The Crown & THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT

I’VE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD to season three of THE CROWN on Netflix for quite some time, but I did wonder if the change in the casting of major characters would work.

Karen and I watched the first episode of the new season last evening and all of my “concerns” about watching someone new in the lead role as the Queen vanished.

Olivia Colman brilliantly picks up where Claire Foy left off.

The new season begins in 1964––a fascinating time in Great Britain. Political change is in the air, a move to the left as Winston Churchill withers away.

And there is a hint of espionage involving politicians and even the royal household.

Being a student of that era, and having written about it in great detail in my books, I watched for historical inaccuracies and more than annoyed my wife with my running commentary.

The series is well done.

Speaking about my books, though it is certainly self-serving, I do very much believe THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT would be a great companion to this new season for THE CROWN.

If you haven’t yet read it––it might be worth checking out. I enjoyed researching and writing it a couple of years ago.

Here are the links:

Print Version

E-books:

Amazon Kindle Version
Nook (Barnes & Noble)
Apple Books

Operation Hope Not

When Winston Churchill was winding down his second tenure as British Prime Minster in 1951, he was shaving one cold January morning. While he worked the razor, the image of his private secretary, Jock Colville, came into view in the mirror. Winston put the instrument down for a moment and turned to Colville and remarked: “Today is the twenty-fourth of January. It is the day my father died. It is the day I shall die, too.”

That is exactly what happened 50 years ago this weekend—January 24, 1965.

Churchills-Funeral-1965Years earlier, Queen Elizabeth II began the discreet discussion of what should happen in the event of the death of Sir Winston. She gave word to her staff that in the event of Churchill’s death during her absence from England, “he should be given a public funeral of a scale befitting his position in history.”

A full state funeral would require a request from the Queen to House of Commons after Churchill’s death and an affirmative vote, but Elizabeth was clearly indicating early on that such a grand farewell would be her recommendation.

So the wheels were set in motion for Winston’s send off a dozen years before his death. The Queen’s initial directive was soon enhanced and over time it was formalized into a working plan. Over the years, ideas were discussed, mostly out of Churchill’s view, and by the late 1950s a detailed blueprint was in place.

It was called, appropriately, Operation Hope Not.

Fourteen months before Churchill died, America and the world had paid respects to a fallen president—John F. Kennedy. There were no plans in place for such an event because it was unexpected and unimaginable. Sometime on the evening of November 22, 1963, the President’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, with her sense of history and ever-present grace, garnered her thoughts and asked for a quick, but thorough, review of the funeral of Abraham Lincoln that took place nearly 100 years earlier. She wanted to use it as a reference for the farewell to her murdered husband.

In somewhat the same way—though with years of preparation—the model for much of what would transpire during the last week of January in 1965, was yet another famous funeral. That one was back in in 1898, when Great Britain said goodbye to William Ewart Gladstone.

That was also first time a funeral became a global media event.

The parallels between Gladstone and Churchill resembled those often drawn between Kennedy and Lincoln, including the way they were laid to final rest. But there was one notable distinction. Queen Victoria detested Mr. Gladstone, who was known around the royal court as, “the man the Queen most loves to hate.” Victoria ignored Gladstone in death as much as she despised him in life. She was silent on the matter of a State Funeral for him and only agreed when it was clear that Parliament overwhelming approved. Her son, the Prince of Wales, who would become King Edward VII upon his mother’s passing in January of 1901, was embarrassed by his mother’s behavior, and personally apologized to Gladstone’s widow as she was leaving the service at Westminster Abbey.

Of course, things were completely different when Winston Churchill died. Queen Elizabeth II had great affection for him, and her recommendation for a full State Funeral made its way to the House of Commons on Monday, January 25th, at two-thirty PM. Such an expression was the ultimate sign of respect and honor. It was quickly approved and the House postponed all other business until after Churchill was buried.

He would be the first “commoner” to be so honored since Mr. Gladstone.

[I am currently finishing a novel set against the backdrop of “Operation Hope Not.” It’s titled, “THE CHURCHILL FUNERAL PLOT” — coming soon! – DRS]

He Had a Way With Words

[This blog is posted at VENTURE GALLERIES E7DC4EA9236857D984A33483589CB_h498_w598_m2— DRS]

I’m a student of history. I’m also a Churchill buff. Maybe I’m just drawn to highly effective overweight people who achieved greatness and longevity.

Yes, Churchill was indomitable, often rude, terribly stubborn, and clearly enamored of his opinions – but he also had a great capacity for graciousness.

For example, though he had been Neville Chamberlain’s persistent, and at times vociferous, critic, Churchill was overwhelmingly kind to his predecessor, who was, though no one knew it at the time, not long for this earth when he stepped down as British Prime minister, making room for Winston on May 10, 1940.

One of the first things Churchill did after coming to power was to tell Chamberlain that he and his wife could stay in their home at 10 Downing Street for the immediate future.  Neville’s wife, Anne, not only enjoyed living in the Prime Minister’s residence, but she had actually done much to improve the dwelling.

Neville was moved by this generous gesture.

Though Chamberlain had taken chronic offense at Winston for his personal attacks in the House of Commons and the press, considering him something of an enemy (even once having Churchill’s phone tapped), it’s clear that this feeling was not reciprocated.  Winston remained personally loyal.  This would pay significant political dividends during fragile moments when the War Cabinet was debating whether or not to make peace overtures toward Hitler.  Chamberlain backed Churchill on that.

“Blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” are famous words to us today.  They evoke thoughts of courage, fearlessness, and an unwavering determination to succeed.  And other Churchillian phrases echo down to us through the corridors of time – words like: “finest hour,” “we shall never surrender,” “we shall fight on the beaches,” and so forth.  They are timeless and meaningful.

But I think one of Winston Churchill’s best orations from those days has been overlooked for too long. It was the eulogy he shared about Neville Chamberlain, who succumbed to complications due to stomach cancer on November 10, 1940, just six months after leaving office:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man. But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused? They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart–the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamour. Whatever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove to the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.

Frankly, Winston Churchill was not the one-dimensional warmonger some in his day thought him to be, and that some even today persist in insisting he was.  He was an inspiring leader at the right time and in the right place.

And the guy had a way with words.