Thursday, 17 May 2007

Churchill's London Honours


Many will be aware that two of my great interests in life are Churchill and London. I therefore thought it would be interesting to determine which London-related honours Churchill had received. I share my findings below:

The highest honour the Corporation of London can bestow is the Honorary Freedom (not to be confused with the modern Freedom which can be obtained by application), which Churchill was invited to take by the Court of Common Council.

Churchill was a liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Mercers which, appropriately, is the first of the Great Twelve. He was also an Honorary Bencher of Gray's Inn (1942). Churchill shares these joint honours with the Elizabethan Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange.

Other historical benchers include Hillaire Belloc and Lord Macaulay (thus providing a link to Churchill the historian and reader of history). Further back in time we find Lord Howard of Effingham (later Earl of Nottingham), Lord Admiral of the Fleet -- forever enshrined in our annals as commander of the English fleet during the invasion of the sinister Spanish Armada (here providing a link to Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty).

Looking at the list of more recent Honorary Benchers of Gray's Inn I note some interesting Churchill contemporaries: Lord Birkenhead, GCSI (F.E. Smith), Franklin Roosevelt and Sir Robert Menzies, KT.

Of particular note is the fact that the very first meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt took place at Gray's Inn on January 29, 1918. Roosevelt, as assistant secretary in the navy, was visiting London on naval business and attended a dinner at this venerable Inn of Court. Churchill, as minister of munitions, was also present. As has become common knowledge FDR did not acquire a favourable first impression of Churchill (quite the opposite!). Things cannot have improved when, at their next meeting 23 years later, the Great Man appeared to have no recollection of ever having met Roosevelt. Fortunately for the Grand Alliance FDR chose not to dwell on this!

At any rate, it is surely quite fitting that in later years both Churchill and FDR would become honorary benchers of the institution that first introduced them.


Sir Winston Churchill on London:

"London is so vast...it is like a pre-historic monster into whose armoured hide showers of arrows may be shot in vain." (During the Blitz)

"We shall defend every village, every town and every city. The vast mass of London itself, fought street by street, could easily devour an entire hostile army; and we would rather see London laid in ruins and ashes than that it should be tamely and abjectly enslaved." 14 July 1940

"He hopes, by killing large numbers of civilians, and women and children, that he will terrorise and cow the people of this mighty imperial city.... Little does he know the spirit of the British nation, or the tough fibre of the Londoners, whose forebears played a leading part in the establishment of Parliamentary institutions and who have been bred to value freedom far above their lives. This wicked man, this repository and embodiment of many forms of soul-destroying hatred, this monstrous product of former wrongs and shame, has now resolved to try to break our famous island race by a process of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction. What he has done is to kindle a fire in British hearts, here and all over the world, which will glow long after all traces of the conflagration he has caused in London have been removed." 11 September 1940

"London can take it!"


LONDON PRIVATE RESIDENCES OF WINSTON CHURCHILL (* blue plaque affixed)

35A Great Cumberland Place (1874-1900, Lord and Lady Randolph's)
105 Mount Street (1900-1905, his first bachelor flat)
12 Bolton Street (1905-09), the first house of his own)
33 Eccleston Square (1909-13)*
41 Cromwell Road (1915-? shared with his brother Jack and their families)
Sussex Square (post-WW1?)*
12 Morpeth Mansions (1930s)
28 Hyde Park Gate (1945-65)*

1 comment:

Beaverbrook said...

This early FDR-Churchill encounter is an event that I was completely unaware, despite my Albion reverence for the great man. Details like that is what separates Churchillian scholars, like Sir Martin Gilbert and a light sprinkling of others, from enthusiastic ignoramuses like me.