Lipstick and the Churchills: No Subject Too Obscure, None Too Trivial.

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.

  1. I do hope you will share the more saucy pas­sages in Berke­ley Gage’s Rem­i­nis­cences with your faith­ful readers.

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