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The Greatest of Them All – Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill

Over the past three years since Brexit, most people of Britain are shocked, disgusted and embarrassed by the complete lack of competence by our politicians.  As we await the likelihood of another general election here in Britain, I decided to look back on one of the greatest Prime Ministers of all time, Winston Churchill.

Sir Winston Churchill is best known for standing up to the Germans in World War II, and his inspiring speeches and quotes. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30 November 1874 in his family’s ancestral home, Blenheim Palace, in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.  His family were among the highest levels of the British aristocracy of its time.  His father was Lord Randolph Churchill who was a politician who held many high offices in the British government. Jennie Churchill (née Jerome), was a socialite from a wealthy American family.

Unhappy Childhood

Regarding his childhood, Winston’s parents were less than attentive. His closest childhood relationship was with his nanny.  Winston wrote in his biography of his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough:

Winston Churchill aged 6

Winston Churchill aged 6

‘It is said that famous men are usually the product of an unhappy childhood’. His mother always kept Winston at arm’s length, confessing he was a demanding child who could be uncontrollable and a tease to his brother.  At 7 Winston was put on a train to his first boarding school.  He would write regularly to his mother and would beg her to visit which she didn’t.   He hated it, did poorly academically, and regularly misbehaved.  He idolised his mother but it wasn’t until later in life that he had a good relationship with her. His parents had an open marriage and his mother is said to have had over 200 lovers. Winston’s daughter Mary Soames has said of her grandparents Lord and Lady Randolph Churchill that they were ‘pretty awful parents’ to Winston when he was a boy.

By the age of 25 Churchill had already written three books. It was during his time as a war correspondent for The Morning Post that got him noticed.  Whilst covering the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, a train he was on got ambushed and he was taken as a prisoner of war. Miraculously, Churchill managed to escape the camp. Once he was back in England, the escape gave him hero status, which helped launch his political career.

Churchill went on to become one of the most famous Prime Ministers of all time.  He was Prime Minister twice and he led Britain to victory in World War Two.  Today he is one of the most popular and significant figures in political history.

Personal Life

Clementine Churchill

Clementine Churchill

He married his wife Clementine Churchill on 12 September 1908, honeymooned in Venice, Italy, and Moravia, in the Czech Republic, before settling into a London home at 33 Eccleston Square SW1V 1PB.  They had five children and ten grandchildren.  Clementine like Winston had survived a lonely childhood and they were both highly ambitious. Clementine once said should would have loved to been a statesman had she been born a man.  They made a great team, Clementine was Winston’s rock, but their marriage wasn’t easy. She hated his frequent absences and would argue over her more liberal views. Clementine struggled with the stress and had at least one breakdown. She would go on holiday alone and she apparently had an affair with an artist named Terence Philip in 1935.   Around the same time it is rumoured that Winston also had a brief affair with Doris Castlerosse.  Churchill was aware of the strain that his political career placed on his marriage, however they remained married for 57 years.

Prime Minister

Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister on 10 May, 1940. Britain needed a hero during the darkest days of World War II and Churchill became just that. Churchill’s speech ‘we shall fight on the beaches’ is one of the defining speeches during the second world war.  The speech uses the technique of repetition to very good effect,  Here is the full speech which he delivered to Parliament on 4 June 1940:

 

“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone.

At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation.

The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, 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’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

You can listen to a recording of this Winston Churchill’s speech on youtube here.

Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965 in London. He was honored with a state funeral.

 Awards and Honours

As well the honour of a state funeral, Churchill received a number of honours and awards:

1907  – Churchill was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.

1924 – He was awarded the Territorial Decoration for his long service in the Territorial Army.

1941 – Churchill was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

1941 –  Appointed to the Privy Council of Canada.

1946 – He received the Order of Merit.

1963 – Churchill was named an Honorary Citizen of the United States by Public Law 88-6/H.R. 4374 (approved/enacted 9 April 1963)

Since his death:

1995- USA President Bill Clinton announced to both Houses of Parliament that an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer ship would be named  ‘USS Winston S. Churchill’. The ship launched in 1999.

USS Winston S. Churchill.

2002 – A BBC poll of 100 Greatest Britons chose him as top.  He was proclaimed “The Greatest of Them All” based on approximately a million votes from BBC viewers.

 

Unusual facts about Winston Churchill

He was an artist

He began painting in his 40’s and it became is favourite hobby and painted over 500 in his lifetime.  Today they are very valuable and can sell for millions. You can see some of his paintings here.

He won the Nobel Prize in Literature 1953

Although not great at school his English improved and in 1953 he won the Nobel Prize in literature for his publications, including “The Second World War.” Which was a six-book series based on the history of the end of World War I to the end of World War II.

First known use of ‘OMG’

The popular term ‘OMG’ which is the acronym of ‘Oh My God’ was believed to be first used in writing to Winston.  In 1917 a letter from Lord Fisher regarding the war has a line saying “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapas-O.M.G. (Oh! My God!) – Shower it on the Admiralty.”

Brief prisoner of war

In the 1890’s, Winston was a war correspondent for The Morning Post.  Whilst covering the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa, a train he was on got ambushed and he was taken as a prisoner of war. Miraculously, Churchill managed to escape the camp.

He had a speech impediment

Churchill had a lateral lisp, he struggled with “s” and “z” sounds. Reporters said he had a stutter.  This makes listening to his speeches even more impressive.  Later in life Churchill had dentures made that helped.

Struggled at school

Although Churchill had an amazing career, he struggled in school generally never getting good exam results. However he wasn’t seen as unintelligent as he did well in the subjects he enjoyed which were History and English. He failed the Royal Military College entrance exam twice.

 

Winston Churchill London Tourstatue of winston churchill

Winston Churchill had exceptionally long, complex, and controversial life.  Here at Traditional Tours we offer a Winston Churchill London tour where you can walk in the footsteps of this iconic man.  On tour you will learn about his personal life and how his career propelled him to number 10 Downing Street.  The tour lasts for 2 hours and is a walking tour so comfy shoes are advised.   It starts in Westminster where you’ll head straight over to the Palace of Westminster to hear about Winston Churchill’s life as an MP. You will have an opportunity to pose for a photo by Winston Churchill’s statue and see the church where Churchill married his darling Clementine in 1908.  The tour also includes a brief visit (subject to availability) to see his portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.

For booking and more information click here. 

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