Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

Winston Churchill rated women out of 1,000, loved sex and was not gay, claims historian

Sonia Purnell also claims Britain's wartime PM was 'a rarity among alpha males' who rose to lead their country because he was not a 'sexual predator'

Ian Johnston
Friday 26 June 2015 09:02 BST
Winston and Lady Churchill leaving their Hyde Park Gate home for an Ascot race meeting on 16 June 1961
Winston and Lady Churchill leaving their Hyde Park Gate home for an Ascot race meeting on 16 June 1961

Sir Winston Churchill used to rate women at parties out of 1,000, wrote to his mother-in-law that sex with her daughter was “delightful” and was definitely not gay, a historian has said.

The man regularly rated as Britain’s greatest Prime Minister pursued his romantic life with “gusto”, historian Sonia Purnell told Chalke Valley History Festival, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The author of the book, First Lady: the Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill, said the young Sir Winston and a friend, Eddie Marsh, used to rate women at high-society balls based on the idea that Helen of Troy was the “face that launched a thousand ships”, sparking the Trojan War.

“Either they had a face that could ‘launch a thousand ships’, who were therefore eligible, ‘merely 200’, who were very borderline, or ‘a small gun boat at most’, meaning they were out of the question, clearly,” Ms Purnell said.

Sir Winston also had a rather grandiose idea of pick-up lines, telling one would-be girlfriend: “Marry me, and I will conquer the world and lay it at your feet.”

But Ms Purnell noted he was unable to sustain such passion, saying of the woman in question: “Unfortunately at other times he forgot to write to her or even speak to her, had no money and was at times incredibly demanding.”

And a music hall girl who spent the night with him found “Winston had done nothing but talk into the small hours on the subject of himself,” she added.

He later met the future Mrs Churchill and married her after just four months.

“Winston was so determined the wedding night would go well he sought advice from an expert: his mother,” Ms Purnell said. “She reputedly had had 200 lovers. She obviously gave very good advice and it all went terribly well, so he wrote to her thanking her for the advice and telling her ‘we have loved and loitered’.

“Then, bizarrely, he wrote to Clementine’s mother, Lady Blanche, saying he found sex a ‘delightful occupation’, which is a strange thing to say to your mother-in-law.”

She said that while there was speculation about his sexuality during his lifetime – an idea revived by some later historians – she was convinced that he was genuinely in love with his wife.

“I would actually be lying if when I was researching my book the idea [that Churchill was gay] didn’t occur to me as well,” Ms Purnell said.

“But, on whether Winston’s 57-year-long marriage was a career-motivated sham or the real deal, I would like to persuade you that it was the real deal.”

She also said that Sir Winston was “a rarity among alpha males” who rose to lead their country because he was not a “sexual predator”.

“He wasn’t a Bill Clinton with interns, he wasn’t a JFK with actresses,” she said. “He wasn’t even a John Major with a certain Tory MP.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in