According to his wife Clementine, Winston Churchill was the last surviving believer in the divine right of kings and “Monarchial No. 1.” Sir David Cannadine has written, however, that “Churchill’s relations with the British royal family…were in practice more complex and contingent, contradictory and controversial” than his wife’s comments suggest.
Sir David is among those who have contributed the five portraits that feature in this issue of the British monarchs that Churchill served over the course of his lengthy political career. Churchill first took his seat in Parliament in 1901 during the earliest days of the reign of King Edward VII. Fred Glueckstein examines the often-strained relationship that existed between the cosmopolitan king and the ambitious young man in a hurry.
Relations between Churchill and King George V initially differed very little from what the situation had been with the King’s father Edward VII. The cataclysm of the First World War, however, drastically changed the political landscape of Britain and Europe and with it the way Churchill and the King viewed one another. It is this change that Sir David Cannadine explains and how the two men came to admire each other.
Edward VIII had much the shortest reign of any king that Churchill served, but the King’s abdication to marry the woman he loved generated many myths and legends that have continued down to this day. Churchill was involved in the events, but, as he himself failed to realize at the time, he was far from the center of things. An effort is made here to separate fact from fiction and explain Churchill’s actions.
While relations with King George VI also began with the two men at arm’s length, the struggles of the Second World War brought the Prime Minister and the King into the closest relationship that Churchill ever had with any monarch, as Hugo Vickers explains.
Besotted may not be too strong a word to describe Churchill’s feelings towards Queen Elizabeth II. He served as her first Prime Minister, and what a standard for his successors to follow! Ronald I. Cohen provides the details.
Additionally, we cannot forget that Churchill was born and raised during the Victorian Age, and that Queen Victoria was the first monarch whom he served, albeit as a soldier and not as Member of Parliament or Minister of the Crown. We also reprint Churchill’s appraisal of Queen Anne, the British monarch before his own time whom he studied most closely. His views will be seen as decidedly Churchill-centric.
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