Celia Lee, Jean, Lady Hamilton 1861–1942: Diaries of a Soldier’s Wife, Pen and Sword, 2020, £19.99. ISBN 978–1526786585
Andrew Roberts’most recent book is Leadership in War (2019). ,
Readers of Finest Hour who are familiar with Winston Churchill’s role in initiating the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 will instantly recognise the name of Sir Ian Hamilton, the commander of that tragically doomed expedition. Churchill had recommended Hamilton, a distinguished Edwardian soldier and long acquaintance, to Lord Kitchener, the secretary for war, for that high command, which turned out to be an utterly poisoned chalice.
The young cavalry officer had been thrilled to come to the attention of the famous soldier, Ian Hamilton, who was twenty-one years his senior. Churchill’s sixth book, Ian Hamilton’s March, was written to honour his achievements in the South African war. They remained firm friends and shared many of the liberal, and indeed Liberal, beliefs of the day. Both were opposed to harsh peace settlements with the Boers in 1902 and the Germans in 1918.
Celia Lee has an unrivalled knowledge of the invaluable and detailed diaries kept by Jean, Ian Hamilton’s wife, and has written a remarkable biography based on those intimate daily records of the life of a member of the Edwardian power elite. Jean, the daughter of a millionaire Scottish entrepreneur, had a profound effect on Hamilton’s career at crucial moments. And through her deliciously gossip-ridden diaries we get many wonderful anecdotes about life in that gilded age. Read More >
125 Years Ago Summer 1895 • Age 20 “I Shall Never Know Such a Friend Again”
Mrs. Everest, Winston’s beloved childhood nanny, died on 3 July. He wrote to his mother the same day: “She was delighted to see me on Monday and I think my coming made her die happy. Her last words were of Jack. I shall never know such a friend again.
” Churchill continued to have his mind on politics and had no intention of making a career in the Army. Writing to his mother on 16 August, he said, “It is a fine game to play—the game of politics—and it is well worth waiting for a good hand—before really plunging….The more I see of soldiering—the more I like it—but the more I feel convinced that it is not my métier. Well, we shall see—my dearest Mama.”
On 24 August, Churchill again wrote his mother: “I find I am getting into a state of mental stagnation….It is a state of mind onto which all or nearly all who soldier—fall. From this ‘slough of Despond’ I try to raise myself by reading & re-reading Papa’s speeches—many of which I almost know by heart—but I really cannot find the energy to read any other serious work.” He went on to tell her that he intended, once situated in London, to study one or two hours a week with a scholar in Economics or Modern History because “I need someone to point out some specific subject to stimulate & to direct my reading in that subject.” Read More >
To return to power in 1951, Winston Churchill needed support in Scotland as much as he did anywhere else. During the general election campaign, therefore, he dutifully traveled to Glasgow, where he spoke at St. Andrew’s Hall on 17 October. If the Conservatives were to win, Churchill told his audience, “We shall advise the creation of a new Minister of State for Scottish Affairs of Cabinet rank, to work in Scotland as Deputy to the Secretary of State.”1
The strategy worked. The Tories eked out a seventeen-seat majority in the election by securing thirty-five of the seventy-one Scottish seats. Churchill became prime minister for the second time and appointed his former Chief Whip, James Stuart, as Secretary of State for Scotland. Stuart in turn recommended that Alec Douglas-Home, who had recently succeeded his father to become the 14th Earl of Home, be appointed as the promised Minister of State.
The selection of the middle-aged earl did not appeal to Churchill. As a member of the House of Commons, then styled Lord Dunglass, Douglas-Home had been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and had accompanied his leader to the infamous Munich Conference, which Churchill had vociferously denounced. Stuart stood firm, however, and Churchill relented. “All right— have your Home sweet Home,” he huffed. “The Prime Minister’s personal directive to me was characteristic and terse,” Douglas-Home later recalled, “‘Go and quell those turbulent Scots, and don’t come back until you’ve done it.’”2 There was indeed to be turbulence. Read More >
This is the first in what will be a series of four issues to be published over four years examining Churchill’s connections with the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. The rich but scarcely explored field of Scotland comes first, and we are honored to have a foreword from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Churchill’s affiliations with Scotland began with his birth on 30 November 1874—the feast day of St. Andrew, Scotland’s patron saint. Despite the many connections that followed, Scots today have all but forgotten Churchill. Alastair Stewart looks at the reasons for this and explains why it would profit the country to embrace the Churchill legacy.
More egregious than collective amnesia has been a campaign of deliberate misrepresentation of Churchill’s record in Scotland. Gordon J. Barclay untangles the malicious myths that have been fabricated and explains the reasons for the militant assertion of fake history.
Piers Brendon is author of Churchill’s Bestiary: His Life Through Animals (2018) and former Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre.
On a visit to Lord Rosebery’s palatial country house Mentmore in 1880, the radical politician Sir Charles Dilke noted that his host was “the most ambitious man I had ever met.” Years later Dilke added a marginal comment, “I have since known Winston Churchill.”1 Needless to say, young Winston was ambitious, occasionally telling—and convincing—complete strangers that he was destined to lead his country. But Rosebery’s ambitions were more diffuse. They were famously summed up in his expressed desire to marry an heiress, win the Derby and become Prime Minister. Perhaps this story is apocryphal since the three wishes were apparently made at the Mendacious Club, which he formed with the American socialite and political fixer Sam Ward. Yet all three were fulfilled, which did not prevent Rosebery’s life from becoming what the journalist A. G. Gardiner called a “tragedy of unfulfilment.”2 That life fascinated Churchill. As he wrote in a sparkling essay on Rosebery in Great Contemporaries, “With some at least of those feelings of awe and attraction which led Boswell to Dr. Johnson, I sought occasions to develop the acquaintance of childhood into a grown-up friendship.”3
Archibald Primrose (1847– 1929), who became fifth Earl of Rosebery at the age of twenty, had been two years ahead of Winston’s father, Lord Randolph Churchill, at Eton. They forged a close bond at Oxford where they were both members of the fast, aristocratic set whose main activities were drinking, gambling and sport. Unlike Lord Randolph, younger son of the Duke of Marlborough, Rosebery was immensely rich, inheriting over 20,000 Scottish acres and a clutch of stately homes to go with them. So while Lord Randolph merely kept his own pack of harriers at Merton College, Rosebery spent a small fortune on the Turf. The Dean of Christ Church was not amused, insisting that Rosebery must either give up his race-horses or his undergraduate studies. Characteristically Rosebery chose to sacrifice the latter, departing from the university without a degree. This was the sort of grand gesture that appealed to Lord Randolph, who shared Rosebery’s intense pride of caste whereby, as an Eton contemporary wrote, “a man seems to ascend in a balloon out of earshot every time he is addressed by one not socially his equal.”4Read More >
This issue commemorates the eightieth anniversary of Winston Churchill becoming prime minister in May 1940. Already the beleaguered year of 2020 has shown that Churchill remains the gold standard for crisis leadership. As political leaders around the world have struggled to meet the challenges created by a global pandemic, observers have measured their actions against Churchill’s example.
Churchill served under five different prime ministers, and five future prime ministers served under him. It is some measure of Churchill’s career that these men came from three different parties: Liberal, Labour, and Conservative. In this issue we look at each man’s Churchillian connections, and we are honored to start with a foreword by David Cameron.
Churchill received his first government appointment from Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. Fred Glueckstein introduces us to the Edwardian statesman who preferred to be known as “CB.” Promotion to the Cabinet came for Churchill with the sudden death of CB and the succession of H. H. Asquith to the premiership. T. G. Otte looks at the man whom Churchill referred to as a “Tribune” of the people. Read More >
Churchill’s peacetime cabinet (Woolton is front row, second from left)
Finest Hour 183, First Quarter 2019
By Iain Carter
Iain Carter is Political Director of the Conservative Party. He has previously been a special adviser to the Leader of the House of Lords and a member of the Conservative Research Department.
When it came to preparing meals during the Second World War, the British people had to make do with what they were allocated under the ration. Francis Latry, Maitre Chef de Cuisine at the Savoy Hotel, came to the rescue with a recipe for vegetable pie that was then popularized by Lord Woolton, the Minister of Food responsible for overseeing the rationing system. “Woolton Pie,” as the pastry became known, would be forgotten as soon as the end of wartime austerity could be achieved. Making the most of sparse beginnings, however, was something the former Cabinet minister would be called upon to repeat.
In a private conversation following Labour’s landslide victory in the 1945 general election, Winston Churchill remarked, “I shall not be idle. I shall write, I shall speak on the wireless and I shall still be an MP, although I shall never return to Number Ten.”1 The Conservatives had suffered their worst defeat in two generations, yet less than six years later Churchill would return to Number 10 to begin his second premiership at the head of a majority government. He was propelled there in part because of a rejuvenated Conservative Party campaign machine, in addition to the changes in policy and policy making which are more commonly focused on.
In October 1922, the Conservatives voted to bring down the coalition. Churchill was not in a fit state to fight his seat. He’d just been operated on for appendicitis and was too ill to take part in the earlier stages of the election. Clearly unwell and unable to fight with his usual vim and vigour, he lost.
Out of Parliament for the first time in twenty two years (apart from a few weeks in 1908), he retired to the South of France, took up writing again – he embarked on a mammoth history of the First World War, The World Crisis – but he couldn’t stay away from politics for long.
Although he was defeated in his first attempt to enter Parliament in 1899, Churchill’s fame following his dramatic escape from the Boers tipped the balance in the election of 1900. He achieved a small majority and won his longed-for ‘seat’ as a Conservative MP for Oldham, Lancashire, beginning a political career that would last over sixty years.
He made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 18 February 1901 at the age of twenty-six, speaking immediately after Lloyd George, ensuring the young politician a very full house. Churchill had prepared his speech very carefully and more or less learned it by heart. Although this isn’t unusual in a maiden speaker, Churchill – more unusually – continued this meticulous preparation throughout his career.
I am an English Liberal. I hate the Tory party, their men, their words and their methods. I feel no sort of sympathy with them – except to my own people at Oldham.
Churchill to Lord Hugh Cecil (unsent), 24 October 1903
Churchill was appointed Home Secretary following the January 1910 election, when the Liberal party was again returned to power. It was during this time that he most clearly demonstrated that strange mix of his nature – of the radical reformer and the reactionary. While he helped introduce reforms to the prison system, reducing sentencing for younger people and improving conditions, he also opposed strikers and refused to support votes for women.
In 1905, Prime Minister Balfour resigned and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman formed a government pending a January election, appointing Churchill as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, assisting Lord Elgin. And in the Liberal Party’s landslide election victory in early 1906, Churchill was elected as the Liberal MP for North-West Manchester. Churchill, the ambitious, shining ‘glow-worm’, was on his way.
Churchill rapidly established himself as a prominent New Liberal, combining a commitment to free trade with support for a programme of social reform and was one of the main architects of Britain’s incipient welfare state. To those Tories he’d ‘betrayed’ by ‘crossing the floor’, he was now betraying their class, too. By April 1908, however, his ‘star’ seemed to be shining clearer and clearer (see prophecy), as he achieved cabinet rank, as President of the Board of Trade in Herbert Asquith’s new government, at the age of only thirty-three. In this role he introduced a number of initiatives (not all of which were adopted during his tenure but were later).
Churchill Seemed to Regard Most Highly the American Presidents Who Didn’t Return His Admiration
Winston Churchill experienced eleven American presidents—as many as the Queen. He did not personally meet them all, as she has; but each contributed to his outlook and policies. His relations with the seven presidents from McKinley to Hoover are only stage-setters to the main events: FDR, Truman, Eisenhower. But one of them, Theodore Roosevelt, offers interesting insights.
Churchill, aged 26, and TR, aged 42, got off to a thoroughly bad start. When Churchill met the hero who had charged up San Juan Hill two months before the Englishman had charged at Omdurman, he professed vast approval of then-Governor Roosevelt. But TR, doubtless aware of young Winston’s reputation as a publicity seeker, did not return the compliment.
“I saw the Englishman, Winston Churchill…he is not an attractive fellow,” Roosevelt confided to a friend after the meeting.1 The negative impression proved as enduring as their parallel careers—both were to shift party allegiance; both were to achieve the highest political office; both were awarded a Nobel Prize. TR was, incidentally, the only president who profusely wrote books: eighteen, against Churchill’s fifty-one—mostly about hunting and outdoor life, though it is noteworthy that both he and Churchill wrote about the War of 1812.2 Read More >
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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.