Winston Churchill: Biography, Quotes, and Facts
Sir Winston Churchill (November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965) was a British politician, prime minister, Nobel Prize winner, and one of the leading figures of the 20th century. His influence, particularly during World War II, was nearly unmatched. From Sir Winston Churchill quotes to fast facts and biographical info, we’ve got all the information you need.
Winston Churchill was born on November 30, 1874, the son of Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill and his wife, Jennie. Churchill’s paternal grandfather was the 7th Duke of Marlborough, making him a member of one of the oldest and most prestigious families of the British aristocracy. He also had a younger brother, Jack, with whom he was quite close. The brothers spent their early childhood years in Ireland, where the family was stationed on political duties.
For Winston Churchill high school – or, more accurately, the elite boarding school Harrow School – was just a stepping stone to bigger things, and he was an acceptable, though perhaps not exceptional, student. He attempted to join the military and was admitted on his third try to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Churchill sought to be in war zones and spent some time in Cuba before being sent to India. Many a Winston Churchill biography has noted this period as being formative in shaping the future prime minister’s politics, as well as some of the more famous Winston Churchill war quotes. In 1908, he married Clementine Hozier; they went on to have five children together.
Churchill first won election to Parliament in 1900 as the Conservative candidate for the seat of Oldham. Although he was technically a Conservative, he disagreed with a significant amount of the party’s policies and associated with members of the Liberal Party; he privately hoped for the formation of a more progressive wing of his own party or even some sort of new, “centrist” party that would fall between the Conservative and Liberal wings. Within a few years, he had switched parties to the Liberals.
Over the next decades, Churchill held several positions in government, including Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Home Secretary, and First Lord of the Admiralty. He briefly lost his seat in the 1920s before returning in 1924 and becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer, now a Conservative again. When his party lost power in 1929, he spent most of the 1930s out of influence, turning his energy to railing against the Indian independence movement. He also courted controversy by stating his support of King Edward VIII during the 1936 abdication crisis, which caused him to become almost totally isolated politically and in public opinion.
Winston Churchill quotes and facts
Many of the quotes Winston Churchill gave us have become iconic over the years. Quotes from Winston Churchill include snippets of speeches on history, war, success, and more – often serious, but sometimes quite wry. Read on for some important Winston Churchill quotes funny and serious alike.
Quotes by Winston Churchill
The best Winston Churchill quotes often come from his speeches, of which there are many. The most famous speeches by Winston Churchill are masterpieces of rhetoric, delivering strong, direct messages in memorable ways. One of the clearest examples of this was Their Finest Hour Winston Churchill speech, delivered in 1940 upon the fall of France.
“Let each man search his conscience and search his speeches. I frequently search mine.”
“If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
“If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye, and freedom shall be restored to all.”
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”
Among the topics of Winston Churchill quotes success is a common theme, but the context matters. For instance, the oft-cited Winston Churchill Never Give Up speech, supposedly delivered as a brief commencement address at his alma mater in 1941, is actually misquoted quite often. The correct Winston Churchill quote is:
“Surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
There are a handful of other Winston Churchill success quotes as well. The following are a couple of the best-known Winston Churchill quotes on success you’re likely to encounter in your reading:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm”
If you’re looking for a Winston Churchill history quote, there are several of those too!
“Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.” – Churchill By Himself
“History is written by the victors.”
“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”
Several other important Winston Churchill quotes come from the war years as well. Here are a few of the most famous:
“We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
After the war, Churchill continued to be an influence on politics. In fact, it was the Winston Churchill Iron Curtain speech that coined the phrase used to define the East-West division of the second half of the century.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”
“Our difficulties and dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them. They will not be removed by mere “waiting to see what happens.” Nor will they be removed by a policy of appeasement. What is needed is a settlement, and the longer this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become.”
Winston Churchill facts
Beyond just the Winston Churchill famous quotes, there’s a lot to be learned about the famous politician.
What is the best Winston Churchill book? There are a wide array of Winston Churchill books, both fiction and non-fiction – for the interested, his own writings are probably a good place to start!
What do we know about the Winston Churchill family? He was one of two sons born to a couple descended from British aristocracy, and he married Clementine Hozier in 1908. For Winston Churchill children were a priority; the couple had five children (four daughters and a son).
Where did young Winston Churchill grow up? The Churchill family spent Winston’s early years in Dublin, Ireland.
How tall was Winston Churchill? He was relatively short, at 5’6”.
What is the best Winston Churchill biography? Churchill actually published his own memoirs, and his son, Randolph, also published a large biography of his father. There are plenty of resources, both online and in print, where you can learn more – click here for one example!
Winston Churchill information
Winston Churchill WW2
When people ask “who is Winston Churchill?”, the first answer that comes to mind is usually related to his role as one of the most central figures of World War II. Indeed, Churchill was not just Britain’s leader during the war, but one of the key figures who sounded the alarm in the years leading up to the outbreak of war. More than one Winston Churchill speech was delivered behind closed doors and in government meetings, warning about Germany re-arming itself and criticizing Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler.
On May 10, 1940, following Germany’s invasion of Norway and just before the surprise invasion of France, Chamberlain was forced to resign as prime minister, and Churchill was chosen to succeed him. He soon became the emblem of the British resistance to Germany and to the ideology of the Nazi regime in particular. Although he struggled to gain support for a time, he was unwavering in his refusal to agree to an armistice. Because of this, in the years to come Britain was able to serve as, essentially, the Allied base and jumping-off point for the operations to liberate Europe.
Churchill’s speeches, in particular, were instrumental in coalescing public and political support for the war effort and for the chosen path of British resistance. Almost immediately after Churchill took office, his government had to deal with the evacuation of Dunkirk, which involved evacuating hundreds of thousands of Allied troops from the French coast following defeat by the advancing Germans. After the initial wave was over, Churchill insisted on returning to rescue as many French troops as possible who had been previously left behind; the operation was able to rescue some, but not all.
The Battle of Britain was the name coined by Winston Churchill for the ongoing onslaught of German attacks and British defenses in the air. Despite his own litany of health problems and his age (Churchill was in his sixties when he became prime minister), Churchill marshaled a single-minded defense and attempt at unity during the frightening period.
Churchill got along particularly well with American president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their alliance helped cement American aid to Britain in the earlier years of the war. In contrast, although he was a stalwart opponent of communism, when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, Churchill sent help and allied with Stalin’s regime. All three leaders would ultimately meet at the 1945 Yalta Conference to hash out the details of reorganizing Europe and levying consequences on Germany.
In 1944, the Allies made landfall at Normandy on D-Day, which began the final stages of the war. Even as the war accelerated towards its ending, Churchill still found himself in some controversies, particularly the 1945 bombing of Dresden, a German town that housed a large number of civilians and refugees. The war officially ended in May 1945.
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Almost immediately after the war, the wartime coalition government fell apart and Churchill had to resign as prime minister in 1945. A general election was held that summer, and the Labour Party won, meaning Churchill could not continue in his post. Instead, he became the official leader of the opposition party. In recognition of his wartime service, King George VI offered Churchill a dukedom and induction into the Order of the Garter, but Churchill declined both.
The prime minister after Winston Churchill was Clement Attlee, whose government lasted for approximately six years. In the general election of 1951, the Conservative Party regained power, and Churchill, who had refused to hand over party leadership to Anthony Eden, became prime minster again. While the new administration prioritized some important issues such as housing, Churchill personally pushed for some other changes that would be heavily criticized in years to come, such as a campaign to restrict immigration and “keep England white.” He also focused on building up the American-British “special relationship.”
Churchill had a positive relationship with George VI, which came to an end in 1952 when the king died and his daughter ascended to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. Over time, he built a good relationship with the young queen as well. However, his health began to decline, as did his hold over his party; many Conservatives expected him to step down, but he kept postponing it.
In 1955, Winston Churchill finally stepped down as prime minister for the last time, leaving his party and government in Eden’s hands. Like her father, the Queen offered Churchill a dukedom, but he declined, largely because his son Randolph did not wish to be saddled with inheriting the title in the future. He did, however, accept her offer to be a Knight of the Garter.
Churchill continued to be an MP until 1964, but he spent less and less time in Parliament and more time in semi-retirement, indulging his talents for painting and writing. He suffered a stroke on January 15, 1965, and died at the age of 90, nine days later.
The death of Winston Churchill was met with an outpouring of international mourning. He was given a state funeral – the largest civilian funeral in history – that was watched by hundreds of millions worldwide. Despite his complicated and even controversial politics and legacy of being obstinate and outspoken, Churchill’s overall image has been depicted one of a great hero of a dark era in human history. He is the subject of much intense debate among historians to this day.
Still, the question “who was Winston Churchill?” tends to evoke answers about his leadership during World War II, which earned the bulk of his popular legacy. Phrases from Winston Churchill speeches have entered popular culture, and Churchill himself is a figure in history that most people know from an early age. Countless memorials and honors are named after him, from formal monuments to unexpected namesakes – there’s even a Winston Churchill Middle School in California! Thanks to his enormous influence on one of the most important eras in modern history, Winston Churchill earned his place in history books now and future.
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Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. Hambledon and Continuum, 2001.
Gilbert, Martin. Churchill: A Life. Heinemann, 1991.
Jenkins, Roy. Churchill. Macmillan, 2001.
Robbins, Keith. Churchill: Profiles in Power. Routledge, 2014.
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