Churchill and the Royals

Popular historian Lee Pollock returned to the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre for another excellent talk on Sir Winston Churchill on 23 February 2022. 

We learned about the young Winston Churchill in his early days as an MP, and his relationship with King Edward, who observed the former’s political career with interest. Relations soured over the years, however, with the King describing Churchill as ‘a cad’. His relationship with the next King, George V, was similarly rocky in the early years. After the First World War, however, the two found common ground and a new respect for one another.

Pollock described how, during Edward VIII’s ill-fated reign, Winston Churchill called for more time and more sympathy for the King’s predicament. He faced fierce criticism and his reputation suffered for this, and it was said that Churchill ‘seriously misjudged the character of the sovereign and the mood of the country.’

Churchill’s support and sympathy for Edward and Wallace Simpson aroused the suspicion of the subsequent monarch, George VI, who also differed from Churchill on the issue of appeasement and Nazi Germany. We learned how, during the war the relationship between the two warmed and the pair became close, with each considering the other indispensable. 

When Winston Churchill died in 1965, precedent fell by the wayside and Queen Elizabeth, the final monarch served by the politician, attended the funeral. Indeed, 7 kings and queens and 1 emperor were present at Sir Winston’s funeral, in a tribute to the Prime Minister whose impact and experience was arguably unrivalled in the twentieth century.

You can view the full talk here: