A common trap that people fall into is to refer to Winston Churchill’s beloved country estate in Kent as “ Chartwell Manor.” Even Mary Soames in her wonderful memoir A Daughter’s Tale made this error.
It is true the house was informally, but only ever informally, called Chartwell Manor around the time Mary was born and her father bought the estate in 1922—simply because it was a big and imposing residence. But it was not then and never had been a manor house, and it is quite incorrect and careless to use this as its proper name. Churchill himself never appears to have referred to his house as a manor and simply used “Chartwell” on his stationery. Most of all, the National Trust, as the present owner, does not use the term “manor” because it is legally wrong.
Parts of the house are mediaeval, and down the centuries it was called Well Street or Wellstreet, or occasionally Well Place. It was renamed Chartwell by John Campbell Colquhoun, who bought the estate in the nineteenth century, and the name first appears in the 1851 Kent census. The name was taken from the
Mark A. Stoler and Daniel D. Holt, eds., The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, volume 7, “The Man of the Age,” October 1, 1949–October 16, 1959, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016, 1200 pages, $90.
Review by William I. Hitchcock
William I. Hitchcock is Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
Despite his enormous influence on the course of the twentieth century, George C. Marshall remains somewhat obscure to most Americans. His name resonates principally because of his leadership of the Marshall Plan, which sent some twelve billion dollars to Europe and spurred a revival of the economy in the aftermath of the Second World War. But Marshall’s contribution to American victory in the Second World War as Chief of Staff of the United States Army, as well as his role as Harry Truman’s Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, deserve more acclaim.
The George C. Marshall Foundation has been working hard to secure Marshall’s place in history by editing and publishing Marshall’s personal papers. In conjunction with Johns Hopkins University Press, the Foundation has now completed a seven-volume set of Marshall’s papers that will stand for generations to come as a distinguished and fitting tribute to Marshall’s memory.
Daniel Todman, Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937–1941, Allen Lane, 2016, 848 pages, £30.
Review by Mark Klobas
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and hosts a podcast for the New Books Network.
Daniel Todman’s Into Battle is the first half of an ambitious effort to encapsulate the entirety of Britain’s Second World War experience into a comprehensive narrative, one that begins in the prewar era and promises to end (in a volume scheduled to be published next year) two years after the surrender of the Axis powers. It is a revisionist assessment of the war, that is one that embraces modern perspectives on a story that has often been told in an effort to offer a better understanding of the true dimensions of the conflict.
This effort begins with Todman’s choice of 1937 as his starting point. Opening with the celebrations of the coronation of King George VI, Todman portrays a nation in its last full year free from the immediate threat of war. His focus here is on the changes that Britain was facing, both domestically and internationally, and the stresses these posed to the status quo. Todman uses this to put into context the challenge posed by Hitler’s increasingly aggressive defiance of the Versailles settlement. Drawing upon the lessons of the First World War, the governments of both Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain began a rearmament program designed to build up a modern, mechanized military without straining an economy still recovering from the Great Depression.
Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen.
The “Churchill industry” does not only operate in the Anglophone publishing world. France has seen a number of recent publications, which add little if anything to our knowledge of the great man, his entourage, and his times. See for instance my reviews of Frédéric Ferney’s Tu seras un raté, mon fils! in FH 169 and Churchill: La femme du Lion by Philippe Alexandre and Béatrix de l’Aulnoit in FH 172.
The latest petit livre appeared in December 2016, just in time for the festive season and the presents associated with it. The title Winston Churchill has nothing special to attract the buyer. The sales pitch only comes with a small logo below it giving the name of this new series (the next book is to be on Marie-Antoinette—another sure crowd-puller): “Biographie gourmande” (a food-lover’s biography). No doubt there is a market for such a book in France. The pity is that the author has only an embarrassingly superficial knowledge of her subject, and she piles up cliché upon cliché, along with all the old “canards,” on Churchill’s drinking in particular.
Philipp Gut, Champagner mit Churchill: Der Zürcher Farbenfabrikant Willy Sax und der malende Premierminister, Stämpfli Verlag, 2015, 176 pages, €39.00. ISBN 978–3727214554
Review by Werner Vogt
Werner Vogt is the author of Winston Churchill und die Schweiz reviewed in FH 173.
When Winston Churchill visited Switzerland in the summer of 1946, various remarkable things happened. With his “Let Europe Arise” speech, addressed to the academic youth of the world and delivered at the University of Zurich [see FH 173], the wartime Prime Minister and then Leader of the Opposition confirmed his position as a leader of thought. On the same day, Churchill invited Willy Sax to his hotel for a drink before dinner. Here was conversation more to Churchill’s liking, for Sax was the Swiss owner of the small paint factory that supplied Churchill’s needs. Churchill recognised that Sax had not only an excellent knowledge about the composition of his paints but also about mixing and painting techniques.
Out of this informal conversation developed a friendship that lasted nearly twenty years; Sax died less than a year before Churchill. Philipp Gut, who is a deputy editor of the staunchly Conservative magazine Die Weltwoche and a historian by training, gives a detailed account of Sax’s numerous journeys to Chartwell as well as to the South of France, whither Sax was repeatedly invited when Churchill went there for painting holidays.
Walter Attenborough, Churchill and the “ Black Dog ” of Depression: Reassessing the Biographical Evidence of Psychological Disorder, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, 247 pages, $39.99.
Review by Martin Garfinkle
Martin Garfinkle is a professor in the Health and Human Services Department at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and author of The Lion’s Roar (2011).
As a psychologist and as an admirer of Winston Churchill, I found this book to be of great value to anyone who wants to understand Churchill’s lifelong struggle with depression. I may not agree with the author’s conclusion, but I do feel that the book sheds some light into Churchill’s “black dog.” Based on the research that I have done, there is for me no question that Churchill suffered from depression. I believe that the evidence points to an affective disorder (depression), and he would be diagnosed today as having what would be considered a Persistent Depressive Disorder (300.4) with atypical features.
In reading Walter Attenborough’s book, I was fascinated that he attributes to Churchill the wisdom of modern day neuroscience. In the first chapter of the book, the author highlights Churchill’s advice that the “cultivation of a hobby,” such as bricklaying and painting (among two out of several mentioned), is necessary “to restore mental functioning of mentally overstrained persons.”
Adrian Phillips, The King Who Had to Go: Edward VIII, Mrs Simpson and the Hidden Politics of the Abdication Crisis, Biteback Publishing, 2016, 394 pages, £25.
Review by John Campbell
John Campbell’s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently Roy Jenkins.
So much has already been written about the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 that one wonders what more there can be to say. But Adrian Phillips has found a new angle by focussing on the role of the senior Whitehall mandarins in alerting the politicians, even before George V’s death, to the potential danger to the Crown posed by the Prince of Wales’s determination to marry an unsuitable American divorcee, and pressing them to take action to get rid of him. In this reading the key figures were Sir Warren Fisher, the powerful head of the home civil service since 1919, and Sir Horace Wilson, his protégé and eventual successor, who held a more shadowy but equally influential position as special adviser to the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. Between them Fisher and Wilson played a crucial but hitherto under-appreciated part behind the scenes in driving the crisis to its swift conclusion.
Phillips’ insight derives largely from the discrepancy between the bland official account, which Wilson wrote for the record soon after the event, and the notes he wrote at the time, which reveal far more of the alarm, urgency, and ruthlessness of those he calls the “hardliners,” notably Neville Chamberlain, and their impatience with Baldwin’s apparent reluctance to grasp the nettle. But he has also drawn on an impressive range of other contemporary accounts and diaries, many unpublished and some quite obscure, to produce an almost hour-by-hour examination of the scheming and calculations of a wide range of players with different agendas that led to the eventual result. Paradoxically, however, all this new detail of the pressure on Baldwin to force the issue actually serves to confirm the accepted view that he played it very skilfully. By giving the King time to see that his position was impossible he was able to present his abdication to the House of Commons and the world as Edward’s own entirely voluntary and honourable choice, glossing over all the machinations, politicking, and pressures that had been brought to bear over the previous weeks.
The Crown, season one, produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television, distributed by Netflix, initial release date 4 November 2016.
Sonia Purnell is the author of First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (2015). Her article about Clementine starts on page 17.
The words exchanged at the weekly audience between the British monarch and her prime minister are meant to remain private in perpetuity. It is all part of the mystique and majesty that make the British monarchy probably the best known but least understood institution in the world.
Very occasionally the royal door is opened a little—Tony Blair was once indiscreet about an exchange he had had with Queen Elizabeth II on the subject of Princess Diana’s funeral. A predecessor described the Queen during these encounters at Buckingham Palace as “friendly” but certainly not a friend. Historians remind us that as a constitutional monarch the Queen has only three rights—to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn—and it is likely that she exercises all of them, particularly in these troubled times.
Yet even with such meagre fare, Peter Morgan offers us a credible depiction of Winston Churchill’s audiences with the Queen in the new Netflix series The Crown. Skillfully Morgan plots the transformation of a privileged, under-educated, flesh-and-blood young woman into a monarch anointed in an abbey and answerable to God—a journey of self-sacrifice and personal transformation in which Winston Churchill, her first premier, is one of her greatest guides.
125 Years ago
Winter 1892 • Age 17
“The food is very queer….”
Given the protracted battle Winston had waged with his mother to avoid spending the Christmas holidays with a French family as his Head Master had recommended (“he has bombarded me with letters cursing his fate and everyone,” Lady Randolph wrote), Winston’s letters to his mother after he left for France were decidedly more civil in tone. Upon arrival, he wrote:
Fatigue, the passage, the strange food, the cold, homesickness, the thoughts of what was behind & what was before nearly caused me to write a letter which would have been painful to you. Now I am better & I think I will wait here my month though not one day more….The food is very queer, but there is plenty & on the whole it is good. There is beer and wine to drink. I have a room to myself but it is awfully cold. However with rugs, overcoats, dressing gowns etc. I managed to sleep.…I have already made great progress in French. I begin to think in it….M. Minssen says I know far more than he thought I did. These people are very kind. Of course I would give much to return, if you wish it I will come tomorrow—but considering all things I am prepared to stay my month.
The National Churchill Museum of the United States at Westminster College in Fulton, MO
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
A Note, or Two Notes, to Pamela Plowden
Following the tragic death of their two-year-old daughter Marigold in 1921, Winston and Clementine Churchill received numerous letters of sympathy. One letter of condolence arrived from Pamela Plowden (see p. 15), to whom Winston had proposed marriage in 1899. She refused him, instead marrying Victor, Earl of Lytton, thereby herself becoming the Countess of Lytton.
Upon receipt of the letter from Pamela, Churchill replied to his first great love with this hand-written note:
Thank you so much my dear for yr kind letter. It is indeed sad & cruel to lose our beautiful baby. We had high hopes of her as she showed so much character as well as the charm of early morning. One must hope that there will be fruition elsewhere, & that it is really true that ‘whom the Gods love well die young’. Yours affectionately W.
At the National Churchill Museum, Director and Chief Curator Timothy Riley recently discovered a previously unknown second note, which was still inside the original envelope. The handwritten message—instructions for a telegram—is from Clementine Churchill. It reads:
Churchill greets the Queen, while Clement Attlee and his wife Violet look on
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
By Roddy MacKenzie
Roddy Mackenzie is a retired Canadian lawyer, enthusiastic monarchist, and lifelong Churchill admirer. This article is based on his 2016 address to the Rt Hon Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of British Columbia.
The relationship between Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II is both fascinating and important for many reasons. Among them:
—Churchill was the United Kingdom’s longest-serving Member of Parliament, while The Queen is the longest-serving monarch
—The Queen was Churchill’s sixth and final sovereign, while Churchill was the first of The Queen’s thirteen British Prime Ministers to date
—Churchill at twenty-five was elected a Member of Parliament, while Elizabeth at twenty-five became Queen (the first Queen Elizabeth was also twenty-five when she became Queen in 1558)
—Most importantly, Churchill’s expert tutoring of The Queen on the complexities of the law, practices, and politics of constitutional monarchy benefited all who live in the many countries under her sovereignty
Robert Courts, who helped to organize the 2015 Churchill Conference in Oxfordshire and is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour, was chosen to fill the parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister David Cameron in a by-election held last October. Robert lives in Bladon, only a stone’s throw from Sir Winston Churchill’s final resting place in St. Martin’s churchyard. As the newly seated Conservative Member of Parliament for Witney, Robert delivered his maiden speech on 30 November 2016, the 142nd anniversary of Churchill’s birth, and made note of a very personal Churchill connection that crossed party lines, as we learn from the following extracts.
Mr. Speaker, in 1945 Albert Stubbs won the seat of Cambridgeshire for the Labour party. He was a famous trade unionist, and he won his seat by a majority of 44 by getting on his motorcycle, riding around the villages of Cambridgeshire and signing up the workers to the union. He was known for his hard work for the people of that area and his interest in rural issues.
I mention Mr. Stubbs because he was my great-grandfather….I do therefore acknowledge at this stage that Mr. Stubbs would be horrified by my politics, but I hope he would at least approve of my work ethic.
I have spoken to the House of my admiration for Winston Churchill, and I thought it would be a good idea if I went back to the records to see whether there was perhaps an exchange between my hero and my forebear. I went to Hansard and I searched for an exchange, and I expected the contrast of the famous parliamentary wit and the working-class warrior. I was thinking of a combination of Pitt the Younger and Charles James Fox, and I found in the “Thanks to the Services” debate from 1945 just such an exchange. The great man—speaking from the Opposition Bench, of course— paused in his speech, took an intervention from Mr. Stubbs, told him he was “ignorant” and went back to his speech. I do not know who was right or wrong in that exchange; I merely hope that I will manage to avoid such a rebuke in the course of my career.
“A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.” — Winston S. Churchill
By Edwina Sandys Edwina Sandys is a painter and sculptor. A granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill, she is the author of Winston Churchill: A Passion for Painting (2015), reviewed in FH 174. This article (A Day at Chartwell) copyright 2017 Edwina Sandys, Artists Rights Society, NY.
I visited Chartwell last June with my sister Celia Sandys to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the house to the public. It was a typical English afternoon, not quite sunny, not quite rainy. Tea was in a large tent on the lawn near the house. Many of our cousins, Soames and Churchill, were there, as well as friends of the family. I was very pleased to meet for the first time David Coombs, author of the comprehensive catalogue of Winston Churchill paintings.
After a few “Hellos” and “How are yous?” I had a strange feeling that we were sitting having tea and cakes on what had in earlier days been the croquet lawn. Before that it had been a tennis court. I had never known it as a tennis court but had heard of my grandmother’s prowess as a fine and graceful tennis player, who also played in tournaments. The Croquet Lawn was very much part of my Chartwell days. Although I never saw Grandpapa playing croquet, I played many games with Grandmama and Field Marshal Montgomery. Monty was a frequent visitor and, although known for being a stern and formidable soldier, was very kind and even interested in talking to a young, shy, teenager like me. In those days, in the English countryside, croquet was quite a different game from the one played today in the United States, where it is taken very seriously, competitively as well as sartorially—everyone in white dresses or flannels.
Winston and Sarah in Africa during the Second World War (photo: Imperial War Museum)
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
By Catherine Katz
Catherine Katz earned degrees in history at Harvard and Cambridge. She is working on a biography of Sarah Churchill.
Sarah Churchill was the essence of the modern woman living in an era that was not yet ready for her.
Judged in her day as a “Bolshie Deb,” a runaway bride, a rising star of London’s West End, and “the one that’s always in trouble,” she was in her own words endlessly “written up, written down and always written about” as “a woman who happened to be a daughter of one of the ‘greats’ of history.”1
To describe Sarah merely as Winston Churchill’s daughter would be to tell only half her story. While Sarah was certainly her father’s daughter in both fact and temperament, restricting our understanding of her to this narrow lens belies her fierce independence, depth, intelligence, professional success, and personal impact on the lives of some of the most extraordinary figures of her era.
Though a tabloid fixture in her own times, Sarah Churchill is little known today. Amongst modern audiences who are familiar with her story, her life is often condensed into a few short and unjustly unforgiving biographical lines: Sarah Millicent Hermione, the third child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, was born in October 1914, two months after the First World War commenced. She became a moderately successful actress on the stage and screen, was thrice married (with two of her husbands being entirely unsuitable), and at times grappled tragically with alcoholism and financial difficulties, particularly towards the end of her life.
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The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.