks, in the twinkling of an eye, almost without a struggle, and given place to a nightmare reign of force [...] I can truthfully say that nothing within my political memory has ever moved me more deeply to horror and indignation than recent events in Germany.

    Lady Violet also spoke out against anti-Semitism. She wrote Child Victims of the New Germany: A Protest in 1934, and supported Jewish refugees.

    For her outspoken resistance and connection to Winston Churchill, Lady Violet landed in the German leader's so-called "black book," a list of anti-nationalist and pacifist Britons he wanted to detain as soon as Germany entered into Britain. The incursion never materialized.

  • Photo: Raymond Asquith (?) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    She Was The First Female President Of The UK's Liberal Party

    When Violet was born in 1887, British women did not have the right to vote. Although she lacked the vote for some time, she was never politically silent.

    Lady Violet followed in her father's footsteps and supported the Liberal Party. Though never elected to Parliament, she remained active in the Liberal Party. Lady Violet cracked the glass ceiling when she became the party's first female president in 1945. 

  • Her Father Was A Prime Minister

    Violet's father was one of the most prominent politicians in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century. Herbert Henry Asquith served as prime minister from 1908 to 1916. 

    As leader of the Liberal Party, Asquith championed social reforms. His politics shaped his daughter's, and she promoted Liberal policies throughout adulthood.

    But it wasn't a one-way relationship. Lady Violet often spoke her mind to Asquith, and he valued her opinions.