Michael McMenamin writes the “Action This Day” column for Finest Hour.
H. B. Lyle, The Red Ribbon, Quercus, 2018, 368 pages, $26.99. ISBN 978–1635060041 Portrayal *** Worth Reading ***
Michael Carin, Churchill at Munich, The Metropolitan Press, 2018, $11.95. ISBN 978–0968856956 Portrayal ** Worth Reading **
Novels are rated one to three stars on two questions: Is the portrayal of Churchill accurate, and is the book worth reading?
The Red Ribbon is the second in a series of mysteries set before the First World War featuring Captain Vernon Kell in his early days as head of MI-5 and his “Agent W” (for Wiggins), a nowgrown-up street urchin who once had been a member of Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars. The first book in the series, The Irregular, was set in 1909, where Churchill, as President of the Board of Trade, had a major supporting role [see review in FH 179]. The Red Ribbon is set in 1910, and Churchill, now Home Secretary, has an even larger role than before. Additionally, Sherlock Holmes himself has a cameo appearance. Read More >
Queen Elizabeth II with her expected line of succession
Finest Hour 184, Second Quarter 2019
Of the monarchs under whom Winston Churchill lived and served, the only one he never met personally was Queen Victoria (1819–1901). His father Lord Randolph had served the Queen as a cabinet minister, and his grandfather the seventh Duke of Marlborough represented the Queen as her Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Despite these family connections, it appears that Churchill himself saw the Queen only as part of a crowd including the celebrations during her Golden (1887) and Diamond (1897) Jubilees.
It was as a soldier of the Queen that Churchill served Victoria himself. While attending the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Gentleman Cadet Churchill formed part of a guard of honour when the Queen visited Aldershot in May 1894. The following year, upon completing his course of training, Churchill was commissioned a second lieutenant in Her Majesty’s “Land Forces” (see below). Read More >
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale College and hosts a podcast for the New Books Network.
Richard Steyn, Churchill’s Confidant: Jan Smuts, Enemy to Lifelong Friend, Robinson, 2018, 224 pages, £25/$45. ISBN 978–1472140760
He was a man of formidable intelligence who, over the course of his long life, proved himself to be a patriot and an apostle for the civilizing mission of the British Empire. As a young man he made his reputation in the Boer War with a daring episode of defiance in the face of the enemy. A rising politician who served in several offices in the years leading up to the First World War, during the conflict he served with distinction both in uniform and out. After several years in the political wilderness, he returned to office at the start of the Second World War and as prime minister led his country to victory, only to be ignominiously turned out of office in its aftermath. Read More >
Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen and author of Churchill: Le Dictionnaire (2018).
Ralph Keysers, Le Crayon du Diable: Philipp Rupprecht alias Fips: Trois chefs de guerres contre Hitler: W. Churchill, J. Staline et F. Roosevelt dans le Stürmer de 1939 à 1945, S.l.s.n., 2018, 351 pages, €41. ISBN 978–2956076841
First, it is essential to decrypt the title of this book, which collects cartoons savaging the three principal Allied Warlords that were published in the most offensive Nazi weekly Der Stürmer [The Stormer]. The title is not self-explanatory even for a native French speaker. Le Crayon du Diable [the Devil’s pencil] is in fact the name of the series, which also includes three other books. All of these are edited collections with translations and commentaries by Dr. Ralph Keysers, a former Cultural Advisor to the French Embassy in Bonn and Senior University Lecturer in German Studies, now retired. The Devil in question is the cartoonist Philipp Rupprecht, who signed his work as Fips. While Julius Streicher, the founder, owner, and editor of Der Stürmer, was hanged in 1946, Rupprecht got away with a ten-year prison sentence, of which he only served five. Read More >
John Campbell‘s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and Roy Jenkins.
Piers Brendon, Churchill’s Bestiary: His Life Through Animals, Michael O’Mara Books, 2018, 320 pages, £20. ISBN 978–1789290509
At first sight this book looks like just another addition to the pile of trivial and redundant Churchilliana seemingly published on the assumption that anything with Churchill’s name in the title can be expected to sell. But on this occasion first impressions are entirely wrong. In Churchill’s Bestiary Piers Brendon has compiled a book which is scholarly, original and beautifully written, and casts fresh light on an important and underestimated side of Churchill’s protean character.
In twenty-five short and witty chapters Brendon details Churchill’s dealings with the whole animal kingdom alphabetically from “Albatross” and “Antelope” to “Wolves” and “Worms.” On the one hand he describes Churchill’s real-life physical relationship with each species, whether as pets to be pampered or prey to be hunted; on the other it exhaustively cites his vivid and sometimes imaginative use of animal similes and metaphors to describe his political opponents, characterised as rats, snakes, jackals, ostriches, and so on. These are usually pejorative (“the whipped jackal, Mussolini” or “the foul baboonery of Bolshevism”) but not always. One surprising omission is Churchill’s description of his great friend F. E. Smith as “possessing all the canine virtues in a remarkable degree—courage, fidelity, vigilance, love of the chase.” Read More >
Dr. Ted R. Bromund is the Senior Research Fellow in Anglo-American Relations at the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom in The Heritage Foundation.
Robert Crowcraft, The End Is Nigh: British Politics, Power, and the Road to the Second World War, Oxford University Press, 2019, 304 pages, £25. ISBN 978-0198823698
The shadow of Maurice Cowling hangs heavy over Robert Crowcroft’s The End Is Nigh: British Politics, Power, and the Road to the Second World War. Cowling’s The Impact of Hitler, published in 1975, was an influential challenge to historical orthodoxy. Writing from the disenchanted perspective of an English conservative embittered by the economic and political depths to which post-war Britain had by that point sunk, Cowling treated the approach of the Second World War not as a study in the failure of appeasement. Rather, dismissing the impact of ideas, he saw it as struggle in which naked political ambition defined British policy. It is, as Crowcroft states, a “highly sceptical way of looking at politics.” Read More >
Queen Elizabeth II (second from left) following Churchill’s funeral, 30 January 1965
Finest Hour 184, Second Quarter 2019
By Ronald I. Cohen
Ronald I. Cohen MBE is author of A Bibliography of the Writings of Sir Winston Churchill, 3 vols. (2006).
As this issue of Finest Hour makes clear, Winston Churchill served under six monarchs. His extraordinary tenure of sixty-two years and thirty days as an MP began when he was elected during the reign of a monarch who came to the throne in 1837 and ended with a queen who still graces the throne today, 182 years later. And Queen Elizabeth II herself became the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September 2015, when she surpassed her great-great grandmother, Victoria, who had served for sixty-three years and 216 days.
Churchill was fifty-one years old when Princess Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926. When they first “met,” just over ninety years ago, in September 1928, Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, was visiting Balmoral as Minister in Attendance on King George V. The only other guest at the Royal Family’s Scottish estate that day was Princess Elizabeth of York, then aged two. With no expectation that their futures would become entwined, Churchill wrote to Clementine, who had not accompanied him, “[The Princess] has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.”1 Read More >
Hugo Vickers is a writer and broadcaster who has written biographies of many twentieth-century figures, including Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (2005). His biography of Gladys Deacon, the second wife of Churchill’s cousin the ninth Duke of Marlborough, will be reissued in 2020.
King George VI died on 6 February 1952, and it fell to Edward Ford, the King’s Assistant Private Secretary, to break the news to Winston Churchill at 10 Downing Street. “Bad news, the worst,” he said, laying aside his papers and descending into considerable gloom. A few days later at the funeral, Churchill’s wreath bore the simple words: “For Valour.” By the time of his death, the King had earned the highest respect and admiration from his Prime Minister. On this the historians agree. Andrew Roberts, Churchill’s latest biographer, wrote that during the war the King and Churchill formed a bond “that was eventually to become as strong as any Churchill enjoyed in public life.”1 Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, George VI’s official biographer, cited Churchill as “the man with whom he was to work in later years in such close accord for the salvation of their country.”2
David Freeman is editor of Finest Hour. This article originally appeared in the winter 2011 issue of The Churchillian. It has been revised and updated.
Born 23 June 1894, Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David immediately occupied a position of near-inconceivable stature. British influence in the world and the British Empire stood at their zenith. As the eldest great-grandchild of Queen Victoria in the direct-male line, the Prince (known to his family as David) stood to inherit what Winston Churchill later described to him as “the finest Throne in the world.”1 Forty-two years later, the Prince who became King Edward VIII freely chose to give up that throne in order to marry the woman he loved.
The only voluntary abdication by a British monarch since the Anglo-Saxon age deeply involved Churchill and has become incrusted with rumors and misperceptions that were born at the time and have been repeated ever since. With most (but still not all) of the records now open, fact can be separated from fiction to show how Churchill and the King understood, related to, and indeed used—or tried to use—one another. Read More >
Extract from article that first appeared in the Evening Standard of 2 May 1935 to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Edward VII and the accession of King George V.
King Edward VII died in harness. On the fourth of May, 1910, it was my duty as Home Secretary to homage a Bishop. The King performed this ceremony in a very small sitting-room leading out of his bedroom.
Assisted by the Bishop of Winchester, I brought the Bishop designate into the Presence. King Edward was sitting in his chair immaculately dressed in a frock coat. His waistcoat had the white revers round the collar which was then fashionable. It was known he was ailing. I thought he looked frail and had the impression he was short of breath, but otherwise he betrayed no sign of illness or weakness.
The Bishop raised his hands as if in prayer. The King took them between his own. I administered the oath by which inter alia the new Bishop accepts the Royal supremacy not only in temporal but also in spiritual matters. The function concluded, the King rose, smiled graciously, and we bowed ourselves out of the room.
The future King George V opening the first Australian Parliament, 1901
Finest Hour 184, Second Quarter 2019
By David Cannadine
The future King-Emperor George V, who would reign from 1910 to 1936, was born at Marlborough House, the palatial London residence of his parents, on 3 June 1865, and he would be christened Prince George Frederick Ernest Albert. He was the second son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, otherwise known as “Bertie,” and Princess Alexandra, daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark and always called “Alix.” His paternal grandmother was the bereaved but intimidating Queen Victoria. At the time of Prince George’s birth, the royal house of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was at the apex of the preeminent industrial, financial, imperial, and maritime nation in the world.
Sir David Cannadine is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University and a trustee of the International Churchill Society. His many books include George V: The Unexpected King (2014) and In Churchill’s Shadow (2003), from both of which the text of this article is drawn.
There was a problem with the succession. Prince George’s older brother Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward (known as “Eddy”) was quiet, delicate, lethargic, apathetic, and a slow developer (he may, indeed, have suffered from what would now be termed attention deficit disorder). But despite Eddy’s shortcomings, it seemed inevitable he would one day inherit the throne, and this in turn meant that, as a younger son, Prince George lived the first twenty-six years of his life with no expectation of ever becoming king: like many monarchs whose reigns later turned out well, he was not born to succeed.
Edward VII and Queen Alexandra coronation portraits, 1901
Finest Hour 184, Second Quarter 2019
By Fred Glueckstein
Fred Glueckstein is a regular contributor to Finest Hour and author of Churchill and Colonist II (2015).
Following his lecture tours in the United States in 1900, Winston Churchill continued his speaking engagements in Canada. During his last lectures in Winnipeg, Churchill learned of the death of Queen Victoria, which had occurred on Tuesday, 22 January 1901. He knew that Victoria’s son Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, ascended the throne and chose to reign under the name Edward VII.
On learning of the Queen’s passing, Churchill wrote his mother: “I contemplated sending a letter of condolence and congratulations mixed, but I am uncertain how to address it and also whether such procedure would be etiquette. You must tell me. I am most interested and feel rather vulgar about the matter. I should like to know an Emperor and a King. Edward the VIIth—gadzooks what a long way that seems to take one back! I am glad he has got his innings at last, and am most interested to watch how he plays it.”1 Churchill’s remarks to his mother referred to two matters regarding the new King.
Queen Anne is dead; but her contribution to British history abides with us today. The reign of Queen Elizabeth I saw a little England divided and harassed, escaping a grisly hazard from the destruction which would have been also fatal to Protestant and rationalist civilization.
This article first appeared in the Evening Standard of 1 May 1937.
Queen Anne presided over, and at moments decisively aided, the rise of England to a united Britain and to the leadership of the European continent. That leadership was not permanently held, but never since the reign of Anne has Great Britain ceased to be one of the leading nations of the world.
This reign also is capital in its influence on Parliamentary government as it was to flourish for two hundred years. The development of the party system, the collective responsibility of the Cabinet, the obligation of the Crown to receive not only policies but Ministers in accordance with the wish of the House of Commons, were milestones comparable in achievement with the Union with Scotland.
LONDON—My Dear Winston, I am writing to tell you how very sad I am that you are no longer my Prime Minister.
During the last 5 years of War we have met on dozens, I may say on hundreds of occasions, when we have discussed the most vital questions concerning the security & welfare of this Country & the British Empire in their hours of trial. I shall always remember our talks with the greatest pleasure & I only wish they could have continued longer.
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The next issue of Finest Hour will be about "Churchill, Race, and Religion." In the foreword, Lord Boateng, Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust, writes: “Sir Winston did not run away from controversy in his life and would not expect anything less in that which has followed. We do owe him and each other, however, civility and respect in the conduct of those arguments—not least, since we owe to him and the global anti-fascist fight, which he helped lead to such good effect, the secure freedom to hold those arguments at all.” … See MoreSee Less
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.