Month: May 2012

Unpunctuality: Churchill’s Vice

Unpunctuality: Churchill’s Vice

I have been told that when Churchill arrived late for a meet­ing with the Queen, express­ing his regret by say­ing, “My sin­cere apolo­gies madam, I start­ed too late.” But I haven’t found any ref­er­ence to this. Can you help? —A.P.-H., Eng­land

Edward VII

This famous late show was not with the Queen but with the Prince of Wales, lat­er Edward VII (1901-10). Robert Lewis Tay­lor, in Win­ston Churchill: An Infor­mal Study of Great­ness (New York Dou­ble­day, 1952, 16) writes:

As a very young sub­al­tern, he once kept the Prince of Wales and a din­ner par­ty of twelve wait­ing for near­ly an hour.…

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Churchill on Taxes

Churchill on Taxes

Espe­cial­ly nowa­days, politi­cians fre­quent­ly  quote Churchill as say­ing, “There is no such thing as a good tax.” Fas­tid­ioius search­es of his pub­lished words reveal no such state­ment; and here at least is proof that he con­sid­ered at least one tax a good one.

Per­haps the House may remem­ber that only sev­en or eight years ago I got into some trou­ble myself about the Kerosene Tax. It was a very good tax. I was quite right about it. My Rt. Hon. Friend [Neville Cham­ber­lain] slipped it through a year or two lat­er with­out the slight­est trou­ble and it nev­er ruined the homes of the peo­ple at all.…

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Churchill’s Religion: “Optimistic Agnostic”

Churchill’s Religion: “Optimistic Agnostic”

Although he had some very reli­gious friends, like Lord Hugh Cecil, Win­ston Churchill was not a reli­gious man. Intro­duced to reli­gious diver­si­ty ear­ly, he was brought up “High Church,” but had a nan­ny “who enjoyed a very Low Church form of piety.” When in rebel­lious mood he would tell Nan­ny Ever­est “the worst thing that he could think of…that he would go out and ‘wor­ship idols.’”

After his self-edu­ca­tion as a young offi­cer in India, when he read all the pop­u­lar chal­lenges to ortho­dox reli­gion, like Charles Darwin’s The Ori­gin of Species and William Win­wood Reade’s The Mar­tyr­dom of Man, Churchill evolved into what we might term an “opti­mistic agnos­tic.” He spoke joc­u­lar­ly of the Almighty, sug­gest­ing that as a boy,

I accumulated…so fine a sur­plus in the Bank of Obser­vance that I have been draw­ing con­fi­dent­ly upon it ever since.…

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