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Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill, the son of Randolph Churchill, a Conservative politician, was born in Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, on 30th November, 1874. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of Leonard Jerome, a New York businessman. Winston Churchill was a politician, a soldier, an artist, and the 20th century's most famous and celebrated Prime Minister.

He was educated at Harrow and at Sandhurst Royal Military College, after which he saw service in India and the Sudan, and acted off-duty as a war correspondent. Churchill left the army in 1899 to take up politics, but first travelled to South Africa as a journalist. Although taken prisoner by the Boers, he made a daring escape and returned to safety despite the price on his head. His consequent fame no doubt aided his success as the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Oldham in 1900. Churchill was instinctively independent, willing to work with any side agreeing with his goals. His stand against protectionism led him to join the Liberals in 1904. As President of the Board of Trade in Asquith's Liberal government he set up labour exchanges and unemployment insurance. In 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, and ensured the Navy was ready for the outbreak of war in 1914. However, he was blamed for the failed Dardanelles Campaign in 1915, and was demoted in the coalition government. He resigned his post and went to the front. He returned to the Conservative Party in the 1920s and spent 5 years as Stanley Baldwin's Chancellor, but again fell out with his party.

Unpopular and ostracised for a decade, his warnings from the backbenches of Fascist imperialism went unheeded. George VI asked Churchill to form a government in 1940. He was renowned as a great character and a great leader but was a paradoxical man. Possessed of astonishing vision, he also made disastrous mistakes. Nevertheless, he brought Britain to victory against Germany on 8th May 1945.

Following the Labour landslide in the post-war 1945 election, a surprised Churchill found himself leading the Conservative Opposition. He then served four years as a peacetime Prime Minister. Frustrated and in poor health, he resigned in 1955, aged 81. Following his death in 1965, Churchill's body lay in state for 3 days at Westminster Hall before his state funeral.

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