(One of a series of posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
We continue today the series within the Series leading to the 100th Anniversary of the Churchill’s wedding September 12, 2008.
Churchill historians will tell you Clementine often smoothed things over when Winston’s temper got the better of him in social situations.
Jon Meacham, author of Winston and Franklin: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, recounts one such incident which occurred at a small London dinner party the Churchill’s hosted during WW II when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who was in Britain on a goodwill visit.
The dinner guests included a few Cabinet members, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, a number of British women who were leaders of war relief work, America’s Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, and Eleanor’s companion-secretary Malvina Thompson.
Things were going along nicely until:
Eleanor and Churchill exchanged words over Loyalist Spain.And what followed next? Meacham doesn’t say anything more other than that Eleanor’s friends found Churchill “hopeless.”
“I remarked that I could not see why the Loyalist government could not have been helped, and the prime minister replied that he and I would have been the first to lose our heads if the Loyalists had won – the feeling against people like us would have spread,” Mrs. Roosevelt recalled.
[She continued]: “I said that losing my head was unimportant, whereupon he said: ‘I don’t want you to lose your head and neither do I want to lose mine.’
Then Mrs. Churchill leaned across the table and said: ‘I think perhaps Mrs. Roosevelt is right.’
The prime minister was quite annoyed by this time and said: ‘I have held certain beliefs for sixty years and I’m not going to change now’” (p. 200)
Historians who continue recounting the incident agree that right after an angry Churchill had said he wasn’t changing his views, Clementine said she thought dinner was just about over and it was time to serve desert in a drawing room.
The transition from dining table to drawing room gave a “grace period” Churchill used to recover his temper while Clementine began, as the Brits say, “chatting up” the guests on various light subjects.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Churchill had some mutual respect, but they were oil and water.
Had Winston and Eleanor married, I can easily imagine what would have happened.
I would have used Lord Rosebery’s words when he erroneously predicted at the start of the Churchill’s 56 year love match:
”The union will last about six months, with luck.”