Churchill Quotes: “Law Above the King” and “All Will Be Well”

Churchill Quotes: “Law Above the King” and “All Will Be Well”

Q: “A law which is above the King”

“Do you know where Churchill made this state­ment? ‘Here is a law which is above the King which even he must not break. This reaf­fir­ma­tion of a supreme law and its expres­sion in a gen­er­al char­ter is the great work of Magna Car­ta; and this alone jus­ti­fies the respect in which men have held it.'” —J.F., Phoenix, Ariz.

A: The Birth of Britain, 1956

His “Above the King” quo­ta­tion occurs in Churchill’s His­to­ry of the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples, vol. 1, The Birth of Britain (Lon­don: Cas­sell, 1956), 256-57. He was explain­ing Magna Car­ta, the Great Char­ter of Free­doms, one of the tow­er­ing bench­marks of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion. Churchill wrote:

If the thir­teenth-cen­tu­ry mag­nates under­stood lit­tle and cared less for pop­u­lar lib­er­ties or Par­lia­men­tary democ­ra­cy, they had all the same laid hold of a prin­ci­ple which was to be of prime impor­tance for the future devel­op­ment of Eng­lish soci­ety and Eng­lish institutions.

Through­out the doc­u­ment it is implied that here is a law which is above the King and which even he must not break. This reaf­fir­ma­tion of a supreme law and its expres­sion in a gen­er­al char­ter is the great work of Magna Car­ta; and this alone jus­ti­fies the respect in which men have held it.

The reign of Hen­ry II, accord­ing to the most respect­ed author­i­ties, ini­ti­ates the rule of law. But the work as yet was incom­plete: the Crown was still above the law; the legal sys­tem which Hen­ry had cre­at­ed could become, as John showed, an instru­ment of oppression.

Q: “All will be well”: repeated remark or one-off?

“Churchill had a famous phrase, ‘All will be well.’ Was this a one-time appear­ance or an habit­u­al expression?”

A: Habitual. Thank the Boers

Although not exclu­sive to Churchill by any means, “all will be well” was a very fre­quent expres­sion. In South Africa in 1899-1900, the young Win­ston had picked up the Afrikaans phrase alles sal regkom—which trans­lates “all will come right.” He used both “all will come right” and “all will be well” inter­change­ably because they expressed his sen­ti­ment. As he said at least once: “For myself I am an optimist—it does not seem to be much use being any­thing else…” (Guild­hall, Lon­don, 9 Novem­ber 1954, Churchill by Him­self, 10.)

Churchill in HIs Own Words, 2012 edi­tion of Churchill by Himself.

There are a half dozen instances of “all will be well” in my quo­ta­tions book and many scores in his speech­es. For exam­ple: “…live dan­ger­ous­ly; take things as they come; dread naught, all will be well.” (1932, Churchill by Him­self, 20.)

The most famous use of the phrase was on 9 Feb­ru­ary 1941 in Churchill’s broad­cast reply to Roo­sevelt, who had sent him the Longfel­low poem, “Sail on, O Ship of State”:

What is the answer that I shall give, in your name, to this great man, the thrice-cho­sen head of a nation of a hun­dred and thir­ty mil­lions? Here is the answer which I will give to Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt: “Put your con­fi­dence in us. Give us your faith and your bless­ing, and, under Prov­i­dence, all will be well. We shall not fail or fal­ter; we shall not weak­en or tire. Nei­ther the sud­den shock of bat­tle, nor the long-drawn tri­als of vig­i­lance and exer­tion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will fin­ish the job.” (Churchill by Him­self, 6-7.)

In those days, a lot of peo­ple thought Churchill was whistling in the wind. And so did he on occasion–privately, of course–up until Pearl Har­bor. From then on, he had no doubt about victory.

Related reading

“Churchill Quo­ta­tions: Youth, Matu­ri­ty, Prin­ci­ple, Reg­u­la­tions,” 2023.

“Quo­ta­tions: The Best Telegram He Ever Sent,” 2023.

“Churchill Quo­ta­tions: The Artist, The Invalid and the Sybarite,” 2022.

“The Bib­li­cal Churchill: His Largest Sin­gle Source of Quo­ta­tions,” 2021.

Quo­ta­tions Depart­ment, since 2009.

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