Sir Winston Churchill
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill had a long association with Blenheim Palace. He was born here on 30th November 1874 in rather unusual circumstances. When asked to clarify this in later life, with typical humour, he replied, “Although I was present on that occasion I have no clear recollection of it.” In his childhood and youth he spent much time at Blenheim Palace especially with his grandmother, the 7th Duchess, and was a regular visitor throughout his life. He was profoundly influenced by the story of the achievement of his great ancestor, the 1st Duke of Marlborough, at the Battle of Blenheim (1704), of which he later wrote, “it changed the political axis of the world”. The dramatic Palace with its Park and Gardens, created as the Duke’s reward and monument inspired him, especially in his great interest in history, which became the basis of his great writing. The citation for the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he won in 1953, specifically referred to, “...his mastery of historical biography”.
After attending Harrow and then the
Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Churchill began a military career,
seeing action in India, the Sudan and the Boer War. He also gained
recognition as a journalist and war correspondent.
Churchill’s long political career began in 1900 when he became Conservative MP for Oldham. Joining the Liberal Party in 1904, he became Home Secretary in 1910 and First Lord of the Admiralty the following year. Churchill resigned this post during the First World War after the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign which he had sponsored, re-joining the army and serving on the Western Front. Returning to the Conservatives, Churchill was Chancellor of the Exchequer 1924-29.
On 12 September 1908, he married Clementine Ogilvy Spencer. Some didn't give his marriage to Clementine more than six months, yet it lasted 56 years. Her tact, support and advice soothed his temper, and helped win the war.
In the 1930s Churchill suffered his ‘wilderness years’, unpopular and out of office, indignantly having his repeated warnings about Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany ignored. However, when war was declared in 1939 and Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he roused a national spirit of no surrender, while masterfully maintaining a challenging alliance with the US and Russia. Although losing the post-war election, Churchill regained his position as Prime Minister in 1951, serving until his resignation in 1955. He continued to champion a Euro-American alliance, while highlighting the perils of the Cold War.
Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, celebrated as the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on April 24th 1953. Winston Churchill became Sir Winston Churchill when he was invested as a Knight of the Garter by the Queen. He was later offered elevation to the peerage in the rank of Duke, but declined the honour.A man of wide ranging interests, Churchill was a very talented painter, creating stunning impressionist landscapes. He came to value painting as a vital and necessary relaxation from the pressures of his often stressful life. Yet he was modest about his talent. He rarely signed a painting and in later life he wrote jokingly that, “When I get to heaven I mean to spend a considerable portion of the first million years in painting – and get to the bottom of the subject”. A number of Winston Churchill paintings can be seen in The Churchill Exhibition at Blenheim Palace. Of particular interest is, “The Garden at Hoe Farm”; not as an outstanding painting but because it was among the first he painted when he took up painting at the remarkable age of 41 while on holiday at the far, in 1915. He was a master orator; a recording of one of his great War speeches plays as the background to the Churchill Exhibition in the Palace (“we shall fight them on the beaches”)
Sir Winston Churchill died on 24 January 1965. A true colossus of British history, he received the honour of a state funeral. His commitment to Blenheim remained to the end. He chose to be buried in the churchyard of St Martin’s Church in Bladon, only a few hundred metres from where he was born, at Blenheim Palace.