Churchill Research

“The morning had been golden, the noontide was bronze, and the evening lead. But all were solid, and each was polished till it shone after its fashion,” was the final epitaph Winston Churchill wrote of Lord George Curzon in his sketch of the statesman first published in Pall Mall in 1929, four years after Curzon’s death. This judgement reflects the magnitude of Curzon’s achievements, ambitions, and disappointments in the course of a career that was very much linked in its latter years with Winston Churchill. An article on the Curzon-Churchill relationship by the author of this blog has been published by The Churchill Project. It is available here.

Book Review: The Worm in the Apple: A History of the Conservative Party and Europe from Churchill to Cameron

Europe has been “an enduring drama in British politics,” since Britain chose to remain outside of the European Coal and Steel Community upon its being formed in 1951. Christopher Tugendhat surveys the enduring swirling drama of Europe and the Conservative Party from 1951 to the Brexit referendum in 2016 in his excellent book The Worm in the Apple: A History of the Conservative Party and Europe from Churchill to Cameron. As a former Conservative member of parliament (1970-77) and European Commissioner (1977-85) as well as presently a Conservative member of the House of Lords, Tugendhat is exceptionally well-placed to write about his party and Europe, with its passionate arguments and bitter disputes. The book is replete with many perceptive observations and judgements. Recurrent themes in The Worm in the Apple are that Britain missed an opportunity to influence the direction of Europe by the decision of the Churchill government to stay out of the original enterprise as well as successive British governments consistently failing to “come clean with the people about the sovereignty implications of membership.”

By the coming to office of the Cameron government in 2010, promises of a referendum on Europe were being made by the Conservatives, Labour, and even the Liberal Democrats. As Tugendhat interestingly notes, “with so many commitments to a referendum being thrown around, it was becoming inevitable that sooner or later one would have to be held.” A referendum, as we know, was not held until Cameron took the gamble of an In/Out referendum in 2016. Although he did not support holding one at the time, as a pro-European Tugendhat now concludes it would have been better to have held a vote earlier as was being promised on a specific issue, such as the Lisbon Treaty. A defeat for Europe in such a vote would not have provoked “an existential crisis,” while having served to ease “the British people’s sense of being carried inexorably forward on a one-way tide to greater integration over which they had no control.” In reviewing the 2016 referendum, Tugendhat comments that, with both sides making “wild and unsustainable claims,” few UK election campaigns have rivalled it for playing fast and loose with facts and figures. He writes that with own his record as Eurosceptic, David Cameron was “an unconvincing advocate of Britain remaining in the EU.”

Tugendhat concludes that the “worm that ate away at the legitimacy of Britain’s membership of the EU and the pain of the divorce negotiations have made it impossible to restore the status quo ante. There can be no going back.” However, a new close, harmonious, and mutually advantageous relationship” must be created.

The Worm in the Apple is an absorbing read.

Book Review: The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine’s Daughters

The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine’s Daughters by Rachel Trethewey is a thoughtful and well-researched group biography of the Churchill daughters: Diana, Sarah, Marigold (who died of septicemia at the age of just two and a half in 1921), and Mary. Trethewey successfully brings their stories “out of the shadows” as she chronicles their childhoods, careers, military service during the war, marriages and divorces, birth of their own children, and their relationships with their parents and other sisters. Being the daughters of Winston Churchill “opened up a world of privilege and opportunity, but it also raised expectations. Their position as handmaids to the great man were the easy part of their role; establishing meaningful lives of their own from their charismatic clan was harder.” As Trethewey illustrates only Mary was able to carry the burden and lead a seemingly happy and fulfilling life. Her sisters struggled. Diana had a difficult relationship with both her mother as well as with being in the spotlight that came with being a Churchill daughter. In the 1950s she started to suffer from severe mental illness and eventually took her own life at the age of 54. Sarah, the most rebellious of the daughters who never quite achieved success as an actress, dealt with several painful tragedies in her own life and battled alcoholism until her death in 1982.

Trethewey is, perhaps, more generous in her evaluations of Clementine and Winston as parents than other authors have been, most especially Josh Ireland in Churchill & Son, a book about Winston’s sad relationship with his son Randolph. However, in reading The Churchill Sisters it is difficult to not conclude that Clementine and Winston were, even by the standard of their class and age, poor parents. Clementine had great difficultly showing affection towards her children and was absent for long periods during their childhoods. Winston “relished” being a father but was always the overpowering center of the family’s existence. As Trethewey writes Clementine’s life was dedicated to supporting her husband which she herself admitted left little of her energy for her children. Indeed, during the war it was “this family food chain that kept Winston’s show on the road. He depended on his wife, and in turn she relied on her daughters for emotional support.” When Clementine was not available, the daughters stepped into the breach to support their father.

The Churchill Sisters is an excellent and thorough study of the lives of the daughters as well as Churchill’s family life.

Chartwell Chats

A new series Chartwell Chats has been launched on YouTube. The series will feature interviews with leading historians on Winston Churchill’s relationship with Chartwell. It a joint presentation of the National Trust Chartwell and The International Churchill Society UK. The first in the series a conversation with David Lough, author No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, about the purchase of Chartwell.

Book Review: Cheers, Mr Churchill! Winston in Scotland

Winston Churchill was a the member of parliament for the constituency of Dundee for 14 years from 1908 to 1922. As the Liberal Party candidate, he was first elected at a by-election in May 1908, having lost at Manchester North West just weeks earlier. Churchill had hoped Dundee would be his “seat for life” and was reelected four times before going down to defeat at the 1922 general election. Churchill’s tenure as the member of parliament for Dundee is recounted in the excellent Cheers, Mr Churchill! Winston in Scotland by Andrew Liddle.

In his book, Liddle describes the six elections Churchill stood in at Dundee, his service as the city’s member of parliament, the positions he adopted on such issues as Home Rule, and the background of his political opponents, Edwin Scrymgeour of the Scottish Prohibition Party and Labour’s E. D. Morel, who unseated him in 1922 in the dual member constituency. Liddle also refutes some of the myths about Churchill and Scotland, including that he sent tanks into Glasgow in 1919 to crush strikers.

Liddle makes the case that Churchill was not a good constituency member of parliament or very attentive to local issues. As a prominent cabinet minister and leading national politician, he had neither the time nor interest for many local concerns. Additionally, he “simply had no interest in the sort of mundane constituency engagements that involve gladhanding prominent city figures or opening new buildings.” With the distance from Westminster and his busy schedule, Churchill rarely came to the city, usually visiting once or twice a year plus at elections. As such, he relied heavily on his local political supporters, most especially Dundee Liberal Association chairman George Ritchie, to maintain his standing in Dundee and counter the perception that he was aloof to local matters. While Liddle demolishes the myth that Churchill’s supposed last words to the city were “the grass would grow green through its cobbled streets, and the vigour of its industry will shrink and decay” – he never said it – it is true that after his defeat Churchill never visited the city again. In 1943 he rejected, to ensuing local controversy, an invitation to receive the Freedom of the City after the city council voted by only a one vote margin (16 in favour, 15 against) to make the invitation in the first place.

With research into local newspapers and the archives of his political opponents in Dundee, Cheers, Mr Churchill! provides a new perspective on Churchill’s political career, a difficult accomplishment given the hundreds of books published on the subject. It is a balanced and insightful study. Readers will learn something new about Churchill from this engaging book.

Book Review: Partition: How and Why Ireland was Divided

As Colonial Secretary in the Lloyd George government, Winston Churchill played a central role in the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Signed at Downing Street on December 6, 1921, the treaty ended the Irish War of Independence with the creation of the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland). Article 12 of the treaty provided that a Commission would be created to delineate a boundary with Northern Ireland, should the province (as it did) choose to succeed from the Free State. The partition as well as the politics, recommendations, and aftermath of the Boundary Commission are considered in Partition: How and Why Ireland was Divided by Ivan Gibbons (author of Drawing the Line: The Irish Border in British Politics and The British Labour Party and the Establishment of the Irish Free State, 1918-1924). Although a brief introductory work, Partition is an informative and valuable survey of the topic.

Book Review: England’s Cross of Gold: Keynes, Churchill, and the Governance of Economic Beliefs

Gallipoli and the Gold Standard are often pointed to as the two worst mistakes of Winston Churchill’s long political career. The naval assault on the Dardanelles and ensuing Gallipoli campaign, however, is commonly portrayed as Churchill’s own brainchild that he stubbornly masterminded against expert Admiralty opinion and near unified opposition of Royal Navy admirals who were bullied into submission. While historians have made significant inroads in this narrative on the planning and implementation of the Gallipoli campaign, the same accusations cannot be made about Churchill and the return to the Gold Standard, a decision he made while Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Baldwin government. England’s Cross of Gold: Keynes, Churchill, and the Governance of Economic Beliefs by James Ashley Morrison (London School of Economics and Political Science) is an impressive and detailed scholarly study on the return to the Gold Standard in 1925. As shown in this book, unlike Gallipoli, the return to the Gold Standard long pre-dated Churchill’s arrival at the Treasury and was thoroughly studied and debated by two high-level committees composed of the country’s leading experts in finance and trade. Both the Cunliffe Committee, which reported in 1918, and the Chamberlain-Bradbury Committee, which reported in 1925, recommended the return to the Gold Standard at prewar price of gold as soon as was feasible. Returning to the Gold Standard was Treasury orthodoxy. Ironically, when Churchill questioned this conventional wisdom, his colleagues saw behind it the failure at Gallipoli.

Morrison does not defend Churchill’s decision but does seek to explain it in the book’s latter chapters. He writes that Churchill embraced the gold standard as a means to decrease unemployment and restore Britain’s pre-war position. As Chancellor, Churchill demonstrated “exceptional familiarity with the debate and a strong intuition for the politics of exchange rates” and was far from naïve about the impact of the return. He “understood the risks he was taking, and he diligently explored the alternatives.” Morrison writes “to say that, in retrospect, Churchill chose the wrong policy is not to suggest that he should have made a different decision given the arguments available to him at the time.”

At Gallipoli Churchill is portrayed by his critics as ignoring and overriding expert advice, while with the Gold Standard he is faulted for being convinced by and agreeing with expert advice. Both Gallipoli and the Gold Standard, however, ended up being failures of the first magnitude.

Book Review: To Break Russia’s Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks

Among the kings, presidents, prime ministers, murderous dictator, statesmen, and generals included in Winston Churchill’s Great Contemporaries, published in 1937, the Russian nihilist and terrorist Boris Savinkov seems to be an odd inclusion. Unlike the others profiled in the collection of short biographies, he was little known even at the time of the book’s publication and had in no way impacted world events as the others included in the volume. Thornton Butterworth, the book’s publisher, questioned the inclusion of the Savinkov essay. While he reminded his publisher that the essay contributed to the volume’s word count, Churchill also “always thought [Savinkov] was a great man and a great Russian patriot, in spite of the terrible methods with which he has been associated.”

To Break Russia’s Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks by Vladimir Alexandrov (Yale and author of The Black Russian) is a superb biography of the Russian revolutionary, who Churchill described as a “strange and sinister man” whose “whole life had been spent in conspiracy.” In pursuit of the cause of the freedom of the Russian people, he assassinated senior figures in the Czarist regime and waged war against the Bolsheviks. Savinkov and Churchill first met in 1919 in Paris where the Russian was seeking support for the White Russians. Then Secretary of War in Lloyd George’s government, Churchill would be the “most important European statesman with whom Savinkov developed a relationship.” Although he was aware of his terrorist background, Churchill was, nonetheless, impressed with him. Alexandrov comments that what Churchill liked most about the Russian was that he used radical methods to achieve down-to-earth goals, or as Churchill expressed it, “the essence of practicality and good sense expressed in terms of nitro-glycerine.” During 1919, Savinkov came to London several times to meet with Churchill and plan assistance to the White Russians. Churchill was a “genuine ally” and fully supported Savinkov’s ideas and proposals. As Alexandrov writes Churchill’s “pronouncements at the time indicate that if he could have set British policy toward Russia entirely by himself, he would have implemented everything that Savinkov wanted, including a major military intervention.” Decisive aid to the anti-Bolshevik Russians was not forthcoming from the Lloyd George government. As the Bolsheviks consolidated control of Russia, Savinkov, however, continued to wage his counter revolutionary campaign from Poland and France until was lured back to Russia and captured in 1924 by the Bolsheviks in an elaborate intelligence operation. He died in a Moscow prison, either killed or by suicide.

Churchill and The Queen

On the death of King George VI on February 6, 1952, Prime Minister Winston Churchill broadcast a poignant eulogy to the King. After paying this moving tribute, he turned to the new Queen for whom he would be the first of her 15 prime ministers. He said,

“Now I must leave the treasures of the past and turn to the future. Famous have been the reigns of our queens. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre. Now that we have the second Queen Elizabeth, also ascending the Throne in her twenty-sixth year, our thoughts are carried back nearly four hundred years to the magnificent figure who presided over and, in many ways, embodied and inspired the grandeur and genius of the Elizabethan age.

Queen Elizabeth II, like her predecessor, did not pass her childhood in any certain expectation of the Crown. But already we know her well, and we understand why her gifts, and those of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, have stirred the only part of the Commonwealth she has yet been able to visit. She has already been acclaimed as Queen of Canada.

We make our claim too, and others will come forward also, and tomorrow the proclamation of her sovereignty will command the loyalty of her native land and of all other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire. I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian era, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more the prayer and the anthem, “God save the Queen!”

A special issue (No. 199) of the Finest Hour: The Journal of Winston Churchill and His Times is devoted to the theme of “Churchill and The Queen.” The articles include, “Wise Counsel and Also Friendship: Winston Churchill and HM Queen Elizabeth” by Hugo Vickers; “A Happy Scene: Churchill and Balmoral Castle” by Alastair Stewart; and “The Queen, Australia, and Sir Winston Churchill” by Harry Atkinson. A free download of the special issue is available here.

Freddie Guest: Churchill’s Controversial Cousin

Violet Asquith, Winston Churchill’s close friend, knew of his devotion to his family, including his aunts, uncles, and cousins. She once told him that one quality he shared with his hero Napoleon was that of nepotism and like the Emperor, had he the power, he would have popped his family members down on every throne in Europe. Churchill readily agreed with the suggestion and smiled as he hypothetically distributed the crowns of Europe to his individual family members, including accommodating his cousin Freddie Guest with “a modest throne in one of the smaller European countries.”1 In addition to being Churchill’s close friend and cousin, Guest was a soldier, controversial politician, and avid sportsman. While most everyone agreed on Guest’s cool courage, sociability, and general genialness, his critics dismissed him as a snob, playboy, and half-wit, ignoring his influence as “a cunning and ruthless backroom fixer.”2

Frederick Edward “Freddie” Guest was born on June 14, 1875, the son of Ivor Bertie Guest, the first Baron Wimborne and Lady Cornelia Churchill. His mother was the daughter of John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough and the brother of Lord Randolph Churchill, thus making Guest a cousin of both the dukes of Marlborough and Winston Churchill. He had four sisters and four brothers, three of whom were, like him, elected to the House of Commons. The Guest family’s wealth was derived from the Dowlais Ironworks in Wales.

 After attending Winchester, Guest was commissioned in the militia battalion of the East Surrey Regiment in 1894 from which he obtained a transfer in 1897 to the 1st Life Guards, the senior regiment of the British army. He served in the White Nile expedition in 1899-1900 and in the South African War in 1901-02. Promoted to Captain while in the army, he was thereafter known as “Captain Guest.” Guest’s reputation as a playboy was well-deserved. Despite her being the wife of his cousin Sunny, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, Guest had an affair in 1899 with Consuelo Vanderbilt. The affair continued in 1900, with Guest and Consuelo living together in Paris and at Blenheim Palace for six weeks while Sunny was away serving in the war in South Africa.

On June 28, 1905, Guest married Amy Phipps, the daughter of Henry Phipps who was a wealthy American steel magnate and business partner of Andrew Carnegie. The wedding was the social affair of 1905 with it followed by a reception for over 1,000 people at Brook House, Park Lane. The couple’s first child was a son, Winston Frederick Guest, born on May 20, 1906. He was named after Winston Churchill who was the boy’s godfather. Two more children followed, another boy and a girl, but the marriage was not destined to last.

Freddie Guest, along with his brothers, followed Churchill’s example and left the Conservative Party over Free Trade and joined the Liberals. In 1905 Guest made his first speech from a political platform, speaking in Manchester in support of his cousin. Having left the army, Guest served as assistant private secretary to Churchill in his successive appointments at the Colonial Office, Board of Trade, and Home Office. After having been unsuccessful in three attempts to be elected to the House of Commons, Guest was finally returned as a Liberal for East Dorset in the 1910 general election. The victory was short-lived as he was unseated after a court ruled there had been illegal practices by the Guest campaign, including bribery and undue family influence. However, at the second general election held in 1910, Guest again won East Dorset, holding the seat until 1922.

With Freddie’s inherited wealth and Amy’s fortune, the Guests would eventually own or lease several properties in England, New York, and Florida, including Burley Hall in Rutland and Alford House, a grand mansion in Park Lane. Winston and his wife Clementine were frequent visitors. The visits did not always go well as on one occasion Amy became furious when Freddie stayed up late playing cards with his cousin. She locked herself in her bedroom and resolutely ignored Winston pleading his cousin’s case at the locked door in “family solidarity.” It was not an unknown occurrence for the Churchills to find themselves temporarily between houses as their new house was not ready. Twice in those circumstances they had to move in with the Guests. In 1909 they lived with Freddie and Amy at 22 Carlton House Terrace and ten years later they stayed a few weeks at Templeton, a mansion in Roehampton that had belonged to Lady Cornelia. While Templeton had a tennis court which pleased Clementine, she did not like the “Guest tribe” and was occasionally annoyed by Amy, calling her once a, “suffragette, Christian Science, and Yankee Doodle.”3 In the years after the First World War, Churchill spent much time at Templeton where he practiced his new hobby of painting. Guest, in turn, was one of the first visitors to sign the guest book at Chartwell, Churchill’s country home acquired in 1922.

Additionally, Guest regularly assisted Churchill in his always pressing financial arrangements. He regularly provided loan guarantees for his cousin; £1,000 in 1915 so Churchill could obtain a full war-risk insurance policy before he departed for the front, a further £4,000 in wartime loans, and another £2,000 loan in 1930. At the time of his death in 1937, Guest was still a guarantor on Churchill’s loans and thus required his cousin to rearrange his finances.4

After being elected to the House of Commons, Guest held minor positions in the Liberal government led by Prime Minister H.H. Asquith. In 1911 he was appointed Junior Lord of the Treasury and the next year became Treasurer of the Household, with duties as Deputy Chief Whip. In parliament, Guest was popular with members from all political parties and was a “delightful companion” who always “had an infectious enthusiasm for everything he took up.”5 As Churchill’s cousin, Guest became a member of The Other Club, a dining club founded by Winston Churchill and F.E. Smith. The day to day running of the club was eventually taken on by Guest.

At the start of the First World War, Guest immediately volunteered for the service and was appointed as an Extra Aide-de-camp to Sir John French, the commander-in-chief of the British Expeditionary Force in France. In this capacity, he was a political go-between with BEF headquarters and the government as well as a personal contact between French and Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. In December 1914 Guest sought Churchill’s assistance in mediating the dispute between French and Lord Kitchener, the Secretary for War. In 1915 he was sent by French to London to meet with Asquith and senior members of the government.

After giving up his position at the B.E.F. headquarters and returning from France, Guest was one of the leading figures on the Liberal backbenches to call for the introduction of conscription. Additionally, he organized the National Service Department and headed the National War Aims Committee. The latter organization received money from the Secret Service and was sought to “resist insidious influences of an unpatriotic character,” specifically by distributing anti-socialist and anti-pacifist propaganda.6 In 1916, Guest served in the East African campaign, holding a staff position under Jan Smuts, the theatre commander. Guest received a Distinguished Service Order.

By the time Guest returned to London in 1917, Asquith had fallen and David Lloyd George had replaced him as prime minister leading a coalition government reliant on the support of the Conservatives. The ousting of Asquith had split the Liberal Party, into two camps:  Asquith Liberals and Lloyd-George Liberal members of parliament. Guest and Churchill sided with Lloyd George in the split.

In 1917, Guest was appointed Junior Patronage Secretary for the Treasury, in which capacity he acted as Chief Whip for the Liberal supporters of the government. As Chief Whip he would be “one of the principal electoral architects of the coalition government and a figure key to its continuing survival.”7

Once again one of Guest’s duties was to act as a go-between with Churchill this time on behalf of Lloyd George. Shortly after his appointment Guest was sent to sound out Churchill on being reappointed as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Despite Guest’s attempts at persuasion, his cousin declined saying he hoped for an appointment that was more involved in winning the war. Guest advised the prime minister to proceed with appointing Churchill to a cabinet position despite Conservative ill-feelings to his cousin. In July 1917 Churchill was appointed Minister of Munitions.

While initially reluctant to formalize the breaking-up of the Liberal Party, Guest took a leading role in 1918 in negotiating an electoral pact with the Conservatives that see a coupon being issued to the 159 Lloyd-George Liberal members of parliament. The 1918 general election, held a month after the Armistice, saw Lloyd George and the coalition government win a decisive victory. Despite, the victory, Lloyd George’s political situation was difficult. The new government was dominated by the Conservatives and the Liberal Party had split with the Asquith Liberals keeping the party organization, funds, and the National Liberal Club in London. The Lloyd George Liberals needed money and Guest sought to raise funds by selling knighthoods and other political patronage. He successfully raised £3,000,000 for the Lloyd George Fund by fully and recklessly exploiting the patronage powers of the government. Among Guest’s tactics was employing honours brokers or “touts” to sell knighthoods. By 1921 the Conservatives were complaining, most especially that Guest was poaching on their fund-raising territory, and the selling of honours became a scandal in 1922 which resulted in a Royal Commission being appointed.

As Chief Whip, Guest also supported the failed attempt in 1920 to merge the Lloyd-George Liberals and the Conservatives, established the 1920 Club for Lloyd George Liberals, and negotiated the purchase of the Daily Chronicle to serve as Lloyd-George’s personal newspaper. Guest has been called the prime minister’s “evil genius.” As Chief Whip and a trustee of the Lloyd George Fund, he “knew more embarrassing secrets than any other man in public life.”8 For his part, Lloyd George found it convenient to imply that he was frightened of his Chief Whip. Guest was rewarded by the prime minister with a privy councillorship in 1920 and appointment as Secretary of State for Air in April 1921.

Guest’s marriage was over by 1921. The couple had separated. That year Amy Guest bought the estate of Alicia Du Pont at Roslyn, Long Island for $1,500,000, while at Christmas Freddie was on the Riviera with Churchill. He was had fallen in love with a younger woman, the socialite and model Paula Gellibrand, and mentioned the possibility of marriage to his cousin. Churchill replied sepulchrally “that she was young enough to be his daughter, & that ten years would carry us both to the brink of the sixties.”9 Although the Guests would not divorce, they would remain separated.

Like Churchill, Guest was defeated in the 1922 general election. Both immediately attempted to get back in the House of Commons at by-elections. Guest made the quicker return. He won Stroud for the Liberals in a December 1923 by-election and was returned at the 1924 general election for North Bristol. At the latter election Churchill was returned to the House of Commons, rejoining the Conservative Party and being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. Guest remained a Liberal. He was, however, bitterly opposed to Labour and often defied his own party leadership by voting with the Conservatives. As the informal leader of right-wing Liberal members of parliament who defied their party, he eventually had the official party whip withdrawn. In the 1929 general election Guest was defeated at North Bristol. A Liberal candidate with the official sanction of Lloyd George had been run against him. Once again out of parliament, Guest finally quit the Liberals. In 1930 he announced his intention to rejoin the Conservatives. Churchill thought Baldwin should reward Guest’s “re-ratting” with a peerage. No peerage was forthcoming, but in the 1931 election Guest was elected to parliament for Plymouth Drake for the Conservatives. He held the seat for the rest of his life.

Back in parliament during the 1930s, Guest advocated for civil air development, chaired the private members’ air committee in the House of Commons, and supported Churchill in the anti-appeasement and rearmament campaign. He joined a delegation of parliamentarians that met with Baldwin at 10 Downing Street on national defence and was one of the few members of parliament to sign commons amendments put forward by Churchill in 1934 and 1936 criticizing the country’s air defenses.

Long an aviation enthusiast, Guest held his amateur pilot’s license and owned several light planes, making many flights to Kenya as well as flying the Sikorsky “Brazilian Clipper” on the Florida-West Indies-Brazilian route in 1935. He was appointed as Deputy Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators in 1930 and two years later became the Guild’s Master.

A noted sportsman, Guest was a big-game hunter, tennis player, amateur motor car racer, and excellent polo player. He won a bronze medal as a member of the British polo team at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and continued to play long after most other players his age had given it up.

House of Commons polo team, 18 July 1925. L-R: G.R.G. Shaw, Euan Wallace, Freddie Guest, Churchill

In 1937 Guest fell ill with inoperable cancer and was admitted to a London nursing home. Saddened by his cousin’s illness, Churchill admired his resolution, writing that Freddie was “very calm and courageous, but does not know how bad it is. We play a little backgammon together each day, not a very brilliant world is it?”10 Guest insisted on knowing how bad the illness was and on being told went to Brussels to consult with a Belgian doctor who offered a hope for a cure, although only a slim hope. Churchill wrote, “nothing could be more admirable than the gallant manner in which he faces this melancholy ordeal.”11

The trip to Brussels was fruitless and in March 1937 Guest was moved to his country residence at Sunbury-on-Thames. He died there on April 28, 1937. Churchill confided to a friend that, “Freddie’s death was a great blow to me. We were very fond of each other” and that “I have never seen anyone show such a complete contempt of death and make so little fuss about it.”12 Churchill attended his cousin’s funeral held two days later.

Amy Guest lived until 1959. She was a philanthropist and great aviation supporter. Although she had originally intended to go on the flight herself only to be talked out of it by her family, she was the financial backer of the 1928 Transatlantic flight by Amelia Earhart and Wilmer Stultz.

Both of the Guest sons became American citizens: Winston Guest being a star polo player and Raymond Guest serving as U.S. ambassador to Ireland in 1965-68. Their daughter Diana with her own interest in aviation flew solo in 1931 in a single engine biplane from London to Kenya. She later was a sculptor and lived in France.


1. Violet Bonham-Carter, Winston Churchill: An Intimate Portrait (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1965), 116.

2. David Stafford, Oblivion or Glory: 1921 and the Making of Winston Churchill (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2019), 35.

3. Mary Soames, Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999),71.

4. David Lough, No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money (New York: Picador, 2015), 256.

5. “Captain Guest, MP,” The Times (April 29, 1937), 18.

6. David Stafford, Churchill and Secret Service (New York: Overlook Press, 1998), 88.

7. Stafford, Oblivion or Glory, 83.

8. David Cannadine, Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain (New haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 139.

9. Soames, 244.

10. Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill, Volume V: The Prophet of Truth 1922-1939 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 855.

11. Gilbert, 856.

12. Gilbert, 856.