(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
When someone mentions the Churchill- Roosevelt relationship we assume the person is referring to the two great Allied war leaders. But in today’s post, when we talk about Churchill and Roosevelt, we’ll be talking about Winston and Eleanor. Did you know they had a little spat at a London dinner in October, 1942?
Mrs. Roosevelt was in England for a goodwill visit. She made the usual visits to factories and training facilities and met the people who needed to be met. The trip was a great success except for the little spat. Jon Meacham, author of Winston and Franklin: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship, tells us about it:
At a small diner in London, Eleanor and Churchill exchanged words over Loyalist Spain. “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.Meacham goes on to say Eleanor Roosevelt’s friends thought Churchill “hopeless.”
[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)
Eleanor Roosevelt and Winston Churchill’s relationship was one of mutual respect but no great affection. Many factors explain that. For one thing, Churchill had a wonderful sense of humor which bubbled even in the worst of times. Eleanor was almost humorless. In my experience, a humorless person always finds someone like Churchill a strain.
Also, Eleanor disapproved of Churchill’s enjoyment of alcohol. Her father and brother were both alcoholics whose lives were cut short by their drinking.