BLENHEIM Palace may be steeped in history, but an 89-year-old baroness brought the past alive as no other surviving member of the Churchill family could.

Mary Soames, the youngest and only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, once produced a compelling biography of her mother.

But on Sunday she returned to her father’s birthplace to tell A Daughter’s Tale, to borrow the title of her new memoir.

At The Independent Woodstock Literary Festival, where she spoke to a packed audience in the palace’s Orangery, she told of her encounters with Stalin and General de Gaulle, her memories of wartime service in the mixed anti-aircraft batteries, and a childhood played out in Chartwell, her family’s home in Kent.

But mostly she spoke of what it was like to be the daughter of one of the greatest men of the 20th century.

“I started to see how other people regarded my father, and naturally that had an effect on me,” she said.

“I suddenly realised people looked at my father in quite a different way. They relied on him.”

She was 17 when the Second World War broke out, but her vivid memories extended long before then. When her parents moved into 11 Downing Street, on Churchill’s appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1924, she recalled being scolded for pouring water from a window on to the head of a police officer standing outside.

“I was tremendously loved and spoilt. One of the people I remember most was Lawrence of Arabia who came to Chartwell, in the days when he had changed his name to Aircraftman Shaw. He would arrive with a great roar on his motorcycle.

“One day when he was staying my father told me to come downstairs in my dressing gown before dinner because there was a surprise for me. And there was my friend in the robes of a Prince of Arabia. It was something I’ve never forgotten.”

In her book, Lady Soames, who lives in London, shared his daughter’s love of animals. But his study and bedroom, where he often worked, were no-go areas.

“No noise – whistling particularly was abhorred – outside Papa’s study was permitted. A thunderous roar of rebuke and reproach would result from any infraction.”

Her father would take Mary, his youngest child, to visit friends such as David Lloyd George.

“I was immediately struck by the great man’s white locks, his animation and his celebrated Celtic charm.”

Many years later she joined her father on one of his meetings with the Russian dictator Stalin.

“He was much smaller than I thought he was going to be. He had a most beautiful uniform – cream serge material. It was most elegant. He had the most twinkly eyes.

”My father received news of the death of a great friend while they were together. Stalin told him ‘The death of an individual is always a tragedy. With millions it’s just a statistic’.”

She confessed to still being able to continue a life packed with family, social and romantic events during the war.

“I remember when I looked back at my diaries that we once arrived to dance at the Cafe de Paris and found ambulances and fire brigades and that it had been blown up – so we went to find somewhere else to dance. That shocks me deeply now. Young people always want to have fun.

“Looking through the diaries, it was sometimes pretty embarrassing.”

Fears that Prime Minister’s retreat Chequers might be targeted by Nazi bombers resulted in Ditchley in Oxfordshire becoming a regular weekend retreat for the Churchills.

Lady Soames would travel by train to Oxford before heading to the grand house, just down the road from Blenheim. Ditchley was to be the scene of one of the great dramas of her life, showing how her private life was conducted against background of earth-shaking events.

Much to her parents’ displeasure she had become engaged to Eric Duncannon, an officer in a county regiment whom she had met at an RAF dance. Her mother demanded that the wedding was put off.

Clementine commandeered President Roosevelt’s representative, Averell Harriman, to take her for a walk in the grounds, while her mother went to break the news to the distraught Eric that the wedding was off.

In the midst of the romantic crisis came news that Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of the Nazi Party, had landed by parachute near Glasgow.

“So mountains and molehills acquired their proper proportions,” she now reflects.

After the war she would marry Captain Christopher Soames, later Lord Soames, with whom she would have five children. Her husband died in 1987.

Many in Sunday’s audience doubtless left reflecting on what she revealed to be an abiding fear.

“I was always afraid of boring my father,” she said. “It was always a great treat arriving home, but I just didn’t want to bore him.”

The Daughter’s Tale by Mary Soames is published by Doubleday (£25).