Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill made an unconventional entry to this world. The son of Lord Randolph Churchill and Lady Jennie arrived prematurely in a small room, which was at the time serving as a ladies’ cloakroom, at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire on the night of 30 November 1874.
After a life marked by frequent similarly unconventional incidents, he died quietly on the morning of 24 January 1965 in a bedroom at 28 Hyde Park Gate, London after a week’s coma caused by a stroke.
Between those two dates, Churchill lived a life so extraordinary and made such an indelible mark on the history of the twentieth century that in 2002 the people of the United Kingdom voted him the greatest Briton who ever drew breath.
Sportsman, soldier, orator, statesman, historian, painter, prophet and writer, he was also celebrated – perhaps more than for anything else – for his wit. Sir Robert Menzies, prime minister of Australia, noted as much when he spoke on the occasion of Churchill’s funeral: ‘Winston was a man of wit and chuckling humour.’
The British prime minister Harold Macmillan agreed. ‘Perhaps the most endearing thing about Sir Winston Churchill in private talk, in cabinet, in the House of Commons, was his puckish humour, his tremendous sense of fun and the quick alteration between grave and gay,’ he said on the day of Churchill’s death.
His wit manifested itself in many ways – puckish, infectious, hilarious, downright rude – but its one constant characteristic was that it could be unveiled anywhere, at any time, in even the gravest conditions.
In this book you will find the best of that wit – ripe plums of humour taken from Churchill’s parliamentary replies and ripostes, prepared addresses, asides and off-the-cuff remarks – all revealing a trenchant sharpness of mind, fine appreciation of humour and devastating sense of fun.