This week, Britain’s new five pound note entered circulation. Strong, practically indestructible and proven to withstand the test of time – much like the chap who’s on the back of it. Who is that person you may ask? The one and only Sir. Winston Churchill.
Since 2002, the little known Elizabeth Fry has been perched with Her Majesty on our fivers. However this year, the Bank of England decided to have an overhaul – to scrap the paper notes and scrap Mrs. Fry along with it.
For many people, Conservatives in particular, Churchie was the greatest statesman that this country has ever seen. Therefore, it is more than fitting to commemorate his life on the five pound note. But what was it about this cigar-loving old man that made him stick out from all the rest? Why did the Bank of England pick him instead of, for instance, Ed Miliband or Nigel Farage?
Overall, there are a whole host of reasons:
1. Churchill was not just a politician.
Prior to having a career in politics, Churchill was a member of the Territorial Army and a budding journalist. He entered the Royal Military College of Sandhurst, and graduated with honours. He later saw action in Cuba, India, Egypt, Sudan, the front lines of World War I, and even took part in one of the last British cavalry charges in history.
2. He overcame many of his own problems.
Churchill is equally as famous for being one who would never shy away from a tipple and as a man who suffered with manic-depression (of which he nicknamed the “black dog”.) It all started back in 1899. Churchill, aged 25, was a correspondent on the Morning Post, covering the Boer War. Sent out to the front line, he took with him 36 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of ten-year old scotch, and 6 bottles of vintage brandy (one of his “essential” drinks). Though occasionally he would get slightly drunk, this brought out even more of his comical wit. For example, on one occasion at Parliament Churchill had a run-in with the first female MP, Viscountess Astor:
“You, Mr Churchill, are drunk.”
“And you, Lady Astor, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning, and you will still be ugly.”
During his times of depression, he had no energy, no interests, lost his appetite and couldn’t concentrate. He was completely non-functional. Despite this, many people consider that it was because of the depression that he was so successful. Once coming out of these periods, he certainly recuperated. He was ready to carry on being the man we know and love.
3. He had the knack for writing.
Sir Winston is the only Prime Minister to ever win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” In addition to this, he was always a person to rely on for wisdom in times of hardship. Some of his greatest quotes are as follows:
– “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”
– “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
– “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
– “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Many of his speeches during the war years are considered to be some of the greatest of all time. In particular, his “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech has been remembered by many.
4. Winston defied the odds.
There is no denying that he was nothing short of courageous. Throughout his whole life, Churchill proved others wrong. His own father, Randolph Churchill, always believed that Winston would never make it. His ill temper and lack of concentration in school meant that his father certainly didn’t have high hopes for him. Unfortunately, Randolph died 70 years before Winston did, and therefore never saw any of his major achievements. During his political career, Winston was always seen as hot-headed and wasn’t supported by many Tory Party colleagues when he launched his bid to become Prime Minister. Despite this, Winston ploughed on and is now considered to be one the most influential men in history.
In addition to all that mentioned above, there is one real reason why this man deserves to be the alternate face of our banknotes. Quite simply, he won the war for Britain. If it wasn’t for him, the course of history would have been extremely different. Undeterred by almost all the members of the War Cabinet who wanted to sign a peace deal with Germany, (that would have ultimately put us under Hitler’s control) he carried on. Churchill matters today because he saved our civilisation. The most important point is that only he could have done it.
Sometimes it is worrying that future generations will forget all this man did for us. But I am sure that with the help of commemorations like this, and the passion of future individuals, the true spirit of Churchill will always live on. There are very few like him who have had such a monumental impact on their nation. How many others can you think of who were decisive for the better, fought against evil, and stood up for their nation in the darkest hour?
Any modern day politician having the guts to take Churchill’s line is quite frankly unimaginable. Whilst discussing whether or not to enter such negotiations with Hitler, Churchill ended with an almost Shakespearean finish: “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.”
To me, that doesn’t only scream out ‘Rule Britannia’, it also screams out everything Churchill worked for, lived for and fought for, preparing to risk everything for the better good of his people.
He was the lion that roared when the British Empire needed him most.