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Wit & Wisdom

Finest Hour 129, Winter 2005-06

Page 29

Wit & Wisdom

Le Grand Charles

A reader asked us to confirm Churchill’s reply when asked if he thought de Gaulle was a new Joan of Arc, and he supposedly answered, “Yes, but my bishops won’t let me burn him.” The quotation is often cited and may be accurate, but our best reference is slightly different. It is from Kay Halle’s usually reliable book, Irrepressible Churchill (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1966), page 213:

WSC to Brendan Bracken: “You may have your single cross to bear but I have the double cross of Lorraine.”

Bracken: “But…remember, Winston…he thinks of himself as the reincarnation of St. Joan.”

WSC: “Yes, but my bishops won’t burn him!”

We should point out that despite their disagreements over wartime strategy, Churchill and de Gaulle nursed a healthy respect for one another, and de Gaulle was especially fond of Lady Churchill. When Sir Winston died de Gaulle wrote her, “In the great drama, he was the greatest.”

“Grudge no toil…Fear no foe.”

“If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way towards one another, and science will do for them all that they wish and more than they can dream….Nothing is final. Change is unceasing and it is likely that mankind has a lot more to learn before it comes to its journey’s end….We might even find ourselves in a few years moving along a smooth causeway of peace and plenty instead of roaming around on the rim of Hell….Thus we may by patience, courage, and in orderly progression reach the shelter of a calmer and kindlier age….Withhold no sacrifice; grudge no toil; seek no sordid gain; fear no foe. All will be well.”

Kathryn Venditti ([email protected]) asked for the origins of this relevant remark. Most of it is from Churchill’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet at the Guildhall, London, 9 November 1954; see The Unwritten Alliance (London: Cassell, 1961) as well as in the Complete Speeches (New York: Bowker, 1974). National Geographic’s Churchill issue (August 1965) stitched in the last line (“Withhold no sacrifice…”) from WSC’s speech in Ottawa on 14 January 1952; see Stemming the Tide (London: Cassell, 1953).

Bossom, Bottom, Bosom?

Vardan Astrid from Bulgaria asks us for more regarding Churchill’s remark about Sir Alfred Bossom: “Neither one thing nor the other!” According to Kay Halle (op. cit., 118), Churchill said this in 1932, as an aside to a colleague in the House of Commons when Sir Alfred Bossom was speaking. He thought “Bossom” was odd because it was neither “bottom” nor “bosom.” Alfred Bossom, a successful architect as well as a Member of Parliament, was known for the lavish parties at his house at Carlton House Gardens, London.

“Never be separated from the Americans”

Private Toboc, USA, asks us to confirm Churchill’s words to his non-Cabinet Ministers upon his retirement, after his final cabinet meeting on 5 April 1955. Sir Martin Gilbert in Winston S. Churchill, vol. 8 “Never Despair 1945-1965 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and London: Heinemann, 1988) writes:

“Anthony Eden…said that his Cabinet colleagues had asked him to speak on this occasion on behalf of them all. It therefore fell to him to express their sense of abiding affection and esteem for the Prime Minister and their pride in the privilege of having served as his colleagues. He himself had enjoyed this privilege for sixteen years, others for varying shorter periods; but all, whatever the length of their service, had the same strong feelings of affection for him. If in a succeeding Government they met with success, this would be largely due to the example which he had shown them: if they did less well, it would be because they had failed to learn from his experience and skill as a statesman. They would remember him always—for his magnanimity, for his courage at all times and for his unfailing humour, founded in his unrivalled mastery of the English language. They would always be grateful for his leadership, and for his friendship, over the years that had passed; and they would hope to enjoy in future his continuing interest and support in their endeavours.

“Churchill’s final words to those Ministers not in the Cabinet made a strong impact on those who heard them. ‘He wished to make two points,’ Lord De L’Isle and Dudley later recalled: ‘“Man is spirit,” and “Never be separated from the Americans”’.”

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