(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In Churchill on Leadership: Executive Success in the Face of Adversity Steven F. Hayward gives us an example of Churchill, as Hayward puts it, softening a message in order “to get the point across without giving offense or causing acrimony.”
From Hayward: "Although Churchill often used blunt and direct language, he was also the master of softening a message so as to get the point across without giving offense or causing acrimony. One of the best examples of this is his tactful reworking of a telegram to the dominion governments in 1940 regarding the status of the Duke of Windsor.
Churchill had been quite close to the Duke when he was King Edward VIII, and had defended him during the abdication crisis of 1936. But the Duke and especially his American wife, Wallace Simpson, were thought to have Nazi sympathies that the Germans might exploit, especially if they remained in Spain or Portugal.
The government decided to send the Duke to a sinecure post at one of Britain’s overseas colonies. The Colonial Office drafted a message for Churchill to send, which said:"
'The activities of the Duke of Windsor on the Continent in recent months have been causing HM[His Majesty] and myself grave uneasiness as his inclinations are well known to be pro-Nazi and he may become the center of intrigue. We regard it as a real danger that he should move freely on the Continent. Even if he were willing to return to this country his presence here would be most embarrassing both to HM and to the Government."Churchill rewrote the message as follows:"
In all the circumstances it has been felt necessary to try to tie him down in some appointment which might appeal to him and his wife and I have decided with HM’s approval to offer him the Governorship of the Bahamas. I do not know yet whether he will accept. Despite the obvious objections to this solution we feel that it is the least of possible evils.'
'The position of the Duke of Windsor on the Continent in recent months has been causing His Majesty and His Majesty’s Government embarrassment, as, though his loyalties are unimpeachable, there is always a backwash of Nazi intrigue which seeks to make trouble about him. The Continent is now in enemy hands. There are personal and family difficulties about his return to this country.In tomorrow’s post, I’ll offer a few comments on Churchill’s “softening” of the Colonial Office’s draft message.
In all the circumstances it has been felt that an appointment abroad might appeal to him and his wife, and I have, with His Majesty’s cordial approval, offered him the Governorship of the Bahamas. His Royal Highness has intimated that he will accept the appointment. I think he may render useful service and find a suitable occupation there.'" (pgs. 110-111)