125 Years Ago
Summer 1893 • Age 18 “I Had at Length Got In.”
Winston spent the summer of 1893 with his brother Jack on holiday in Switzerland. Shortly before leaving, he learned he had passed the Sandhurst entrance exam. He promptly sent a telegram to Lord Randolph telling him of this and, in Lucerne on 6 August, wrote a letter to him saying, “I was so glad to be able to send you good news last Thursday.”
Lord Randolph’s reply on 9 August did not reciprocate the enthusiasm. He expressed his “surprise at your tone of exultation over your inclusion in the Sandhurst list.” His father was primarily displeased that Winston’s score was not high enough to secure him a position in the infantry, only the cavalry. Thus, he complained, Winston had “imposed on me an extra charge of 200 pounds a year” to purchase and care for horses. “With all the advantages you had and all the abilities which you foolishly think yourself to possess & which some of your relations claim for you, with all the efforts that have been made to make your life easy & agreeable & your work neither oppressive nor distasteful, this is the grand result that you come up among the 2nd and 3rd rate class who are only good for commissions in a cavalry regiment.”
125 Years ago
Autumn 1892 • Age 18
“If He Fails Again…”
Winston’s brother Jack joined him at Harrow in the fall and the two boys shared a room. On 24 September, their mother wrote to Winston: “I hope you & Jack are settled and comfortable. Do write & tell me all about it, & what you find your room wants.” In fact, their room did not want for much as he advised her in a letter on one occasion: “The room is very beautiful. We purchased in London sufficiency of ornaments to make it look simply magnificent.” He later wrote that “The room is now very nice, in fact it is universally spoken of as the best room in the House.”
On 25 October, Lord Randolph advised his sons that their mother was “extremely ill yesterday and we were rather alarmed.” In fact, Lady Randolph was diagnosed on 12 October as having an enlarged ovary that was causing her a great deal of pain for which the treating physician had advised her to “rest and do nothing to bring on pain.” By 22 October, her condition had not improved and she was given morphine as “the absolute necessity of controlling the pain.” The problem did not clear up until early in December.
Final assault and the fall of Constantinople in 1453
The 2018 theme is Conflict and Compromise in History
The National Contest for the National History Day® competition is the final stage of a series of contests at local and state/affiliate levels. Students begin their journey by presenting their projects in classrooms, schools, and districts around the world. Top entries are invited to the state/affiliate level contests. The top two entries in every category at the state/affiliate level are then invited to the National Contest.
The 2018 National Contest will be held June 10-14, 2018 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Each year the National History Day competition frames students’ research within a specific historical theme.
“The intentional selection of the theme for NHD is to provide an opportunity for students to push past the antiquated view of history as mere facts and dates and drill down into historical content to develop perspective and understanding.”
In The Churchillians, Winston Churchill’s former Private Secretary Sir John Colville wrote that one of the men from his youth whom Churchill held in high regard was the Head Master of his old school, Harrow. James Edward Cowell (J. E. C.) Welldon was educated at Eton and attended King’s College, Cambridge. He was ordained as a deacon in 1883 and as a priest in 1885. In May 1883, Welldon was appointed Master of Dulwich College. He resigned this post in July 1885 to become the Head Master of Harrow, a position he held from 1885 to 1898.
After Lord Randolph decided that Winston would attend Harrow, Churchill, age thirteen, was required to take the Entrance Examination on 18 March 1888. Churchill was accompanied by Miss Charlotte Thomson, who founded and headed the preparatory school in Brighton that he attended. As explained in My Early Life, however, examinations for Churchill “were a great trial.”
Entrance Exam to Harrow
The subjects Churchill liked were history, poetry, and writing essays. He wrote, however: “The examiners were partial to Latin and mathematics. And their will prevailed. This sort of treatment had only one result: I did not do well in examinations. This was especially true of my Entrance Examination to Harrow. The Head Master, Dr. Welldon, however, took a broad-minded view of my Latin prose: he showed discernment in judging my general ability.”1
“This was the more remarkable,” wrote Churchill, “because I was found unable to answer a single question in the Latin paper. I wrote my name at the top of the page. I wrote down the number of the question ‘I’. After much reflection I put a bracket around it thus ‘(I)’. But thereafter I could not think of anything connected with it that was either relevant or true….”2
A few weeks before his eighth birthday, in 1882, Churchill – like many other children of his class and background – was sent away to boarding school. The school was St George’s, near Ascot, Berkshire. Like lots of schoolchildren, Churchill didn’t like school. Churchill later wrote about his schooldays: ‘It appeared that I was to go away from home for many weeks at a stretch in order to do lessons under masters… After all I was only seven, and I had been so happy in my nursery with all my toys. I had such wonderful toys … Now it was to be all lessons …’
He was unhappy from the start, initially probably no unhappier than many children sent away to school at the time, although ‘floggings’ (beatings) were common. But the discipline of school life didn’t suit his independent spirit.
After only two years at St George’s, he was sent to a school in Brighton, run by the two Misses Thomson (The Misses Thomson’s Preparatory School), where he learned things that interested him such as French, history, poetry, riding a horse and swimming.
In 1892, when Churchill was 17, he won the Public Schools fencing championship, presaging his future career as a fighting man. Generally, however, his other achievements at school didn’t seem to suggest an academic future. His parents decided that he wasn’t university material and instead they wanted him to try to enter the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and the military career for which he had already shown an inclination.
He left Harrow in 1892 and went to a ‘crammer’ to help him pass the entrance exam, which he eventually did on the third attempt in 1893. Churchill’s poor maths meant he couldn’t join the artillery and engineers, and he didn’t do well enough in the final exam to qualify for the infantry, much to his father’s disappointment. Against his father’s wishes, he qualified for a cavalry cadetship (the cavalry was more expensive than the infantry; the family would need to buy one or two costly ‘hunters’, polo ponies).
Churchill’s younger brother, Jack, was born in 1880 when Churchill was five. They saw little of their parents and both of them were looked after by a nanny. Mrs Everest (she was, in fact, a spinster; the ‘Mrs’ was an honorary title) was hired when Winston was only a few months old.
The children led a peripatetic life, often travelling with her from their home in Ireland (the ‘Little Lodge’, where the Churchills lived when his grandfather, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, became Viceroy of Ireland), to the Isle of Wight, to Blenheim and to London.
On 17 April 1888, Churchill went to Harrow School, an independent boarding school for boys founded in 1572 under a Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I, in London.
He joined Head Master’s Boarding House, said to date from 1650.
Here, he wasn’t particularly happy and he didn’t particularly excel. However, Churchill’s ability to memorise lines, which he later used when he first made public speeches, was already apparent. While at Harrow, he entered a competition and won a school prize for reciting from memory 1,200 lines from Macaulay’s long poem, Lays of Ancient Rome – a quite remarkable achievement.
When Churchill was eighty-eight he was asked by the Duke of Edinburgh how he’d like to be remembered. He reportedly replied that he’d like a scholarship named after him, like the Rhodes Scholarship but for the wider masses.
To get young Americans studying at the new Churchill College, Cambridge, a Foundation was created as a vehicle for the Churchill Scholarship in July 1959 (in fact, the Foundation predates the Royal Charter for Churchill College and has been a steady companion of the College from its creation). Now called the Winston Churchill Foundation of the US, it’s a reminder of Anglo–US cooperation and friendship. It ‘honours Churchill’s name not by looking back at his past but by looking to the future of science and technology as drivers of global security and economic development’ (Winston Churchill Foundation of the US).
Churchill died in 1965 and yet his name – and his legacy – lives on, in the educational organisations that he established in his lifetime and in the initiatives set up after his death, to promote excellence, innovation and leadership in education and research in science, technology, health and welfare and the arts. Churchill cared passionately about the future of his country and believed strongly in the importance of education and research in securing success and leadership in the years ahead.
The privilege of a university education is a great one; the more widely it is extended the better for any country.
Churchill, 12 May 1948, University of Oslo
David Cannadine, Heroic Chancellor: Winston Churchill and the University of Bristol, 1919–65, Institute of Historical Research, 2016, 78 pages, $15. ISBN 978-1909646186
Review by Christopher Sterling
Of the many “Churchill and…” or “The Untold Story of…” titles, this brief book really is an untold story of one aspect of Churchill’s life few of us know. A man who never attended university, Churchill served as chancellor of the University of Bristol for the last thirty-six years of his life. This booklet is based on a lecture Sir David Cannadine delivered in observance of the half-century anniversary of Churchill’s death.
A word of background for those used to American university practice: in Britain, a university chancellor normally plays only a ceremonial role (as when conferring honorary degrees at graduation, for example), rather than being a fulltime, active administrator. Further, in Churchill’s time an appointment as a university chancellor was typically held for life. This is no longer the case at Bristol, which leaves Churchill the university’s longest-serving chancellor and likely to remain so.
An Uneducated Man Speaking His Mind: Winston Churchill and American Universities
Winston Churchill was always somewhat ambivalent about education. He recalled that his schooldays were “the only barren and unhappy period of my life,” and he never attended university.1 Yet he received many honorary degrees in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. The occasions for these awards gave him the opportunity, originally as Britain’s wartime prime minister and later as an international statesman, to discuss the benefits of education and make wide-ranging assessments of the state of the world. He delivered speeches at universities all over Europe, from Bristol to Brussels, from Leiden to London. But it was his American addresses at Harvard University, the University of Miami, Westminster College, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from the years 1943 to 1949, which were the most significant.
At the beginning of this period, Churchill was Britain’s wartime prime minister and a fervent believer in the Anglo-American alliance. Later, after his election defeat in 1945, he became the leader of the Conservative opposition. Desiring to rebuild his political career, he saw the advent of the Cold War as an opportunity to revive the Anglo-American relationship, which he feared had lapsed after the Allied victory in 1945. In calling for Great Britain and the United States to take concerted action against the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union, he was also re-establishing himself as someone with important things to say about the state and the future of the contemporary world. The ideal place for him to speak his mind on these topics proved to be on American campuses. He utilized these opportunities not only to promote the importance of the Anglo-American relationship, first against Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union, but also to offer his thoughts on the general importance of higher education. Read More >
“The Four Pillars of The Churchill Centre are Publications, Education, Research and Media.” —Laurence Geller, Chairman, 2007
Research and “Churchill Central”
To knit together the vast and diverse trove of Churchill material on the Internet, The Churchill Centre UK has combined with Bloomsbury Publishing to launch the Churchill Central website in 2015 on the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston’s death. Rather than another Churchill site, Churchill Central strives to concentrate and direct browsers to important sources of research from the various organizations. The Churchill Centre’s part in all this is largely based on Finest Hour, with some 800 articles and papers now in digital as well as .pdf form which constitute one of the broadest collections of Churchill material by leading scholars, published over the past thirty-five years. Here is a sampling of the article synopses we are preparing for Churchill Central, in Bloomsbury’s twelve chosen aspects of his life and times, with web pages you can access.
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Winston Churchill’s great-grandson Randolph Churchill reveals that the Conservative wartime PM loved Scotland and the Scots and was ironically best pals with the SNP’s founding father. #thinkchurchillbit.ly/39BWoQb… 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.