In 2002, the BBC held an online vote to find the Greatest Briton of all time. The winner was Winston Churchill. However, in 2008 another online poll revealed that a third of all Primary School children believe that he was the first man to walk on the moon and others believe him to be a fictional character associated with the insurance company of the same name. So to lay minds to rest this Entry exposes the life and times of the real Churchill. The Prime Minister who led Britain to victory against Hitler's Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father's house to believe in democracy.
Born 30 November, 1874, in Blenheim Palace1, Oxfordshire, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was the elder of two sons born to Tory politician, Lord Randolph Churchill and his American wife, Lady Churchill (Jennie Jerome).
On returning to the family home at 48 Charles St. London in January 1875, Churchill's parents handed sole responsibility of their child over to a nanny named Mrs Everest. According to Dr. M. Donald Coleman, psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at Mamaroneck, USA, Everest enabled Churchill to cope with his parents' detachment from him and help him to become the man many people remember him to be. 'She saved him by her extraordinary love for him and by helping to idealize both his parents. All his life he thought his father was a wonderful man, and that Lord Randolph was someone to follow'.
Behind this idolisation Churchill knew that his father despised him and had written a letter to a family member telling her that he believed his son lacked 'cleverness, knowledge and any capacity for settled work. He has a great talent for show-off, exaggeration and make-believe'.
Churchill's mother was also happy to detach herself from her son and according to the author of Jennie Churchill, Anne Sebba, wrote a list of dinner guests on the back of his letters to her, which asked her to remove him from preparatory school.
This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
- Churchill's Speech at Harrow
Churchill began his education at St. George's School, Ascot, where he was frequently punished as he didn't adhere to their strict regime. At the age of nine, he caught pneumonia and so left Ascot to attend a preparatory school called Brunswick School in Brighton, near the sea. There he excelled at numerous subjects because, in his words: 'I was allowed to learn things which interested me: French, history, and lots of poetry by heart, and above all riding and swimming'. In April, 1888, Churchill furthered his education at Harrow and later joined Sandhurst Royal Military College2. He joined the army as a cavalry officer in 1894 taking up service in Cuba, India and Sudan.
Historian and Writer
On returning home from war in 1897, Churchill noticed that he had acquired a speech impediment. Like his father he had difficulty pronouncing 's' and often said 'sh' instead. The Boers who captured him when he was working as a journalist in South Africa in 1899 were also aware of this and noticed that after he had talked at length there was a rattling sound to his voice. It was discovered that he had an extra ligament restraining his tongue that very few people had and so he asked the doctor to remove it, but the doctor refused. Despite his lisp, Churchill went on to become one of the greatest speech makers and was determined to unite the British against the Nazis. The BBC have recorded some of his speeches to be heard here
History will judge us kindly, because I shall write the history.
- Churchill said to Roosevelt and Stalin
When Churchill was not on duty in the army, he acted as a war correspondent and wrote about his experiences on the front line. The first books to be published containing his views are The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898) and The River War (1899).
It is better to be making the news than taking it; to be an actor rather than a critic.
- from The Malakand Field Force
He also wrote a novel called Savrola and went on to write several biographies including one about his father and another revealing the life of his great ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. He also told the story of the first and second world wars in several volumes and wrote a History of the English-speaking Peoples once he had retired as a politician. As a token of gratitude for his work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1953.
Husband and Father
Churchill married Clementine Hozier in September, 1908. At the time of their wedding Lord Roseberry, a family friend said 'The union will last six months, with luck. Their marriage will fail because Winston is not the marrying kind'. However, he was proved wrong as they stayed married for 56 years in total and together they had five children Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold and Mary. Each one of them had a nickname too such as Puppy Kitten and Duckadilly.
As An Artist
Churchill was not only a Prime Minister, but also an artist. He painted in excess of 500 paintings during his lifetime and his first exhibition was held in France under the pseudonym of Charles Morin. Later Churchill decided to exhibit under his own name and even wrote a book on painting called Painting as a Pastime. More recently, a couple of his works entitled View of Tenherir and Chartwell: Landscape with Sheep were sold at auction at Sothebys.
Then in January Churchill suffered a stroke at his home in Hyde Park Gate, London and never regained consciousness. He was officially pronounced dead on 24 January, 1965 and his body lay in state for three days at Westminster Hall. There 321,360 people came to pay their respects including Adela Forestier-Walker who gave her account of what she saw to the BBC. He was the first commoner in the 20th Century to receive a state funeral before his coffin was taken by a train, named after him, to Bladon in Oxfordshire where he was laid to rest in a parish churchyard close to where he was born.
I may be drunk, Madam, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.