Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, dies in London at the age of 90.
Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving in a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s first lord of the admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war that he foresaw.
In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and he was excluded from the war coalition government. He resigned and volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France. However, in 1917, he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of Nazi and Japanese aggression.
After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill was called back to his post as first lord of the admiralty and eight months later replaced the ineffectual Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that crushed the Axis.
In July 1945, 10 weeks after Germany’s defeat, his Conservative government suffered a defeat against Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, and Churchill resigned as prime minister. He became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches; he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1955, he retired as prime minister but remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.
READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Winston Churchill
Grandson of Winston Churchill Dies After Battle With Cancer
LONDON – Winston Spencer Churchill, a former member of Parliament and grandson of Britain's wartime leader, died Tuesday, an associate said. He was 69.
Churchill had been suffering from cancer and died at his London home, said Cmdr. John Muxworthy, president of the United Kingdom National Defense Association.
Churchill was a member of the House of Commons from 1970 to 1997. Earlier he had been a foreign correspondent for The Times of London, The Daily Telegraph and other papers.
He was a founder of the Defense Association, which campaigned for greater support for Britain's armed forces.
"A true patriot, WSC followed in the steps of his grandfather, Sir Winston, who, in the 1930s campaigned ceaselessly for this country to rearm in the face of the ever-growing threat from Nazi Germany," Muxworthy said. "Eighty years on, our Winston has been fighting the same battle."
Churchill was born in October 1940 at Chequers, the prime minister's official country residence, shortly after Royal Air Force pilots prevailed in the Battle of Britain. During it, Hitler's Luftwaffe was prevented from destroying Britain's air defenses or forcing the country to negotiate an armistice.
He was the son of Randolph Churchill and Pamela Digby, who scandalized London society with her affairs and who, in later life, as Pamela Harriman, became U.S. ambassador to France. The parents divorced in 1945.
"I never knew my parents together, so their split meant nothing to me," Churchill said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2008. "But it did mean I got a great deal of grandparental sunlight."
He recalled staying at Chartwell, his grandfather's home southeast of London, and finding the old man "wreathed in cigar smoke with a whisky and soda already on his table" in the morning. The drink, he added, was very weak.
"Each afternoon, we'd spend a couple of hours together, laying bricks. If anyone had asked me what my grandfather did, I'd have said: He's a bricklayer,"' Churchill recalled.
In his autobiography, "Memories and Adventures," Churchill said his famous name could be a burden, especially when he was in school at Eton. He told of bullies swearing at him, then saying: "And take this for being Winston-bloody-Churchill!"
Young Winston's career in journalism began with an unpaid job as a copyreader at The Wall Street Journal. Following his graduation from Oxford University, he covered conflicts in Yemen, the Congo, Angola, Vietnam and Biafra. He also recalled being attacked by Chicago police officers at the raucous Democratic Party convention in 1968.
He was elected as a Conservative to represent Stretford in Lancashire in 1970, serving that district until 1983. During that period he effectively killed his chances for advancement by defying Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and voting against sanctions against white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Churchill subsequently represented Manchester Davyhulme from 1983 until 1997.
In 1979, he was embroiled in scandal over his two-year affair with Soraya Khashoggi, the former wife of a Saudi arms dealer.
The affair came to light during a sensational prosecution of three police officers for blackmailing Khashoggi. A defense lawyer had claimed police were investigating Khashoggi because she was involved with a politician, subsequently identified as Churchill.
He also drew criticism in 1995 after selling his grandfather's personal papers to the nation for 12.5 million pounds ($20 million).
"Although the trustees could have got significantly more on the world market, it was their and my specific wish that the papers should not be offered in the open market but should remain in this country," Churchill said at the time.
Churchill is survived by two daughters and two sons from his marriage to Mary Caroline d'Erlanger, which ended in divorce in 1997 and by his second wife, Luce Danielson.
You wanted to know
How did Marigold Churchill die?
Marigold Churchill died of septicemia on August 23, 1921. Prior to her death, Marigold was under the care of her French governess in the town of Broadstairs on the southeastern coast of England. Winston Churchill was away in Scotland and his wife Clementine was accompanying him. Marigold was suffering from cough and cold for six months which appears to have developed first into a bacterial infection and then septicemia. Winston Churchill was not at her daughter&rsquos bedside at the time of her death.
Marigold’s parents met for the first time at a ball in 'Crewe House,' home of the Earl of Crewe, in 1904. It was a casual meet, and they did not interact much then. They, however, met again in March 1908, at a dinner party hosted by Lady St. Helier. Churchill happened to sit next to Clementine at the party, and the two thus began a conversation. Their relationship blossomed over the next few months, and in August the same year, Churchill proposed to his lady love in a small summer house known as the 'Temple of Diana.'
Winston Churchill and Clementine got married on September 12, 1908, in ‘St. Margaret's, Westminster.’ The wedding was conducted by the bishop of 'St Asaph.'
The eldest Churchill daughter, Diana, was born on July 11 the following year. Shortly after Diana’s birth, Clementine moved to Sussex to recover from her post-pregnancy sickness, leaving the newborn with a nanny. Marigold’s second-eldest sibling, Randolph, was born at 33 Eccleston Square, while her other older sister, Sarah, was born on October 7, 1914, at 'Admiralty House.' Churchill had to leave for Antwerp, as ordered by his cabinet, to manage the stressful political situation in Belgium that prevailed back then. The First World War had already begun by then.
Marigold was born Marigold Frances Churchill, on November 15, 1918. She was born four days after the 'First World War' ended officially. Churchill nicknamed his newborn baby “Duckadilly.”
Like Churchill, Marigold’s mother, too, had to travel extensively to meet influential people. She had a significant role in the First World War, for which she was appointed as the ‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ (CBE) in 1918. Unfortunately, her travel schedules forced her to leave her children behind, under a nanny’s care. This was later thought to have caused Marigold's death.
Churchill had to leave for Scotland, and Clementine decided to accompany him. Their son and Sarah were supposed to join them later. They left Marigold in a rented cottage with a governess in the town of Broadstairs on the southeastern coast of England. She had already suffered from cough and cold before and had fallen ill twice.
In August 1921, a French nursery governess in Kent, Mlle Rose, was appointed for all four Churchill children. Around the same time, Clementine had to leave for ‘Eaton Hall’ to play tennis with Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, and his family. Back in Kent, Marigold was suffering from cold. However, it was reported that she had recovered after a while. Unfortunately, Marigold did not actually recover, and her cold recurred. Her governess failed to notice Marigold's deteriorating health, and thus Marigold did not receive any effective treatment for the same. The illness eventually turned into septicemia and weakened the immune system of the little girl. Marigold’s governess was scared initially and delayed reporting to Clementine about the illness. She did send a telegraph to Clementine several weeks later, but it was too late by then. By the time Clementine reached Marigold, Marigold was already nearing death. Clementine immediately informed Churchill, who arrived by the next train.
Winston Churchill dies - HISTORY
LONDON, Sunday, Jan. 24--Sir Winston Churchill is dead.
The great figure who embodied man&aposs will to resist tyranny passed into history this morning. He was 90 years old.
His old friend and physician, Lord Moran, gave the news to the world after informing Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Lord Moran&aposs announcement said:
"Shortly after 8 A.M., Sir Winston died at his home."
The announcement by Lord Moran was read to reporters near the Churchill home at 8:35 A.M. (3:35 A.M., New York time).
About 30 members of the press were standing in the rain at the entrance to Hyde Park Gate, the small street south of Kensington Gardens where Sir Winston had lived for so long. A reporter for the Press Association read Lord Moran&aposs statement to them.
Lord Moran had come to the house at 7:18. A few minutes earlier Sir Winston&aposs son, Randolph, had driven up. Also there at the end were Lady Churchill and their daughter, Sarah, and Randolph&aposs son, Winston.
Another daughter, Mary, Mrs. Christopher Soames, also survives Sir Winston. Other survivors are 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, the last born just two days ago.
Queen Elizabeth II sent the following message to Lady Churchill:
"The whole world is the poorer by the loss of his many-sided genius while the survival of this country and the sister nations of the Commonwealth, in the face of the greatest danger that has ever threatened them, will be a perpetual memorial to his leadership, his vision, and his indomitable courage."
Prime Minister Wilson immediately paid tribute to his illustrious predecessor in office.
"Sir Winston will be mourned all over the world by all who owe so much to him," Mr. Wilson said. "He is now at peace after a life in which he created history and which will be remembered as long as history is read."
The world had been watching and waiting since Jan. 15, when it was announced that Sir Winston had suffered a stroke. The last authentic giant of world politics in the 20th century was going down.
For nine days the struggle went on. Medical experts said that only phenomenal tenacity and spirit of life could enable a man of 90 to hold off death so long in these circumstances.
But then those were the qualities that had made Winston Churchill a historical figure in his lifetime. His pluck in rallying Britain to victory in World War II saved not only this country but, in all likelihood, free nations everywhere.
Sir Winston will be given a state funeral, the first commoner so to be honored since the death of William Ewart Gladstone in 1898.
The body will lie in state in Westminster Hall for several days. Then, after a long march from Westminster, the services will be held in St. Paul&aposs Cathedral, whose huge dome has so long dominated London.
Anniversary of Father&aposs Death
Today was the anniversary of the death of Sir Winston&aposs father, Lord Randolph Churchill, a somewhat eccentric Tory politician. He died in 1894.
For virtually everyone in Great Britain, Sir Winston&aposs death will be a wrenching personal loss and a symbolic break with a past whose glories seem already faded.
For the world, too, it is the end of an age.
Sir Winston will always be remembered as the great war leader who defied Hitler. But he was more than that, a personality larger than life, an extraordinary man in language and character as well as war and politics.
War Was His Finest Hour
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was one of the greatest men of his time. He was the linchpin of the Grand Alliance of 26 nations that vanquished the Axis powers in 1945 after nearly six years of war.
For him as for his countrymen his finest hour came in 1940 when Britain stood alone, beleaguered at sea and in the air. He employed all his skill as an orator to rally British pride and courage and all his ability as a statesman to get arms and sustenance from abroad.
With almost all of Europe under or about to fall under the Nazi jackboot, it was Sir Winston who flung this challenge at the enemy:
"We shall not flag, or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God&aposs good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."
As the late President John F. Kennedy said in 1963, in conferring upon him an honorary citizenship of the United States, "He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle."
Won Nobel Prize in 1953
Quite apart from his fame as a world statesman and global strategist he won distinction as an artist and fame as a historian and author. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953. A special citation paid tribute to his oratory.
In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II, the last of the six British sovereigns he served, conferred upon him the highest order of chivalry that can come to a commoner when she made him a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter.
Great as was his contribution to the strategy of victory in World War II, Sir Winston&aposs paramount place in history is as the man chiefly responsible for providing the leadership and insuring the cohesion of the three great wartime allies--Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. He was a warm friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt and a tactfully candid collaborator with Josef Stalin.
To this end Sir Winston, who was in his 66th year when he became Prime Minister in May, 1940, was tireless. He was constantly on the go--to Washington, to Moscow, to the various fronts and to the conferences of the Big Three at Teheran, Yalta and finally at Potsdam.
It was in the middle of this postwar conference in 1945 that he learned that the British people had turned out his Government at the polls. As leader the Opposition for the next six years he fought Socialism at home and Communism abroad. It was not until 1951 that he became Prime Minister a second time.
His was among the first voices to warn of the dangers of Soviet expansionist exploitation of the peace, as it had been among the first to cry out against the hidden danger of Hitlerism.
Warned of &aposIron Curtain&apos
On March 5, 1946, he delivered his famous speech at Fulton, Mo. Although he spoke no longer as head of a government, his words were flashed around the world.
Introduced by President Harry S. Truman, he said:
"From Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe--Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia--all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere and are all subject in one form or another not only to Soviet influence but to a very high, and in many cases increasing, measure of control from Moscow.
In his 81st year, on April 5, 1955, Sir Winston retired as Prime Minister but retained his seat in the House of Commons, until just prior to last October&aposs general election when he announced, nearing 90, that would not stand again.
Having been elected uninterruptedly since 1924, he had become the "Father of the House of Commons." He had contested 19 elections and been successful in 14 since he was first elected in 1900. He had held every important Cabinet post save that of Foreign Minister.
Sir Winston, whose mother was the former Jennie Jerome of New York, never ceased to promote the solidarity of the English-speaking peoples everywhere. Only through the closest cooperation of Britain the United States and the British Commonwealth could peace and the civilization be assured, he believed.
Sir Winston was born on Nov. 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace, built for his illustrious ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, who had a distinguished political career, was the third son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough.
Winston was an undersized, emotional child, sometimes shy, sometimes over-assertive. He adored his brilliant father, who, however, was convinced by his son&aposs school failures that the boy was retarded. The child saw little of his mother and became deeply attached to his nurse, Mrs. Everest. When he became one of the greatest figures of his age, Mrs. Everest&aposs picture was over his desk.
After attendance at a small private school, where he was brutally caned, Winston was sent to Harrow. He twice failed his entrance examinations to the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and was finally admitted to the "cavalry class," a sort of scholastic back door for young gentlemen wealthy enough to provide their own horses.
Young Churchill was graduated from Sandhurst in 1894 and became a lieutenant in the Fourth (Queen&aposs Own) Hussars. There being no active service at the moment, he went to Cuba as a war correspondent, without giving up his commission.
The fall of 1897 found him fighting in border expeditions in India as a war correspondent- officer, a dual role then permitted. In 1898 he held the same status in fighting in the Sudan.
Before the year was out, young Churchill was back in England. He had wanted to go to Oxford, but he had nothing like the Latin or Greek required for matriculation, and so he decided to enter politics forthwith. In his first try he was badly defeated in a hopeless race for a seat in the House of Commons.
On Oct. 11, 1899, the South African War started and young Churchill took the field, once more with the conveniently vague status of correspondent-officer. It was his fifth campaign and he was not yet 25.
On Nov. 15, while he was taking part in an armored train reconnaissance, the train was ambushed by the Boers. The young correspondent left his pistol on the train as he tried to escape in the excitement and was captured as he ran up the railway cut.
Interned for the duration of the war, he plotted an escape, which he finally brought off in a characteristic burst of skill and good luck. The Boers offered a reward for his capture. Their description of him stated that he had a "small, hardly noticeable mustache, talks through his nose and cannot pronounce the letter S properly."
Back again in England, Sir Winston stood again for Parliament from Oldham and this time he won and took his seat in the House of Commons for the first time on Jan. 23, 1901.
The young member from Oldham maintained his father&aposs tradition of being difficult in party harness. In 1904 he crossed the floor and joined the Liberals. In 1908 he was rewarded with the full Cabinet post of President of the Board of Trade. He was then 33.
When the Liberal party consolidated its power in the 1910 elections, Churchill was named Home Secretary. He took a somewhat military view of this office, which includes maintenance of domestic order. It was a time of great labor strife in Britain, and the Home Secretary seemed to some to be over-ready to use troops to suppress labor disorders, particularly in the coal mining districts of Wales.
On Oct. 21, 1911, Churchill was advanced to the then more important post of First Lord of the Admiralty.
To this position Churchill brought an ever-maturing talent for organization as well as a knowledge of global strategy that went far beyond either Sandhurst or his Indian and African combat experience.
On Aug. 4, 1914, a state of war was declared to exist between Britain and Germany. Good luck and Churchill&aposs prevision and prompt action resulted in the rapid and uneventful concentration of the British fleet at its battle stations.
It was not long, however, until Winston Churchill&aposs darting mind brought him into conflict with the more plodding personages associated with him in Britain&aposs war effort. These saw only the war in France.
Britain and France were soon committed to a bloody, dead-locked struggle with the German armies in France. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, believed that victory would go to him who pounded hardest in Flanders and Lorraine--and the pounding was to be such as the world had never seen before.
The Gallipoli Campaign
Winston Churchill realized that the existence of a British fleet on guard at Scapa Flow was his country&aposs chief buckler. Although he was horrified at the colossal bloodletting in France and suspected that it might not be entirely necessary, he knew that Britain was irrevocably committed to this front.
But as a student of Mahan, he believed in the strategic use of the British sea power reserve to relieve the pressure on the main front and find and exploit the flanks of the conflict.
The possibility of action in the Mediterranean, so stimulating to the minds of such strategic geniuses as Nelson and Napoleon, fascinated the agile imagination of Churchill in both World War I and World War II. In 1915 he argued with his Government for men and ships for a Dardanelles expedition, which he believed would "raise the Balkans in the rear of Germany" and open a road to Russia through the Black Sea.
Largely as a result of Churchill&aposs enthusiasm, a joint British-French naval and military expeditionary force was sent to try to open the Dardanelles. The expedition had the support of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, Britain&aposs most widely respected soldier. It had the tepid and half-hearted backing of the mildly eccentric First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Admiral John (Jackie) Fisher, the popular naval figure.
After a severe naval reverse, the first infantry units fought their way onto the Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915. In months of desperate fighting the British and Imperial troops and their French allies stood within a hairsbreadth of victory on several occasions. But they could not dislodge the rugged Turks from the rocky hills. More than 55,000 British and Imperial troops were killed in action there and the total British casualties were more than 251,000. The expedition was abandoned and the last troops were withdrawn on Jan. 6, 1916.
Churchill&aposs political career had come to an abrupt pause some time before the evacuation of Gallipoli.
In Lloyd George Cabinet
After a few months in a Cabinet sinecure, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Churchill resigned from the Government early in November, 1915. He requested an infantry command at the front in France, and after service as a major with the Grenadier Guards, in a short refresher course, he became a lieutenant colonel and was placed in command of the Sixth Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He served six months as an infantry officer in France.
Dissatisfaction with the conduct of the war led to the resignation of Asquith on Dec. 5, 1916. David Lloyd George became Prime Minister. He would have included Churchill in his original cabinet but five political leaders necessary to his Government said they would not serve if Churchill was included. Lloyd George had to wait until July 15, 1917, to name Churchill, Minister of Munitions.
On Jan. 15, 1919, Churchill became Secretary of State for War and was faced with the politically undesirable task of demobilizing Britain&aposs large wartime armies.
In January, 1921, Churchill left the War Office to take the post of Colonial Secretary and became chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Irish Affairs. Civil war loomed in Ireland and the negotiations with the Irish leaders required great skill and patience.
Churchill returned to the Conservative party in 1924 and, on Nov. 4, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin named him Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was a post that his father had held and it was the highest post in the Government after Prime Minister.
Important differences of opinion arose between the bland, pipe-smoking Prime Minister Baldwin and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. The spirit of the country at the time was largely pacifist, and Baldwin acted upon the belief that the British people wanted peace at almost any price. Churchill believed that the nation should be aroused to the dangers of a second world war.
Warned of Hitler Rise
Churchill&aposs tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer ended with the fall of the Conservative Government in 1929. For some time differences had developed between Baldwin and Churchill over India. Churchill believed that Baldwin was making a mistake in dealing so extensively with Mohandas K. Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement.
Accordingly, Churchill resigned from the Conservative party&aposs directing group.
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, who came to power in 1929, was succeeded by Baldwin in 1935.
Many believed that Churchill&aposs political power was so great that Baldwin would not dare to exclude him from the Government. However, when the Cabinet was constituted, Churchill was not included.
In the Churchill of the early nineteen-thirties, portly, middle-aged and at times somewhat pugnacious, dignity joined with youthful high spirits to make the figure that the world was to know in World War II.
Sir Winston lived handsomely in the international world of fashion and politics. He smoked expensive cigars and drank the best brandy. He knew many of the world&aposs most interesting people.
Churchill&aposs earnings were large as an author and journalist, but his scale of living required his diligence as a lecturer and investor as well.
Churchill spent much of his time between 1931 and 1935 at his home, Chartwell, in Kent. He was an enthusiastic amateur mason and built garden walls and a swimming pool.
In 1932 Churchill visited Germany and an appointment was made for him to meet Hitler. The Nazi leader did not keep the appointment, and Churchill later wrote:
"Thus Hitler lost his only chance of meeting me."
The drift toward war quickened on March 7, 1936, when Hitler suddenly occupied the demilitarized Rhineland zone. On May 28, 1937, the first coalition Government of Neville Chamberlain came to power, but pacifist sentiment was strong and Churchill was not asked to join the Government.
First Lord of Admiralty
At 6 P.M. Sept. 3, 1939, seven hours and 45 minutes after Britain had declared war on Germany, a wireless flash told British men-of-war in all parts of the world:
Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty, his post in 1914 at the outbreak of the World War I.
On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded Norway, and the presence of a British expeditionary force in Norway was announced April 15. Churchill played a great part in the planning and launching of this expedition, but it was a complete failure.
On May 10 Germany invaded the Netherlands and Belgium and the distraught Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister. King George VI invited Churchill to form a new Government.
In his memoirs Churchill wrote:
"But I cannot conceal from the reader of this truthful account that as I went to bed about 3 A.M. I was conscious of a profound sense of relief. At last I had authority to give direction over the whole scene."
Churchill was 65 when he first became Prime Minister. He was a tried statesman, politician and military strategist, and he possessed a capacity for work seldom equaled by one in his position.
He drove his associates with memorandums that crackled. It was usually: "Pray let me know by 4 P.M. today on one sheet of paper. . . ." Recent events had proved his wisdom in international affairs and his prestige was enormous.
On May 11 the formation of his National Coalition Government was announced and on May 13 he told Parliament grimly that: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
Within a few days it became apparent that disaster was overwhelming the French, British and Belgian Armies in Flanders and on May 28 King Leopold of the Belgians surrendered his forces. On May 29 the perimeter of Dunkirk was forming and the last contingent of Allied troops was evacuated on the night of June 3-4.
Britain had not been in such peril since the Spanish Armada. A French military leader predicted that Britain was going to have her "neck wrung like a chicken." Later, Churchill remarked: "Some neck. Some chicken!"
On June 4 Churchill spoke plainly in telling Parliament of the Dunkirk evacuation and, although he asserted that it had been a disaster of the first magnitude, as he described it, it took on a heroic quality of victory.
On May 15 Churchill learned from France that disaster was in the making, and he flew to Paris the next day. Churchill loved and admired the French and spoke their language with vehemence, but with a high disregard for verb form. During this and four subsequent visits he pleaded with France&aposs leaders to keep their country in the war.
Also, he wanted to establish the facts of the situation to the end that history would not distort his or Britain&aposs part in the disaster. As discreetly as possible he cultivated Brig. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, then Assistant Defense Minister of France, as a rallying point for French resistance.
A few French leaders would have tried to fight on. Others were skeptical of the results. Albert Lebrun, President of France, wrung his hands and wept, and the aged Marshal Henri- Philippe Petain and the conspiratorial Pierre Laval joined with their associates to carry France out of the war on June 22, 1940.
Britain now faced the foe alone. On June 18, when it had become apparent that France was capitulating, Churchill broadcast a message of courage and defiance. His concluding sentence will be long remembered:
"Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, &aposThis was their finest hour.&apos"
After the Dunkirk evacuation Churchill directed Britain&aposs prodigious efforts to prepare home defenses against the German invasion that was expected daily.
It was not long before the Germans launched the long-expected air attack against Britain, much of it from airfields established conveniently in France and Belgium. The first heavy attack occurred on July 10 and the culminating date was Sept. 15, when it was anyone&aposs bet whether Britain&aposs air force could stave off defeat from the air.
As World War II progressed Churchill&aposs obvious diplomatic tactic was to seek to convince the United States that its interests demanded that it join Britain in the war. Toward this end Churchill was greatly aided by the presence in the White House of President Roosevelt, a cultivated, European-minded statesman and a strong Anglophile.
Early in August, 1941, Churchill and President Roosevelt met for the first time as they conferred on warships of their respective countries in Placentia Bay, Nfld.
It was at this conference that swiftly and informally, they drew up the famous Atlantic Charter, in which they stated that they "deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world."
The war was rapidly becoming global. The ebb and flow of Britain&aposs fortunes in the battles of Libya, the British failure in Greece and her victory in Ethiopia, together with the many problems of the home front, engaged Churchill&aposs attention in 1941. When the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, insured the entrance of the United States on Britain&aposs side, Churchill&aposs relief was great. Of his feelings at that moment he wrote at a later date:
"Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful."
Christmas, 1941, found Churchill in Washington for the first of several American wartime conferences.
Returning home, Churchill found a brisk political storm brewing. British reverses in the Western Desert, the loss of the battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse, the other war events had stirred some parliamentary opposition to the Prime Minister. On Jan. 27, 1942, a three-day secret debate began in the House of Commons. The House finally voted confidence in the Government by 461 to 1.
President Roosevelt sent Churchill his congratulations. "It is fun to be in the same decade with you," the President cabled.
In March of 1942 Churchill flew to Moscow for the first of several conferences with Stalin.
In January, 1943, the President and the Prime Minister met near Casablanca, French Morocco, where Roosevelt enunciated a policy of "unconditional" surrender for Germany. Churchill&aposs enthusiasm for this policy was somewhat less than that of Roosevelt, but he adhered rigidly to that policy.
In August of the same year, aid to China was a major topic discussed by the two statesmen at Quebec. In Cairo, in November, the two met with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of China to clarify Allied war aims in the Pacific. Later in the same month, Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt met at Teheran, Iran, with Premier Stalin.
Of all the wartime meetings of the Allied leaders, none became so controversial as the meeting of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, in the Crimea, in February, 1945.
The Prime Minister, whose principal concern was to obtain Polish frontiers satisfactory to Britain, cannily avoided involving himself in anything more than the most perfunctory assent to the agreements made between President Roosevelt and Stalin regarding the Soviet position in the Far East after Japan&aposs defeat. These agreements were to plague Roosevelt&aposs Democratic party after the war.
Defeated in 1945 Election
During the remainder of the war in Europe, Churchill was tenacious, but not always successful, in having his strategic conceptions followed. But on the frequent occasions when the counsels of General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander, prevailed. Prime Minister Churchill supported the general&aposs plans with all his strength.
On May 7, 1945, the Prime Minister proclaimed the end of European hostilities in a broadcast to the British people. A few week later his coalition Government broke up. In the election the Tories were defeated.
In an election in February of 1950, the Labor Government skinned through with a majority of only six. Then Churchill forced an election and he and his Conservative party were returned to power in October, 1951, but with a Commons majority of only sixteen.
On April 24, 1953, the Knighthood of the Order of the Garter was conferred on the British statesman by Queen Elizabeth II and on June 2 Sir Winston had the satisfaction of occupying the Prime Minister&aposs place in Westminster Abbey when the young Queen was crowned.
Long sick of war and its horrors, Sir Winston would have liked to crown his career with the creation of a structure for durable and lasting world peace. On March 5, 1953, he told the Commons that the time was ripe for a conference of the major powers, including the Soviet Union, to seek pacific solutions for their problems.
On June 27 the Prime Minister, then in his seventy-ninth year, suffered a slight paralytic stroke and was absent from his desk until Aug. 19.
For some time he had wanted a conference with the United States and France on ways and means of negotiating a peaceful settlement between the Soviet Union and the West. On Dec. 2, 1953, Sir Winston flew to Bermuda and conferred with General Eisenhower, by then President of the United States, and Joseph Laniel, Premier of France. The results of the meetings fell considerably short of Sir Winston&aposs hopes.
On April 27, 1954, a conference of the big powers, including Communist China, opened at Geneva. Hoping to draw the United States into a common front with Britain, Sir Winston and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden flew to Washington on June 24 to confer with President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles concerning the problems coming up at Geneva.
On April 1, 1955, Queen Elizabeth and a group of the most distinguished persons of the realm were the guests of Sir Winston at 10 Downing Street. The following day Sir Winston called upon the Queen at Buckingham Palace and received her permission to submit his resignation as Prime Minister. He did so.
In retirement, Sir Winston frequently visited the French Riviera and Monte-Carlo. On one visit to the Riviera, in 1958, he was stricken with pneumonia and pleurisy. On his recovery he returned to England.
In 1962, he fell while getting out of bed in Monte Carlo and fractured his left thigh. Although hospitalized in England for almost two months, the 87-year-old statesman flashed the V-for-victory sign as he returned to his home in late August.
In the opinion of the most competent critics, no statesman or military figure of the first half of the 20th century wrote better prose than did Winston Churchill. The 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to him. He was the sixth Briton to be thus honored.
When Churchill&aposs historical narrative style was at its best, it was not surpassed by writing of its kind anywhere.
Sir Winston wrote about 20 books and his speeches and other papers were collected into other volumes. His first book, "The Story of the Malakand Field Force," was published in 1898 and recounted his Army adventures in India. Other books, published in the early Nineteen Hundreds, told of his experiences in war in Egypt and South Africa.
"The River War," an account of the 1898 reconquest of the Egyptian Sudan, marked Churchill as a writer of promise. His two-volume biography of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was published in 1906 and won critical praise.
In 1923 Mr. Churchill began a four-volume series, "The World Crisis," in which he told the story of Europe during and immediately after World War I. One of these books, "The Unknown War," tells the story of the vast, bloody and complicated battles on the Eastern Front.
Critics have said this book shows the author at his best as a student of military strategy and a writer of vivid and compelling prose.
The first volume of Churchill&aposs study of his distinguished ancestor, the first Duke of Marlborough, was published in 1933. In these books Churchill defended Marlborough against charges of political treachery and peculation, and showed the great commander against the background of the morality of his time.
Churchill wrote one novel, "Savrola, a Tale of the Revolution in Laurania," published in 1900. It was a fevered affair in which a democratic young hero with a marked resemblance to the Winston Churchill of that day grappled with the forces of reaction in a mythical European kingdom. In later years Churchill earnestly urged his friends not to read it.
"Savrola" was reprinted in 1956 and in New York was made into a television drama in which Sara Churchill, Sir Winston&aposs actress-daughter, played a part.
For many years Sir Winston had found time to work on an extensive study of the British and other English-speaking peoples. The first volume of this study appeared in 1956 and was followed by three other volumes.
Before Sir Winston&aposs World War II recollections appeared in book form in six volumes, Life magazine and The New York Times published selections from these books. The first of these articles appeared in The Times for April 16, 1948, and the last in the issue for Nov. 26, 1953.
Churchill was widely known as an enthusiastic amateur painter. A need for distraction after he was dropped from the British Cabinet in 1915 and before he went to the French front as an infantry officer caused him to take up water colors. He soon switched to oils.
Because of his world fame, many of Churchill&aposs paintings brought good prices. Sometimes he gave one to be sold for some charitable purpose. By 1950, 300 of his paintings were in his home at Chartwell.
Sir Winston&aposs touch on canvas was softer than that of Hitler, who also had sought relaxation at the easel. Hitler, who had once striven to be an architect, tended to hold to a hard drawn line. Sir Winston liked the soft touch of the French impressionists. For several years Sir Winston&aposs paintings were reproduced as Christmas cards.
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GEORGE W BUSH installed a bust of Winston Churchill in the Oval Office at the White House. When Barack Obama came to power he had the bust returned to Britain.
Obama’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was imprisoned in one of the concentration camps Churchill and his imperialists had invented.
Churchill was born in 1874 into a Britain that was painting huge areas of the world map bloody red.
Just three years later Victoria crowned herself Empress of India, and the rape and pillage that would mark Britain’s advance across Africa and much more of the globe moved up a gear.
At Harrow School and then Sandhurst the young Winston learnt the simple message: the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of Christian civilisation.
Kenyan leader Jomo Kenyatta and later Archbishop Desmond Tutu would sum it up in a beautiful single paragraph.
“When the British missionaries arrived, we Africans had the land and the minerals and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
As soon as he could, Churchill charged off to take his part in these various barbarous and criminal adventures. He described them as “a lot of jolly little wars against barbarous peoples.”
First came the Swat Valley, now part of Pakistan. Here he judged his enemy were merely “deranged jihadists” whose violence was explained by a “strong aboriginal propensity to kill.”
He gladly took part in raids that laid waste to whole valleys, destroying houses and burning crops.
Next he popped up in Sudan, where he boasted that he personally shot at least three “savages.”
The young Churchill played his part enthusiastically in all kinds of imperial atrocities. When concentration camps were built in South Africa, for white Boers, he said they produced “the minimum of suffering.” The Boer death toll was in fact almost 28,000.
At least 115,000 black Africans were swept into British camps, where 14,000 died. Churchill wrote of his “irritation that kaffirs should be allowed to fire on white men.” By now he was an MP and demanding a rolling programme of more imperialist conquests.
“The Aryan stock is bound to triumph,” was his battle cry.
As home secretary in 1911 he brought the artillery on to the streets of east London in a heavy-handed battle to flush out Latvian anarchists in the siege of Sydney Street. Welsh miners have never forgotten his outrages against the Tonypandy miners.
As colonial secretary in the 1920s, he unleashed the notorious Black and Tan thugs on Ireland’s Catholic civilians. The Irish have never forgotten this cruelty.
When the Iraqis rebelled against British rule, Churchill said: “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes.”
Churchill, as we can see, was happy to be spokesman for brutal and brutish British imperialism. It seems Churchill was driven by a deep loathing of democracy for anyone other than God’s chosen race — the British.
This was clearest in his attitude to India. When Mahatma Gandhi launched his campaign of peaceful resistance, Churchill raged that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new viceroy seated on its back.”
Churchill further announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
In 1943, a famine broke out in Bengal and up to three million people starved to death. He bluntly refused any aid, raging that it was the Indians’ own fault for “breeding like rabbits.”
In Kenya Churchill believed that the fertile highlands should be the exclusive preserve of the white settlers and approved the clearing out of the local “blackamoors.”
He saw the local Kikuyu as “brutish children.” When they rebelled under Churchill’s post-war premiership, some 150,000 of them were forced at gunpoint into detention camps.
He approved various kinds of torture, including electric shocks. whipping and shootings. Mau Mau suspects were burned and mutilated. Hussein Onyango Obama was just one who never truly recovered from the torture he endured.
As colonial secretary Churchill offered what he called the Holy Land to both the Jews and the Arabs — although he had racist contempt for both.
He jeered at the Palestinians as “barbaric hordes who ate little but camel dung,” while he was appalled that the Israelis “take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.”
After the war he was quick to invent the iron curtain as he started the cold war against his hated Bolsheviks despite the fact that they had been his greatest ally in defeating Hitler and his nazis.
When he was re-elected prime minister in the 1951 election he rapidly restarted various imperialist adventures. There was the so-called Malayan Emergency, Kenya and of course the Korean war.
Churchill hated communism at home and abroad. He was always a supporter of British intervention in the young Soviet state, declaring that Bolshevism must be “strangled in its cradle.”
He convinced his divided and loosely organised Cabinet to intervene despite strong opposition from Labour.
In the 1926 General Strike Churchill edited the government’s newspaper, the British Gazette, and used it to put forward his anti-union, anti-Labour, anti-socialist rantings.
He even recommended that the food convoys from the docks should be guarded by tanks, armoured cars and hidden machine guns.
There are far too many other reasons why this champion of all things reactionary simply doesn’t deserve the paeans of praise being heaped on him at the moment.
I’m sure our letters page would welcome your own particular favourites, but let me finish with one that really makes me smile.
Even his reputation as an outstanding orator was, it seems, based on a lie. We now know that many of Churchill’s most famous radio speeches of the war were delivered by an actor, Norman Shelley.
Shelley went on to be a big star on BBC Children’s Radio and as Colonel Danby in the Archers.
History: On This Day in History in 1965 – Winston Churchill Died
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On this day in history in 1965, Winston Churchill died. Here’s a very moving film about his funeral that brings a tear to my eye every time (I dare you not be be moved by the cranes lowering in honor of his funeral boat passing).
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The death of Sir Winston Churchill and the top-secret plans for his funeral
The state funeral of Britain’s former prime minister and wartime hero Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 was a brilliant spectacle watched by more than 350 million people around the world. Here, author Piers Brendon explores the top-secret plans in place for the funeral and reveals the true nature of Churchill’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth II…
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Published: January 24, 2020 at 3:05 am
How and when did Winston Churchill die?
Sir Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965 – 70 years to the day after the death of his father. He was 90 years old and had suffered a series of strokes, and it had been apparent for some time that his life was drawing to a close. Reporters besieged his London house at Hyde Park Gate and the state of his health filled the newspapers. With characteristic good taste, the new satirical magazine Private Eye referred to him as “the greatest dying Englishman”.
Actually, Churchill’s health had been in decline at least since the major stroke which felled him in June 1953. Then, the prime minister’s incapacitation was kept hidden from the public while he made a very slow recovery. This was a remarkable example of British official secrecy at work and a stark contrast to what happened in America after Dwight Eisenhower’s heart attack two years later, when the White House press secretary issued regular bulletins about the president’s condition, right down to the nature and rate of his bowel movements.
Plans for Churchill’s funeral were initiated after his stroke and they too were a closely guarded secret. His funeral took place on 30 January 1965.
Operation Hope Not: what plans were in place for Churchill’s funeral?
Queen Elizabeth II instructed the Duke of Norfolk, who as hereditary Earl Marshal of England was in charge of important ceremonial occasions, to ensure that the wartime leader’s obsequies were “on a scale befitting his position in history”. A Whitehall committee was therefore established, on which Churchill’s private secretary Anthony Montague Browne sat, to work out a programme for a state funeral. Asked by Churchill’s son, Randolph, what a state funeral was, the Earl Marshal replied succinctly: “One for which the state pays.” (Churchill’s funeral cost £55,000, not counting the military expenditure.)
Drawing on precedents set during the last offices accorded to national figures such as Nelson, Wellington and Gladstone, the committee devised an astonishingly detailed programme for a gigantic funereal pageant – the last great imperial pageant – full of pomp and circumstance. The functions of all the participants were laid out with minute precision their movements were orchestrated to the second and choreographed to the inch. The arrangements were embodied in a so-called ‘war book’, as though for another D-Day, and the entire procedure was code-named Operation Hope Not.
Did Churchill help plan his own funeral?
Contrary to myth, Churchill himself was not much involved in the planning. But he did express the hope that his send-off would be accompanied by plenty of bands (he got nine) and that the hymns should be lively – they were characteristically pugnacious: ‘Fight the Good Fight’ ‘He Who Would Valiant Be’ and ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’. However, Churchill did manage to interfere with the arrangements by sheer longevity. According to the joke which Lord Mountbatten liked to repeat: “Winston kept living and the pallbearers kept dying.”
Churchill had also changed his mind in one significant respect: he originally wanted to be cremated and to have his ashes interred alongside the bodies of his beloved pets at Chartwell (you can read more about Churchill’s pets in my book Churchill’s Bestiary: His Life Through Animals) instead he decided that his corpse should be buried in Bladon churchyard, close to his parents’ graves and to his birthplace, Blenheim Palace.
Bladon also gave him an opportunity. Churchill was averse to the attendance at his funeral service of his infuriating wartime ally General Charles de Gaulle, who was engaged during the 1960s in frustrating Britain’s efforts to join the European Economic Community (EEC). However, Churchill agreed to the general’s presence on condition that the train taking his body to its final resting-place did not leave from Paddington but from Waterloo – a wicked posthumous putdown.
What was Churchill’s relationship with Queen Elizabeth II?
On Churchill’s death the Queen wrote to his widow, Clementine:
“The whole world is poorer for the loss of this many-sided genius, while the survival of this country and the sister nations of the Commonwealth, in the face of the greatest danger that has ever threatened them, will be a perpetual memorial to his leadership, his vision and indomitable courage.”
No doubt these were sincere sentiments, even if formulated by her private secretary. Certainly, Churchill deserved the sovereign’s gratitude. Apart from his wartime achievements he was a fervent monarchist – the last true believer, according to Clementine, in the divine right of kings. Moreover, as Elizabeth II’s first prime minister he laid his vast experience at her feet, much in the manner of Lord Melbourne vis-à-vis the young Queen Victoria. Arriving at Buckingham Palace in top hat and frock coat for his weekly audience with Elizabeth, Churchill glowed with romantic loyalty. When asked what they talked about, he replied airily – and perhaps accurately in view of their common love of horses – “Oh, mostly racing.”
On the other hand, there was a vast gulf of years between monarch and minister. Churchill had been elected to parliament in the lifetime of Queen Elizabeth’s great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria (he was first elected to parliament in 1900, the year before Victoria died). He regarded Elizabeth as a child (an uneducated one at that) and she could hardly avoid seeing him as the doughty champion of her uncle Edward VIII during the abdication crisis and the charismatic leader who had eclipsed her father during the war. George VI, indeed, had been a staunch opponent of Churchill over the appeasement of Nazi Germany and wanted Lord Halifax, another appeaser, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as prime minister in May 1940.
Furthermore, Churchill plainly disliked the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. In his final term as prime minister he kept him out of the political loop and made him “live over the shop” in Buckingham Palace. In addition Churchill would not permit the royal offspring to be called Mountbatten because the dynasty’s name was Windsor, thus turning the consort into what Philip referred to as “a bloody amoeba” – by which he perhaps meant sperm-donor. There are strong suggestions, too, that the Queen found Churchill stubborn, anachronistic, unwilling to listen and apt to mistake monologue for conversation.
These tensions occurred behind the scenes, and no scenes are more opaque than those which conceal the monarch from the sovereign people. So, to all appearances, propriety reigned.
How many people attended Churchill’s funeral? Did the Queen attend?
By royal decree Winston Churchill’s body lay in state for three days in Westminster Hall – he was the first commoner to do so since William Gladstone in 1898. The Queen and her family paid their respects to him there, as did some 320,000 of her subjects (about the same number as had thus bidden farewell to George VI).
Underground trains ran all night Westminster Hall stayed open for 23 hours a day and in bitterly cold weather people waited for three hours in mile-long queues before passing the catafalque on which rested Churchill’s coffin, Union flag-draped, lead-lined and made of Blenheim oak.
Churchill himself had always been easily moved to tears and, belying the British stiff upper lip, many of the mourners wept. Watching them shuffle past, Richard Dimbleby, the BBC’s original ‘Gold Microphone in Waiting’, concluded that “this is simply the nation, with its bare heads, and its scarves, and its plastic hoods, and its shopping bags, and its puzzled little children”.
The funeral itself took place at St Paul’s Cathedral on 30 January 1965. Dimbleby, despite being mortally ill with cancer, presented the television coverage of the funeral with mellifluous dignity. Twenty-five million Britons and more than 350 million people around the world watched the ceremony. The American TV audience was higher than that for John F Kennedy’s funeral two years earlier.
No doubt part of the attraction was the attendance of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the royal family. Normally the monarch does not go to commoners’ funerals, for the obvious reason that it would be invidious to choose whom thus to honour. But Churchill was, in the historian AJP Taylor’s celebrated summation, “the saviour of his country”. So she made an exception for him. (US President Lyndon Johnson was widely blamed for not coming on the grounds that he had a cold.) The Queen, who invariably appears last at any ceremony, also broke with convention by yielding pride of place to Churchill’s family, who were permitted to enter the cathedral after her.
Today the moving pictures of Churchill’s funeral are marvellously evocative: Big Ben striking at 9.45am on 30 January and then silent for the rest of the day the gun carriage which had borne Queen Victoria’s body drawn by sailors to St Paul’s (an invented tradition resulting from the fact that the horses’ traces broke at Victoria’s funeral) the magnificent procession, uniforms gleaming, boots marching, gloved hands saluting, bands playing, minute guns firing, muffled bells ringing.
Then there was the arrival of dignitaries from 200 countries the Grenadier Guardsmen struggling up the cathedral steps under the weight of the coffin the rousing melodies and solemn threnodies under the dome the trumpet call from the Whispering Gallery and afterwards the skirl of bagpipes the screaming flypast of RAF Lightnings the embarkation on the Port of London launch Havengore the hissing locomotive, watched by huge crowds at specially opened stations along its route.
All told, it was a brilliant spectacle, impeccably executed. Yet its most poignant element was unplanned and apparently spontaneous. As the Havengore made its way down the Thames, dockside cranes dipped their jibs in homage to the saviour of the nation, bowing their long necks like metal plesiosauruses and, incidentally, facing extinction as London (still scarred by the war) ceased to be what it had been, the trading hub of the workshop of the world and the entrepot of the British empire. Later that evening an exhausted Clementine said to her youngest daughter: “You know, Mary, it wasn’t a funeral, it was a Triumph.”
But was it? Churchill’s death coincided with the end of the empire, something he had feared and resisted all his life. De Gaulle therefore had some reason to declare (with relish) upon Churchill’s death: “Now Britain is no longer a great power.” Actually, Britain’s power had been waning for years. However, Churchill’s passing dramatised the country’s relative decline and even perhaps presaged its fall. The Labour politician Richard Crossman wrote: “It felt like the end of an epoch, possibly even the end of a nation.”
At Churchill’s funeral the British people were not just mourning a national hero. They were grieving over a potent symbol of their lost greatness and their finest hour.
Piers Brendon is the author of 16 books, three of them about the British monarchy. Formerly Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre, he is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Churchill Movies and Books
Churchill has been the subject of numerous portrayals on the big and small screen over the years, with actors from Richard Burton to Christian Slater taking a crack at capturing his essence. John Lithgow delivered an acclaimed performance as Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown, winning an Emmy for his work in 2017.
That year also brought the release of two biopics: In June, Brian Cox starred in the titular role of Churchill, about the events leading up to the World War II invasion of Normandy. Gary Oldman took his turn by undergoing an eye-popping physical transformation to become the iconic statesman in Darkest Hour.
Churchill&aposs standing as a towering figure of the 20th century is such that his two major biographies required multiple authors and decades of research between volumes. William Manchester published volume 1 of The Last Lion in 1983 and volume 2 in 1986, but died while working on part 3 it was finally completed by Paul Reid in 2012.
The official biography, Winston S. Churchill, was begun by the former prime minister&aposs son Randolph in the early 1960s it passed on to Martin Gilbert in 1968, and then into the hands of an American institution, Hillsdale College, some three decades later. In 2015, Hillsdale published volume 18 of the series.