— Remark to Violet Bonham-Carternote
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (November 30, 1874 — January 24, 1965). Knight of the Garter, Order of Merit, Companion of Honor, Territorial Decoration, Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Fellow of the Royal Society
, Nobel Laureate
, first Honorary Citizen in United States history, and almost the Duke of London. British Prime Minister from 1940-1945 and again from 1951-55. Best known for helping win World War II
, and he even won a Nobel Prize for writing about it in a six-volume Doorstopper
A very much beloved British Prime Minister, he is famous for his constant wit
(e.g. Bessie Braddock MP: "You, sir, are drunk!" Churchill: "And you are ugly. Tomorrow morning, madam, I shall be sober."), his cigar-smoking (his scowl in the famous portrait, shown above, is because the photographer took his cigar away) and the Victory salute ("the bird" inverted, although he
didn't invert it.)
Churchill had actually been a senior politician for decades. Originally elected as a Conservative in 1900, he changed to the Liberal Party due to his support for free trade. He soon became a cabinet minister and the architect of several of the reforms and welfare programs introduced by the Liberals, but he resigned from the War Cabinet in World War One
after the failure of Gallipoli. He lost his seat in 1922, but returned in 1924 and rejoined the Conservatives. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) for the next five years, where he made a disastrous decision to reintroduce the gold standard. Churchill described this as the biggest mistake of his career; it resulted in high unemployment and strikes. He was isolated within the party in the 1930s, but made a political comeback after his opposition to the appeasement of Germany was vindicated.
Churchill took over as Prime Minister after Neville Chamberlain
resigned in 1940 after the Nazis invaded Norway, and invited the Labour Party to join his government. From 1940-1941, the UK
was the only country fighting against Germany, and Churchill made some of his most famous speeches around this time, which are credited for keeping the country's fighting spirit alive. The situation improved after the USSR
joined the following year. Churchill became a close friend of Franklin D. Roosevelt
and managed to work effectively with Stalin
, despite being strongly anti-communist.
Famously, his party were routed by the Labour Party in a general election
a few months after the war ended in Europe. It appears voters considered him to be a fine wartime leader, but were sceptical about his ability to govern the country in peacetime (which mirrors the view historians have of him). He later recovered and won a second term in 1951note
, serving until his retirement from frontline politics in 1955. (During this time, Elizabeth II
became Queen.) His second term as Prime Minister is generally regarded a lot less favourably than his first
. He died in 1965, three months after retiring from Parliament, and his state funeral became one of the most watched and attended funerals in history.
Winning a world war (and funding the invention of the tank
) will get a lot of people to forget your less popular policies — and some were very unpopular. Gallipoli and the gold standard are mentioned above. He was again isolated in the 1930s due to his opposition to Indian autonomy and the abdication of Edward VIII
. Furthermore, in 1943, while PM, he ignored a famine in Bengal
, which eventually killed 4 million people, though responsibility could be said to lie with local authorities rather than him personally. He expressed disappointment at one point that Gandhi was not one of them, however, which suggests that he wasn't as bothered by it as he should have been.
He was also notably racist, like many people at the time, believing that one should not help the Palestinians from subjugation by Israel, because "a superior race naturally conquers an inferior one", and supported the use of non-lethal gas on rebellious Iraqis and other "uncivilised tribes" who had been attacking those under nominal British protection. That said, the latter could equally be considered a mark of considerable restraint
, since the general response by the British, particularly those of a military background, to such actions was Kill It with Fire
. He was also known for supporting eugenics and, especially, the British Empire. Both have to be taken in the context of the time, however, with eugenics being wildly popular until Nazism showed the dark side of it, and that most Brits of the time were pro-Empire. He also never won the popular vote
in a British general election: in the 1951 election, Labour actually polled a quarter of a million votes more than him, the most any party had taken at the time, and the most Labour has ever managed. However, a quirk of the system meant that Churchill took the victory (similarly to the way George W. Bush
"won" the 2000 presidential elections in Eagleland
He'd been in the army before going into politics
and was also a war correspondent
. As well as his Nobel Prize-winning book on the Second World War
(not the most reliable source, but an invaluable memoir), he wrote a history of the English-speaking peoples
and a largely forgotten political thriller called Savrola: A Tale of the Revolution in Laurania
A real-life Bunny-Ears Lawyer
, he once had a meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt
while he was taking a bath, had little awareness of social mannerisms and sometimes wandered around his house naked. He more or less had a drink with him at all times, thus the, "You, sir, are drunk!", quote. He also suffered from depression, which he called his "black dog".
He was also obsessed with what he called "the soft underbelly of Europe" in the Mediterranean, leading to results that varied from disastrous in World War One
(Gallipoli) to merely wasteful (The Italian campaign) in World War II
. One little known aspect of this "soft underbelly" is the fact that after supporting ELAS (the Greek Partisans of La Résistance
against the Nazi Occupation of Greece, comprised of several communists), he immediately turned on them after liberation and tasked Lt. Ronald Scobie to arm and support Greek fascists
(and Les Collaborateurs
) to hunt down the partisans citing fears of a Communist takeover in the Mediterranean. He later justified it as part of a pre-emptive move during the Cold War
but the Greeks saw it as an unjustified act of betrayal from people who had willingly allied with them against the Nazis.
He was given a state funeral on his death in 1965, with a lot of leaders turning up
. He is buried in a churchyard in Bladon, Oxfordshire. In a BBC series he was voted Greatest Briton of all time, and up until the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005 his funeral was attended by the most heads of states.
Winston Churchill was notably a child of a binational marriage; his mother Jeanette Jerome was an American Socialite
. A study of her biography, and that of her father Leonard Jerome, makes it very clear which side of the family Sir Winston got his resiliency from.
In 1963, he became the first person to be granted an honorary citizenship of the United States, and one of only two given this honor while they were alive (the other being Mother Teresa). Including Churchill, there are only seven honorary American citizens. He is also one of the very few non-American citizens to have a U.S. naval vessel named in his honor. (Appropriately, the USS Winston S. Churchill has a Royal Navy guest officer assigned to her company and flies the White Ensign below the Stars and Stripes.)
Many of Churchill's quotes are rightly legendary
, including (as well as our page quote):
- I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma, but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.
- I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
- If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'
- From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.
- In time of war, when truth is so precious, it must be attended by a bodyguard of lies.
- One can always trust the United States to do the right thing, once every possible alternative has been exhausted.
- Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few.
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
- An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
- If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.
- And so many more. You can get a lot of chapter titles from his quotes.
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Published works of Winston Churchill
- The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898)
- The River War (1899)
- Man Overboard (1899)
- Savrola (1899)
- London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900)
- Ian Hamilton's March (1900)
- Mr. Brodrick’s Army (1903)
- Lord Randolph Churchill (1906)
- For Free Trade (1906)
- My African Journey (1908)
- Liberalism and the Social Problem (1909)
- The People’s Rights (1910)
- The World Crisis (1923–1931)
- If Lee Had Not Won the Battle of Gettysburg (1930)
- My Early Life: A Roving Commission (1930)
- India (1931)
- Thoughts and Adventures (Amid These Storms) (1932)
- Marlborough: His Life and Times (1933–1938)
- Great Contemporaries (1937)
- Arms and the Covenant or While England Slept: A Survey of World Affairs, 1932–1938 (1938)
- Step by Step 1936–1939 (1939)
- Addresses Delivered in the Year 1940 (1940)
- Broadcast Addresses (1941)
- Into Battle (Blood Sweat and Tears) (1941)
- The Unrelenting Struggle (1942)
- The End of the Beginning (1943)
- Onwards to Victory (1944)
- The Dawn of Liberation (1945)
- Victory (1946)
- Secret Sessions Speeches (1946)
- War Speeches 1940–1945 (1946)
- The Second World War (1948–1954)
- The Sinews of Peace (1948)
- Painting as a Pastime (1948)
- Europe Unite (1950)
- In the Balance (1951)
- The War Speeches 1939–1945 (1952)
- Stemming the Tide (1953)
- A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (1956–1958)
- The Unwritten Alliance (1961)
Churchill in fiction
- Pretty much anything set in Britain during World War II.
- In The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman, set during World War One, Churchill makes a brief appearance as a member of the War Cabinet.
- The young war correspondent Churchill guest-stars in the Time Wars novel The Khyber Connection, and is attacked by time-travelling assassins.
- Appears in Time Squad, in which the main characters must go back in time and stop him from being a nudist.
- In the Time Travel / Alternate History novel The Proteus Operation, people from a different United States go back in time to the 1930s to save the world from the Nazi Empire which defeated Britain. They need to find someone in politics to work with to save the UK. When the name Winston Churchill comes up they are about to dismiss him as all washed up and his career over. Then they think more about it and realize that he is untarnished with the defeatism and appeasement of so many others.
- When the cast of Are You Being Served? camps out on the floor one night, Mr Grainger does an impression of Churchill giving one of his famous speeches.
- A playable leader in Civilization IV (added in the Warlords expansion). His traits are Charismatic/Protective—which boost "happiness" (a rough stand-in for home-front morale during wartime) and defense respectively. This makes him pretty good for turtling.
- Makes a short appearance in Inglourious Basterds.
- Appeared in "Victory of the Daleks", the third episode of the 2010 series of Doctor Who. He and the Doctor are apparently old friends, and he keeps trying to swipe the TARDIS key from the Doctor. He also turns up in the season finale "The Wedding of River Song" in an corrupted version of the universe where every time is happening at once, where he intrinsically trusts the Doctor due to feeling echoes of their friendship in the proper timeline. Interestingly, in the latter, he is not prime minister; he is Holy Roman Emperor.
- Frequently mentioned but rarely seen in the Timeline-191 Alternate History series by Harry Turtledove. When Britain allies with the Confederacy and loses the First World War, he becomes Prime Minister in a coalition with Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts on a platform of revanchism. He is forced to resign when London, Brighton and Norwich are destroyed by German atomic bombs and the British counterattack is defeated. Every time he is mentioned, characters reflect on his gift of the gab (EVERY TIME).
- Yet another Time Travel novel, Lightning by Dean Koontz, ends with a time-traveling ex-Nazi returning to just after World War II and persuading Churchill to finish off the Soviets as well, creating a much nicer world.
- In The King's Speech, about the abdication of Edward VIII and the ascension of George VI to the throne, Churchill was played by Timothy Spall. He appears to encourage Albert to take on the role of king, and also shares how he too once had a speech impediment. Spall also played Churchill in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games.
- Ken Follett's Doorstopper novel Fall of Giants features Churchill during World War One.
- On Parks and Recreation, after Leslie had to pull down her pants on TV to prove her innocence in sex scandal, she says this in a Confession Cam:
"It's gotten a lot harder to work in government. You think Winston Churchill ever had to pull his pants down and show his butt? No. But would he have? Yes. Now could he have? Well, maybe not towards the end of his life. But he would have. Because he loved his job."
- The Eagle Has Landed was a fictionalized account of a real Nazi plot to kidnap Churchill on his native soil.
- Will becomes Churchill's speech writer in Irregular Webcomic!.
- Assassins Creed II gives him a Historical Villain Upgrade, in which he was a member of The Knights Templar and actually helped masterminded World War II along with FDR and Hitler.
- The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series imply that he was a son of the Big Three; Hades, Poseidon or Zeus. Its Wiki reveals that he is the son of Poseidon.
- Gets a Historical Villain Upgrade as England's boss/dictator in All He Ever Wanted.
- "There's Winston Churchill dressed in drag, he used to be a British flag. Plastic bag, What a drag".
- Churchill: The Hollywood Years is an satire of Hollywood History were Winston Churchill is actually an American commando attempting to stop Hitler from marring into the British Royal Family. The Churchill the world knows was just an actor called Ray Bubbles.
- The Young Winston, a 1972 biopic of his younger days directed by Richard Attenborough.
- The Rousing Speech at the top of the page was sampled and placed in the beginning section of Supertramp's 1977 anti-war epic, "Fool's Overture".
- In Stewart Lee's Comedy Roadshow one sketch focused around the fact that Churchill was in fact a pig. A trained pig whose mouth was controlled by remote control and the V-peace-sign was purely because with a cloven hooves there weren't many other type of gestations available. This sketch was curated by a "historian" called Alan Moore.
- A young Churchill comes to Toronto in Murdoch Mysteries to give a lecture on his time in the Sudan during the Mahdist War and becomes the chief suspect in his best friend's murder. It's not him, but a fanatical follower of the Mahdi who saw the friend take part in the descration of the Mahdi's tomb.
- Churchill is an unlockable character in Medal of Honor's multiplayer mode using the code FINESTHOUR.
- Appears during the Family Guy episode "Road to Germany". Turns out his wit is a little bit overblown by history.
Stewie: And look, there's Winston Churchill! Maybe we'll get an up-close look at his legendary wit.
British Woman: Oh, Winston. Drunk again I see.
Winston: Yeah, well you're a fat bitch.
Stewie: Hm. I guess history's just whittled it down to the gems.
- He appears in his Secretary of State days in Peaky Blinders, where it's revealed that he's overseeing Campbell's investigation of the BSA robbery personally, as they both believe it's tied to the IRA. Hilariously enough, Campbell's terrified of him.
- There is a duology of TV biopics made by The BBC and HBO, released in 2002 and 2009: The Gathering Storm (named for the first chapter of his book), and Into The Storm (named for one of his war-time speeches), the former talking about his "wilderness years" in political exile in the years before the Second War as the threat loomed on the horizon, and the later about his greatest moments in the war and through it. Churchill is portrayed by Albert Finney in the first film and Brendan Gleeson in the second.