Winston Churchill was blessed, and cursed, with the most illustrious name in British politics.
Tory destined to live in his grandfather's giant shadow
Winston Churchill was blessed, and cursed, with the most illustrious name in British politics. The public's focus on "Young" Winston, the only son of an only son, was amplified by his decision to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. Endowed with the great good looks of his father and the charm of his extraordinary mother and buoyed by the expectations of his family and the nation, he entered Parliament in 1970. He remained there until his seat was abolished in 1997 but never gained a ministry, knighthood or peerage.
His father, Randolph, overbearing, spoilt and bibulous, was less lucky than his son, only entering Parliament during the war because his seat was uncontested. His mother, successively Pamela Digby, Churchill, Hayward, Harriman, was in her son's words "a marvellous mother but not the least maternal". The marriage barely survived Winston's birth and he spent much time with his grandparents at their country house, Chartwell. He would help his grandfather build his wall and said that if anyone asked what Winston Senior did, he would have said: "He's a bricklayer."
Sent, at the age of eight, to school at Le Rosey in Switzerland because of his asthma, he was removed after Field Marshal Montgomery told his grandfather that he was at a school for snobs and he feared for his character. He was then bullied at Eton for his lingering French accent. He followed his father to Christ Church, Oxford, and, like him and his grandfather, spent some years as a reporter. He saw action in Yemen, Borneo, Vietnam and the Middle East, and wrote a book, with his father, on the Six-Day war.
He sat at the far right of the Conservative Party, defending PW Botha's apartheid regime in South Africa and Ian Smith's Rhodesia. His stance on the latter led to his sacking as defence spokesman in 1978 by Margaret Thatcher - his only stint on the frontbench. He opposed devolution, "relentless" immigration and the Soviets, and supported capital punishment and nuclear power. Yet he also defended free sight and dental checks and opposed pit closures in 1992.
In 1995, he was condemned for the family's sale of his grandfather's papers to the nation for £12.5 million. Many believed the nation had always owned them. He told an interviewer in 2008: "It's been a constant reproach to me at every milestone in my life how little I have achieved compared with [my grandfather], but that could be said of almost everyone. He had great character, but he also had a lot of luck."
Winston Spencer Churchill was born on October 10, 1940 and died on March 2. He is survived by the four children of his first marriage to Minnie d'Erlanger and his second wife, Luce Engelen. * The National