August 30, 2021

Q. What did Churchill think of Scottish and Welsh Devolution?

A. Many Churchillians tend to believe that Winston Churchill would have opposed the development of separate Scottish and Welsh Parliaments, which they see as spelling the beginning of the end of the United Kingdom. The Churchill Centre discussion group engaged in some of this banter in December. Professor Paul Addison of the University of Edinburgh and Allen Packwood of the Churchill Archives Centre put the discussion straight on this matter, proving once again that what is widely believed of Churchill is not always what Churchill believed…

A.  From Paul Addison

 A word or two in response to the gentlemen summoning up the ghost of Winston Churchill when attacking Tony Blair’s proposals for Parliaments in Scotland and Wales. Churchill himself before 1914 was a supporter of Home Rule for Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If his proposals for Irish Home Rule had been implemented before the First World War, the twenty-six counties might still be a part of the United Kingdom today. There was so little demand for Scottish and Welsh home rule after 1918 that the question of devolution disappeared for the rest of Churchill’s life, but some of his comments suggest that he continued to favour a federal UK including regional Parliaments in England.

The main reason for the resurgence of Scottish nationalism in the 1980s was the determination of Mrs. Thatcher not only to reject Scottish home rule but to impose on Scotland policies which the majority of Scots plainly and repeatedly rejected at the polls. She behaved, in other words, more like an English nationalist than a custodian of a multinational Union. By the time Tony Blair came in the damage was done and it may now be too late to save the Union. But Home Rule offers a last chance of holding it together and it may just work, as Churchill hoped it would work in Ireland.

A. From Allen Packwood

I was very interested to read about Churchill’s hypothetical reaction to current political developments within the United Kingdom. I have been selecting material for an exhibition on Churchill to be staged next summer at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. One of the items I am proposing to feature is the following speech, delivered by Churchill in his Dundee constituency on 9th October 1913:

2024 International Churchill Conference

Join us for the 41st International Churchill Conference. London | October 2024

“Another great reason for the settlement of the Irish question in the present Parliament and for disposing of the Home Rule controversy now, while we have the full opportunity presented, is that the ground is thereby cleared for the consideration of claims of self-government for other parts of the United kingdom besides Ireland. You will remember how, last year, I addressed a meeting in Dundee on this subject. I made it perfectly clear that I was speaking for myself. I made it clear that I was not speaking of the immediate future, but dealing with the subject which lay for the moment outside the sphere of practical politics and raising a question for reflection and discussion rather than for prompt action.

“I spoke of the establishment of a federal system in the United Kingdom, in which Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and, if necessary, parts of England, could have separate legislative and parliamentary institutions, enabling them to develop, in their own way, their own life according to their own ideas and needs in the same way as the great and prosperous States of the American Union and the great kingdoms and principalities and States of the German Empire.”

 Just a few years earlier Churchill had been advocating reform of the House of Lords. And who says politics does not go in cycles?

Q. Was Churchill offered a Dukedom?

 A. The possibility of Churchill’s receiving a Dukedom after the war led to speculations about what his son would be known as. (Page references are from Sir Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Vol. 8, “Never Despair,” London: Heinemann, Boston: Houghton Muffin 1988.)

In February 1947, Churchill acquired 120-acre Bardogs Farm, adjacent to Chartwell Farm, for £8700. About a quarter of it was rented in tenancies. In a letter to his barrister, Leslie Graham-Dixon, discussing a possible dukedom, WSC wrote with what we must think was tongue in cheek:

“Duke of Bardogs would sound well, and Randolph could be Marquess of Chartwell.” (327 footnote 4; Churchill Papers, 1/34; Dixon to Gilbert, 15 Mar 82).

Earlier, George VI had offered WSC a knighthood, the Order of the Garter, to which he famously replied (but not to the King): “I could hardly accept His Majesty’s offer of the Garter when his people have given me the Order of the Boot.”

1952: On 22 February Jock Colville and Lord Moran (Churchill’s private secretary and physician respectively) went to Lord Salisbury for advice: the PM was “not doing his brief” and was indifferent to business. He hated delegating anything, yet he quickly noticed and reacted against any plan to “kick him upstairs.” Salisbury felt WSC might go to the Lords and remain Premier, with Eden leading the House as effective Premier.

Colville said: “He won’t do it. I did once suggest to him that he should go to the Lords, and thought at first he was taking it seriously when he said: “I should have to be the Duke of Chartwell, and Randolph would be the Marquess of Toodledo.” I saw that he was laughing at me.” Salisbury agreed, saying, “He regards us in the Lords as a rather disreputable collection of old gentlemen.”

They agreed that one person might persuade Churchill to go the Lords: The Queen. But soon he made another remarkable comeback with a great fighting speech, and the matter was laid aside. (703; see also Moran’s Churchill: Struggle for Survival, pp. 375-8, quoting Colville; and Colville, Fringes of Power, p. 642.)

1955: By the time Churchill resigned on 4 April, it had been determined that no further dukedoms would be offered except to Royal personages. Yet WSC was different from other Prime Ministers and an exception was considered. The Palace asked Colville if they could offer a dukedom, confident that Churchill would refuse it. Colville took some soundings. Churchill told him that he would never accept: “First of all what could he be Duke of?” Colville reported. “Secondly, even if he were Duke of Westerham, what would Randolph be? He could only be Marquess of Puddleduck Lane which was the only other possession he had apart from Chartwell. And thirdly, and quite seriously, he wished to die in the House of Commons as Winston Churchill.”

The oddest thing then happened. On April 5th the PM donned his frock coat and top hat for his Audience, and Colville, knowing he was hopelessly in love with The Queen, feared that despite all WSC’s assurances he might accept out of his affection for her!

Churchill returned from the Palace with tears in his eyes: “Do you know, the most remarkable thing-she offered me a Duke.” With trepidation, Jock asked what he had replied. “Well, you know, I very nearly accepted, I was so moved by her beauty and her charm and the kindness with which she made this offer, that for a moment I thought of accepting. But finally I remembered that I must die as I have always been-Winston Churchill. And so I asked her to forgive my not accepting it. And do you know, it’s an odd thing, but she seemed almost relieved.”

(1123-24; Colville to Randolph Churchill 8Jun65.)

Q: What is the history of Churchill’s electoral wins and losses?

A. From Douglas J. Hall in Finest Hour 103:

Date: Result, Nature of Contest, Constituency

6 Jul 1899: Lost, By-election, Oldham

1 Oct 1900: Won, Election, Oldham

13 Jan 1906: Won, Election, NW Manchester

24 Apr 1908: Lost, By-election, NW Manchester

9 May 1908: Won, By-election, Dundee

22 Jan 1910: Won, Election, Dundee

8 Dec 1910: Won, Election, Dundee

30 Jul 1917: Won, By-election, Dundee

14 Dec 1918: Won, Election, Dundee

15 Nov 1922: Lost, Election, Dundee

6 Dec 1923: Lost, Election, W Leicester

19 Mar 1924: Lost, By-election, Westminster, Abbey

29 Oct 1924: Won, Election, Epping

30 May 1929: Won, Election, Epping

27 Oct 1931: Won, Election, Epping

14 Nov 1935: Won, Election, Epping

5 Jul 1945: Won, Election, Woodford

23 Feb 1950: Won, Election, Woodford

25 Oct 1951: Won, Election, Woodford

Totals: 21 campaigns; 16 wins and 5 losses

* The 1922 election was lost to Ernest Scrymgeour who had fought and lost Dundee to WSC in the previous five elections.
** Woodford was a division of the former Epping constituency.

 See our Elections page for more on this topic. 

A tribute, join us




Get the Churchill Bulletin delivered to your inbox once a month.