The ethical teachings and philosophies of Freemasonry have been passed down to generations of men since the Medieval times. Some of the keenest minds have been Masons; renowned musicians, writers, intellectuals of law and diplomacy, and inspirational leaders. All of these great men have sought greater light in our lessons. While there are many figures from history we are privileged to call “Brother,” few are as famous or influential as Sir Winston Churchill.
Considering his many accomplishments, it isn’t easy to encapsulate Brother Churchill’s remarkable life in one moment. He led England through the horror and tragedy of World War II and beyond, yet much of his story was written before he assumed his position as Prime Minister. Churchill was one of a kind: a strong personality and fearless leader who took the weight of the world upon his shoulders in its darkest hour. For his courageousness, he continues to inspire new generations and is a shining example of what it means to devote yourself to the service of others.
A Born Serviceman
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on November 30th, 1874, in Oxfordshire, England. His family descended from The Duke of Marlborough, residing at the top of the English aristocracy. He attended the revered Harrow School as a boy, quickly taking an avid interest in English and writing. At 21, he enlisted as a second lieutenant in the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars Cavalry Regiment, thus beginning what would become a long and storied career as a serviceman.
Over the next several years, Churchill hardly stayed in one location long. He traveled to Cuba, New York, and then India, a formative period during which his passion for writing blossomed. While in India, Winston served as a soldier and a journalist during the Pathan Revolt and wrote his first book: The Story of the Malakand Field Force. He then moved to Sudan in 1898, serving under General Kitchener’s in the 21st Lancers, while doubling as a journalist for The Morning Post.
Although still a young man, by 1899, Winston had gained a lifetime of experience. He was only 25 but ready to begin his journey in English politics. That year, he returned to Britain and was elected into Britain’s Parliament.
Winston entered adulthood at the turn of the century when Freemasonry was at the height of popularity with Britain’s elite. When he was initiated into Masonry in 1901, King Edward VII was the acting Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England.
Churchill joined Studholme Lodge No. 1591 on May 24th, 1901. The lodge remains active today, known as United Studholme Alliance Lodge. Within a year, he was raised to Master Mason, joining a long line of men from his family who were also Freemasons. Few men were as active and ambitious politically as he was, and his duties in government kept him from assuming leadership roles in lodge. As history would show, however, Brother Churchill was a student of Masonic principle, showing his commitment to our values through his actions during his long life.
The Young Leader
Charming, passionate, and quick-witted, Churchill enjoyed a meteoric rise in the English government. Few boasted such a strong personality, and in 1904 he crossed the aisle in the House of Commons, ditching the Conservative Party in opposition to the Aliens Bill, which aimed to deter Jewish migration into Britain. The House would prove too small, and he ascended from post to post over the next ten years.
In 1908, he married Clementine Hozier, and together they would go on to raise five children, Diana, Randolph, Sarah, Marigold, and Mary. That year, 1908, the couple purchased their home, which they called Chartwell. This settlement became the center of their world for the subsequent four decades. Winston’s home office was where he conducted government business and was his sanctuary, where he enjoyed painting in the garden.
By the onset of the first world war, Churchill had foreseen a conflict with Germany. Having spent a few years leading the Admiralty, he had strengthened the British navy in preparation for war. As the fighting began, Winston resigned his post, reenlisted in the army, and held several positions, including the Minister of Munitions. Here he led the research and development efforts for the tank, a weapon that proved vital to deciding the outcome of the war.
World War II
Unlike his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain, Churchill had viewed Hitler and the Nazi’s ascent to power as a looming threat. In response to England joining the Munich Agreement with Hitler in 1938, Churchill described the move as “a total and unmitigated defeat.” It took only a year for Britain to be dragged into a war against Germany.
After the war began, Chamberlain did not last long as the Premiere. Churchill, however, was now among one of the most powerful men in government. With his many years of military and government experience, few were as well-positioned to lead Britain during the war. He became Prime Minister by forming an all-party government in 1940 and immediately pursued an aggressive campaign against the Nazis. As the Battle for Britain raged, the world witnessed some of Churchill’s finest moments as a leader, inspiring his countryfolk with stirring speeches over the radio.
Over the next four years, the Prime Minister was essential in leading the Allies to victory against the Nazi regime. He refused to negotiate or surrender despite the long, dark hours, knowing the stakes were too high for his country. It was the most significant conflict the world had known. Yet, his bravery, charisma, and military genius were unprecedented and made him precisely the right man for what was, in the moment, the world’s most formidable job.
The British Bulldog
Several years after the war, Winston was again elected Prime Minister in 1951. Now in his late seventies, his health began to fail, and he retired in 1955, living out his final years at home and dying in 1965. Queen Elizabeth decreed him a State Funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in honor of his innumerable accomplishments.
Indeed, it is staggering to consider his many struggles, achievements, and triumphs. That one man could achieve so much and strive to live a life of integrity is exceptional. He earned a Nobel Peace Prize and 37 orders, decorations, medals, and countless honors. He and Clementine remained married for 57 years, leading an extraordinary life alongside his many public accomplishments.
Sir Winston Churchill was a true hero, and any Mason striving to live a life of integrity need only look to him as an example. His place in history is forever cemented, and we are humbled and grateful that we may call this great man Brother.