July 3, 2022

The Art of Being Winston Churchill: The Second Battle of Blenheim


Ninety years ago, in the summer of 1932, Winston Churchill traveled to Europe to visit the battlefields made famous by his ancestor John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough. Churchill had started work on what would be a four-volume biography of Marlborough, the man who led the forces of Queen Anne to victory during the War of the Spanish Succession.

After first visiting the Low Countries, Churchill moved on to Germany and the site of the battle that had given the family palace in which Churchill had been born its name: Blenheim. To his cousin Sunny, the ninth Duke, Churchill wrote: “The surprising thing is how big these battlefields are, far bigger than Waterloo, about the same size as Gettysburg, and so many more troops were used.”

While still in Bavaria, Churchill became seriously ill with paratyphoid fever and was taken to a Sanatorium in Salzburg, where he stayed for two weeks. As he gradually recovered, he worked from his hospital bed, polishing a series of articles for the News of the World to be called “The World’s Greatest Stories.”

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On September 17, 1932, Churchill wrote to Sunny, “I am throwing off this foul attack and planning to travel home Thursday if all well.” Returning to Chartwell on the 25th, Churchill triumphantly informed Sunny, “It was an English bug which I took abroad with me, and no blame rests on the otherwise misguided continent of Europe.”

Barry Singer is proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City and author of Churchill Style (2012).

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