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On June 23, 1953, Winston Churchill met with the Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi, who was on the first day of a two-day visit to Britain, at 10 Downing Street. The prime ministers met for an hour and discussed Churchill’s support for the European Defence Community and the upcoming Bermuda Conference. They also sat in the garden in Downing Street to be photographed by the press. In the afternoon Churchill answered questions in the House of Commons on the discussion of world trade at the Bermuda talks as well as the suitability of the Mid-Ocean Club in Bermuda as a venue for meeting with President Eisenhower. During the day Churchill was visited at Downing Street by his physician, Lord Moran, who thought the prime minister was “played out.” Moran told Churchill he was unhappy with the strain the prime minister was under, but Churchill only grunted and returned to his papers.

That evening Churchill gave a dinner in honor of De Gasperi and his wife Francesca at 10 Downing Street. The 38 guests included Labour leader Clement Attlee, Minister of Defence Harold Alexander, the prime minister’s aide John Colville, Churchill’s wife Clementine, their daughter Mary and her husband Christopher Soames. At the end of the dinner Churchill made a short speech mainly about the Roman conquest of Britain, which Colville thought was “in his best and most sparkling form.” As the people started to leave Christopher Soames noticed that Churchill was trying to stand up but was unable to do so and fell back into his chair. Soames quickly realized the prime minister was unwell and told Clementine that they could not move him until the guests and waiters had left. He told his wife Mary to “guard” the prime minister from the guests as he was having trouble speaking. Mary thought her father looked “unhappy and uncertain and was very incoherent.” Christopher let Gasperi know that Churchill was tired and the Italian prime minister quickly departed. After the guests and staff had departed Churchill was taken upstairs to his bedroom with the prime minister leaning heavily on Colville’s arm. Lord Moran was contacted and next morning he examined Churchill and diagnosed that he had suffered a stroke.

 

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