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
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.
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