I don’t really remember Winston Churchill, apart from old wartime newsreels that I saw on TV when I was a kid. But there’s no doubt that he was an important part of British – and maybe the world’s – history.
He was an eccentric chap,that’s for sure.
He was born into wealth and was a wonderful combination of British aristocracy (his father) and American frivolous society (his mother).
He was so well known for his rousing, patriotic speeches during the Second World War. He was at various times loved, hated, reviled and applauded. He was a hero and a villain.
But most of all, he was a personality.
In his later years, he almost became a caricature of himself – the tubby chap with the ever-present cigar.
But he won the Nobel prize for literature, served gallantly in several wars and was the first person ever to be made an honorary citizen of the United States.
When he died in 1965 at the age of ninety, he was given a state funeral. State funerals are normally reserved for monarchs only in the United Kingdom.
To date, his was the last state funeral in the UK that was for a non-sovereign. Other funerals of dignitaries (which includes minor members of the royal family) are designated as ceremonial funerals.
For example, that of Diana, Princess of Wales was not a state funeral.
Winston Churchill enjoyed a drink. It was sometime suggested that his rather distinctive way of speaking was due to alcoholic slurring. This is nonsense – he actually had a speech impediment inherited from his father.
He was invariably sarcastic about alcohol:
When I was younger I made it a rule never to take strong drink before lunch. It is now my rule never to do so before breakfast.
His granddaughter relates the story of when Churchill was visiting the United States. At a dinner party, when being served with chicken, he was asked which part of the bird he preferred. He replied that he liked the breast.
His affronted hostess told him that in America,one does not use such words – one specifies ‘dark meat or white meat’.
The following day, Churchill sent her a corsage – a lovely subtle, small arrangement of flowers suggesting that she pin it on her ‘white meat’.
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