Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill
Facts and Events
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Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British politician who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. Widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill was also an officer in the British Army, a historian, a writer, and an artist. He is the only British Prime Minister to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and was the first person to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
Churchill was born into the aristocratic family of the Dukes of Marlborough, a branch of the Spencer family. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a charismatic politician who served as Chancellor of the Exchequer; his mother, Jennie Jerome, was an American socialite. As a young army officer, he saw action in British India, The Sudan, and the Second Boer War. He gained fame as a war correspondent and wrote books about his campaigns.
At the forefront of politics for fifty years, he held many political and cabinet positions. Before the First World War, he served as President of the Board of Trade, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty as part of the Asquith Liberal government. During the war, he continued as First Lord of the Admiralty until the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign caused his departure from government. He then briefly resumed active army service on the Western Front as commander of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. He returned to government as Minister of Munitions, Secretary of State for War, and Secretary of State for Air. After the War, Churchill served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative (Baldwin) government of 1924–29, controversially returning the pound sterling in 1925 to the gold standard at its pre-war parity, a move widely seen as creating deflationary pressure on the UK economy. Also controversial were his opposition to increased home rule for India and his resistance to the 1936 abdication of Edward VIII.
Out of office and politically "in the wilderness" during the 1930s, Churchill took the lead in warning about Nazi Germany and in campaigning for rearmament. On the outbreak of the Second World War, he was again appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. Following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain on 10 May 1940, Churchill became Prime Minister. His steadfast refusal to consider defeat, surrender, or a compromise peace helped inspire British resistance, especially during the difficult early days of the War when Britain stood alone among European countries in its active opposition to Adolf Hitler. Churchill was particularly noted for his speeches and radio broadcasts, which helped inspire the British people. He led Britain as Prime Minister until victory over Nazi Germany had been secured.
After the Conservative Party lost the 1945 election, he became Leader of the Opposition to the Labour Government. After winning the 1951 election, he again became Prime Minister, before retiring in 1955. Upon his death, Elizabeth II granted him the honour of a state funeral, which saw one of the largest assemblies of world statesmen in history. Named the Greatest Briton of all time in a 2002 poll, Churchill is widely regarded as being among the most influential people in British history, consistently ranking well in opinion polls of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom.
- Winston Churchill, in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. (Online: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.).
- Nexus, NEHGS, v 13, #5, p 168.
Churchill, born November 30, 1874, was the eldest son of Lord Randolph Churchill and the American heiress Jennie Jerome. He graduated from the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, but having served in India and the Sudan he resigned his cavalry commission in 1899 to become a correspondent during the Boer War. A daring escape after he had been captured made him a national hero, and in 1900 he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative. Despite his aristocratic background, he switched in 1904 to the Liberal Party. In 1908 he became president of the Board of Trade in Herbert Henry Asquith's Liberal cabinet. Then, and later as home secretary (1910-11), he worked for special reform in tandem with David Lloyd George. As first lord of the admiralty (1911-15), Churchill was a vigorous modernizer of the navy.
World War I and the Interwar Period: Churchill's role in World War I was controversial and almost destroyed his career. Naval problems and his support of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign forced his resignation from the admiralty. Following service as a battalion commander in France, he joined Lloyd George's coalition cabinet, and from 1917 to 1922 he filled several important positions, including minister of munitions and secretary for war. The collapse of Lloyd George and the Liberal Party in 1922 left Churchill out of Parliament between 1922 and 1924. Returning in 1924, he became chancellor of the Exchequer in Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government (1924-29). As such he displayed his new conservatism by returning Britain to the gold standard and vigorously condemning the trade unions during the general strike of 1926.
During the depression years (1929-1939) Churchill was denied cabinet office. Baldwin and later Neville Chamberlain, who dominated the national government from 1931 to 1940, disliked his opposition to self-government for India and his support of Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936. His insistence on the need for rearmament and his censure of Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler at Munich in 1938 also aroused suspicion. When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Churchill's views were finally appreciated, and public opinion demanded his return to the admiralty.
Churchill as Prime Minister: Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as prime minister on May 10, 1940. During the dark days of World War II that followed--Dunkerque, the fall of France, and the blitz--Churchill's pugnacity and rousing speeches rallied the British to continue the fight. He urged his compatriots to conduct themselves so that, "if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour."' By successful collaboration with President Franklin D. Roosevelt he was able to secure military aid and moral support from the United States. After the Soviet Union and the U.S. entered the war in 1941, Churchill established close ties with leaders of what he called the "Grand Alliance." Traveling ceaselessly throughout the war, he did manage to coordinate military strategy to ensure Hitler's defeat. His conferences with Roosevelt and Stalin, most notably at Yalta in 1945, also shaped the map of postwar Europe. By 1945 he was admired throughout the world, his reputation disguising the fact that Britain's military role had become secondary. Unappreciative of the popular demands for postwar social change, however, Churchill was defeated by the Labour Party in the election of 1945.
Churchill criticized the "welfare state" reforms of Labour under his successor Clement Attlee. He also warned in his "Iron Curtain" speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, of the dangers of Soviet expansion. He was prime minister again from 1951 to 1955, but this time age and poor health prevented him from providing dynamic leadership. Resigning in 1955, Churchill devoted his last years to painting and writing. He died on January 24, 1965, at the age of 90. Following a state funeral he was buried at Bladon near Blenheim Palace.
Churchill was also an able historian. His most Famous works are The World Crisis (4 vol., 1923-29), My Early Life (1930), Marlborough (4 vol., 1933-38), The Second World War (6 vol., 1948-53), and A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (4 vol., 1956-58). He received the Nobel Prize for literature and a knighthood in 1953.
Churchill's death in 1965, like that of Queen Victoria in 1901, marked the end of an era in British history. Born into a Victorian aristocratic family, he witnessed and participated in Britain's transformation from empire to welfare state, and its decline as a world power. His true importance, however, rests on the fact that by sheer stubborn courage he led the British people, and the democratic Western world, away from the brink of defeat, to a final victory in the greatest conflict the world has ever seen.
- Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, in Lundy, Darryl. The Peerage: A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.
- ↑ To Marry an English Lord.
- Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, in Find A Grave.