Perhaps one of the most highly regarded figures in British history, Sir Winston Churchill was born into a noble family and saw much time in military service and politics. Despite falling out of favour after the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign during World War I, Churchill came back as Chancellor of the Exchequer, the same post his father had held in the government. Prior to World War II, he was one of a minority of members in the government opposed to the appeasement of Adolf Hitler, and as a result, he quickly rose to the position of party leader and Prime Minister following the resignation of Neville Chamberlain. He then led Britain through the war, and after a brief time out of power again, he came back to lead Britain through the beginnings of the Cold War with Soviet Russia. So what don’t you know about Sir Winston Churchill?
Perhaps part of the reason he got on so well with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was that the “British Bulldog” was himself half-American. Churchill’s mother, Jeanette Jerome, was born in Brooklyn and married Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874. According to legend, she’s responsible for the invention of the Manhattan cocktail. Churchill was also named a “Honorary Citizen of the United States” in 1963 and was the first person to be so honoured.
He Has a Nobel Prize—in Literature
Churchill won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” His works included a novel, two biographies, three memoirs, and several historical accounts many of which are still in print today.
There are any number of quotes attributed to Churchill, some true, others not. One example of a true quote was that, after the United States passed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting the sale of alcohol, Churchill stated that Prohibition was “an affront to the whole history of mankind.” Another quote attributed to him concerned Labour Party rival Clement Atlee and said, “An empty taxi cab pulled up to Parliament and Clement Atlee got out.” Churchill vehemently denied making this quote since he had a great respect for Atlee as Atlee served under Churchill as part of the coalition government during World War II. One of the most famous quotes attributed to him states that either Lady Astor or Bessie Braddock approached him at a party to deride his drunkenness and Churchill allegedly responded, “Madam, in the morning I will be sober, but you will still be ugly.”
The Great Escape
At one point in his military career, Churchill was a Prisoner of War during the Boer War. As a young war correspondent in 1899, Churchill managed to escape from prison and incurred a bounty of £25. With no real escape plan, he managed to find a British mine owner who hid him for three days and then he returned home a hero.
Charlie the Parrot
In 2004, Peter Oram claimed that his pet macaw was 105 years old and was once owned by Churchill. He claimed that the bird’s perchance to curse about the Nazis (and Hitler in particular) was a habit picked up from the Prime Minister. The administrators of Churchill’s home, Chartwell, have rejected Mr. Oram’s claims, though it is unclear whether that’s because Churchill never owned Charlie or they administrators would rather not own up to a cursing parrot.
Churchill actually invented the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the rise of Communism in several Eastern European Countries following World War II. In a speech at Westminster College in March 1946, he stated that “an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” The phrase was picked up on as a reference to the Soviet nations and is thought of as one of the beginning points of the Cold War.
The First SMS Abbreviation was Sent to Him
More specifically, he’s associated with the creation of OMG, which stands for “Oh my God!” Admiral John Arbuthnot “Jacky” Fisher sent Churchill a letter in which Fisher stated that he had heard about a new order of Knighthood known as the “O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)” and suggested it be given to the Admiralty.
War of Words
With Lady Astor, anyway. In addition to the alleged drunkenness comment, Lady Astor once supposedly told Churchill that, were he her husband, she would poison his tea. Churchill’s response was “Madam, if I was your husband, I would drink it.” When Lady Astor joined Parliament after taking over her husband’s seat (as he’d been promoted to the House of Lords), becoming the first woman to sit in the legislative body, Churchill stated that having a woman in Parliament was akin to having one “intrude” on you in the bathroom. Lady Astor responded, “You’re not handsome enough to have such fears.”
Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt are credited with responsibility for the “very special relationship” between the United Kingdom and the United States formed in response to the threat of Nazi Germany. Speaking of walking in on one in the bathroom, at one point when Churchill was staying at the White House, Roosevelt entered his bedroom excitedly to discuss something as Churchill was getting out of the bath. Though Roosevelt was obviously embarrassed, Churchill allegedly responded, “You see, Mr. President, I have nothing to hide from you.”
During his time in Parliament, Churchill had the distinction of serving under six different royals. His career began in 1900 when Queen Victoria still reigned and lasted for fifty-five years, meaning that he served under not only her, but also: Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.