Churchill’s Naked Encounter

Churchill’s Naked Encounter

“The Prime Min­is­ter of Great Britain has noth­ing to hide from the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States.” **

[More like­ly: “You see, Mr. Pres­i­dent, I have noth­ing to hide.”]

This was alleged­ly stat­ed by Churchill dur­ing his vis­it to the White House fol­low­ing Pearl Har­bor in Decem­ber 1941, accord­ing to Churchill’s body­guard, Wal­ter Thomp­son, and one of his sec­re­taries, Patrick Kin­na, on the strength of which I includ­ed it as like­ly in Churchill By Him­self.

The sto­ry goes that Roo­sevelt, inspired to call the new world body  he hoped to orga­nize after the war the “Unit­ed Nations,” wheeled him­self into Churchill’s room, find­ing the PM, as Har­ry Hop­kins put it, “stark naked and gleam­ing pink from his bath.” But Hop­kins was not present; he had this sec­ond­hand. Lat­er, queried by Roo­sevelt biog­ra­ph­er Robert Sher­wood, Churchill said: “I could not pos­si­bly have made such a state­ment as that. The Pres­i­dent him­self would have been well aware that it was not strict­ly true.”

What­ev­er Churchill said,the encounter appar­ent­ly did occur. Recall­ing his White House vis­it to King George VI at Buck­ing­ham Palace in Jan­u­ary 1942, Churchill remarked: “Sir, I believe I am the only man in the world to have received the head of a nation naked.”

Churchill must have repeat­ed his crack to the King to Roo­sevelt, who told his con­fi­dante, Daisy Suck­ley, and the British Ambas­sador, Lord Hal­i­fax, on 17 Jan­u­ary 1945. (See Geof­frey C. Ward, Clos­est Com­pan­ion: The Unknown Sto­ry of the Inti­mate Friend­ship between Franklin Roo­sevelt and Mar­garet Suck­ley, 384-85.)

In Suckley’s ver­sion, WSC did not say he had “noth­ing to hide,” which he denied say­ing to Robert Sher­wood. Accord­ing to Suck­ley, Roo­sevelt sim­ply said, “Unit­ed Nations!” and Churchill respond­ed, “Good!”

**Paul Scree­ton prompt­ed this post when he wrote that colum­nist and TV show host Jere­my Kyle has pon­dered whether Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron sim­i­lar­ly sealed the spe­cial bond between the UK and USA dur­ing the vis­it of Barack Oba­ma. (The Sun, 26 May 2011)

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