(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
I think it’s been a year or more since I used Dominique Enright’s The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill (Michael O’Mara Books, 2001). The book has much to recommend it, but it doesn’t cite sources. And it frankly tells the readers that certain of its Churchill stories are “generally attributed to him” and “according to one telling of the incident.”
So, Readers, beware!
With that caution in mind, here’s an anecdote that sounds just like Our Man:
A few years before the outbreak of the First World War, Churchill was at a diplomatic reception. An Italian military attaché asked a Luxembourgeois diplomat about a medal he was wearing. “It’s an ancient order called the Royal Admiralty Cross,” the diplomat replied stiffly.Smile when you can. Churchill always did.
After he had stalked off, the Italian turned to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, and remarked how odd it was that Luxembourg should have this when it did not even have a navy.
“Why shouldn’t they have an admiralty?” Churchill answered cheerfully. “You in Italy, after all, have a minister of finance – yet you don’t have a treasury!”(p. 118)