Lipstick and the Churchills: No Subject Too Obscure, None Too Trivial.
Q: “The power of lippy”
I’m Blanca Bueno, a journalist working in Barcelona for a cultural quiz show for Antena 3, Spanish television. (It is the equivalent of NBC’s “Who’s still Standing?“)
My work consists in writing the questions and checking if they are correct and well formulated, in order to be as precise as possible. We try not to spread wrong information to our contestants and our audience. Sometimes, to do this work, I need to contact to some experts, such as you, in this case. I need help verifying a question about Winston Churchill and lipstick.
I need to know with accuracy if Churchill was a huge lipstick fan. Is it true that he believed in the power of lippy so much he kept it off the ration in the Second World War?
A: Lipstick and the ration
Dear Ms. Bueno, sadly, I find no reference to the lipstick ration in our digital scans and files. These include his books, articles, documents, speeches, private papers, biographies and memoirs by colleagues. There is no mention in the Churchill Archives, which I checked through Hillsdale College’s Mossey Library.
However, one clue tells us that lipstick was not exempt from the ration. In 1944, Churchill’s daughter Mary (A Daughter’s Tale, 227) fell temporarily in love with a handsome American officer. “Ed brought me what was in those days a collection of very welcome presents: a tin of peanuts, pair of silk stockings, packets of hairpins, lipstick—too lovely.*”
Her asterisked note reads: “Rationing even extended to makeup: there is a mention in my diary about ‘my quota’ being in at Cyclax.” (During the war Cyclax, Britain’s second-oldest cosmetics firm, provided a lipstick for servicewomen called “Auxiliary Red.”)
We’d never know this if you hadn’t asked!
There are only seven occurrences of “lipstick” in our digital files, none of them relating to the lipstick ration. One of them is irresistible, though I’m not sure you can work this into your programme.
In his memoir, Long Sunset, Anthony Montague Browne, Sir Winston’s last private secretary, writes of a charming diplomat named Sir Berkeley Gage.
Berkeley was a great cheerer-upper. He wrote a sparkling book of extremely frank memoirs, sadly only privately printed. One of his stories relates that in China, in the stuffier days of diplomacy, the British Ambassador and his wife were leaving for Church one Sunday morning in the grand official rickshaw. They were startled to encounter, entering the British compound, another rickshaw, known to belong to a celebrated house of ill-fame. Inside, still clad in a dinner jacket, lay the snoring figure of one of their diplomatic staff. His address had been written in lipstick on his stiff shirt front.
Clearly, here was one British diplomat who was not still standing.
Sir Berkeley’s “extremely frank” memoirs
There are many available copies of It’s Been a Marvellous Party! The Personal and Diplomatic Reminiscences of Berkeley Gage. It was a limited edition of 300, most all of them inscribed by the author. Prices range as low as $65. On the strength of Sir Anthony’s recommendation, I’m reading my copy now.
2 thoughts on “Lipstick and the Churchills: No Subject Too Obscure, None Too Trivial.”
Wouldn’t that violate his copyright? His book is readily attainable. I don’t think I’ve caused a run on it!
I do hope you will share the more saucy passages in Berkeley Gage’s Reminiscences with your faithful readers.