Churchill A Life


Laurel King, Contributor

| updated

Copy Link Code

churchill a lifeThe life of Winston Churchill was a richly-filled, adventurous foray into the world of family, military, politics, and the written word. Despite a difficult start in his early years, he became a self-taught scholar, Nobel Prize winner, and renowned statesman, with one of the greatest legacies of inspirational and effective leadership.

Born on November 30, 1874 (two months before his scheduled due date), Churchill was never one to sit around waiting for things to be handed to him. His father – Lord Randolph Churchill – was an Englishman, from a long line of titled ancestors. His mother – Lady Randolph Churchill (formerly Jennie Jerome) – was an American, and the daughter of a wealthy financier. As a young boy, he spent the ages of two to six living in Dublin, Ireland while his grandfather was Viceroy and his father was private secretary.

As the oldest son of a man descended from English aristocracy, he was expected to follow in his family's footsteps. However, as a child he was uninterested – and unsuccessful – in formal education. His first teacher – an overbearing governess – inspired nothing but terror in young Winston. His beloved nanny – Elizabeth Anne Everest (whom he called 'Old Woom') even tried to help by giving him a book entitled, Reading Without Tears, in hopes that it would calm his fear. Later, he scored poorly on nearly every subject in school, including the entrance exam to military school (which took him three tries to pass). Fortunately, he excelled in military school and became an officer shortly after graduating in 1894.

He spent most of his life in military service, from his first commission as Second Lieutenant (1895) through his retirement as a major in the territorial reserves of officers (1924). During his lengthy military career, he was sent to numerous places such as India, Egypt, Afghanistan, and South Africa. When he had free time (quite a bit, during his time in India) he spent it playing polo on a championship team and reading countless books on the classics and Parliament. It was during this time that he became a self-taught scholar, with a voracious appetite for all classic literature (which he had previously avoided in school) and anything related to the procedures, issues, and debates in Parliament.

Interspersed with his military service were bouts of some of the most inspirational, effective, and life-altering political career of all time. From his first political position as an elected Member of Parliament (1900) until his retirement in 1964, he changed the world of politics – in both Britain and the world at large – for generations to come. He served as First Lord of the Admiralty twice, during both world wars (from 1911-15 and 1939-40). He also served as Prime Minister of Britain twice (from 1940-45 and 1951-55). Despite frequent disagreements with his colleagues – and several changes of party – Churchill was revered for his ability to effect change, negotiate settlements, implement far-reaching social change, and mediate potentially explosive disagreements. His expertise in politics, diplomacy, and leadership are easily discernable from the results. He effectively helped put an end to world wars, prevented numerous other wars, negotiated peace treaties, and developed alliances that would aid in Britain's military, political, and economic success. An avid reader, Churchill was also an accomplished writer. Publishing 43 works in 72 volumes, from 1898 to 1987, his writing actually outlasted his life (with several of his works published posthumously). In 1953, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature because of his writing and speeches for human rights.