Andrew Roberts: 2019 National Book Festival

Andrew Roberts: 2019 National Book Festival


>>David M. Rubenstein: We’re going to have an
interesting conversation today with Andrew Roberts who has
written what I think many people would say, and I would say is
the best one volume biography of Winston Churchill. How many people here
admire Winston Churchill? Anybody? [ Cheering ]>>David M. Rubenstein: How
many people think we have a lot of Winston Churchills in
our public life today? [ Laughter ]>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. Okay. Well, maybe
hope springs eternal. Maybe someday there’re
be another one. So, Andrew Roberts is a
very distinguished scholar. He’s a graduate of Cambridge. And his PhD is from
Cambridge as well. He is an honorary
scholar there now. He’s also a scholar at the
Hoover Institution at Stanford. He’s written 15 books. Many of them on leaders
in Europe like Napoleon and Wellington. And this particular book on Churchill is a book
that’s gotten enormous amount of attention. Best seller. And we’ll talk about how
he actually spent the time to do it and why he did it. So, why don’t we just dig into the world already has a
fair number of Churchill books. Did the world need one
more Churchill book? Why did you think the world did
need one more Churchill book?>>Andrew Roberts: I wonder
if I might preface my remarks by congratulating you on
the National Book Festival.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Thank you.>>Andrew Roberts: And
what there you’ve done.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Well okay. So.>>Andrew Roberts: And then
to answer your question. Yes, there are 1,009 biographies
of Winston Churchill. And so, in order to write
the 1,010th you have to have my wife calls
unutterable hubris. But what also has happened in
the last six to eight years is that there has been a avalanche of new sources on
Winston Churchill. Her Majesty the Queen allowed me to be the first Churchill
biographer to use her father’s diaries. And King George the VI who
met Churchill every day – every Tuesday. Sorry. Of the Second
World War wrote down everything that
Churchill said. So, that’s a wonderful new
source which tells us what’s in the kings – what’s in Churchill’s mind
every Tuesday of the war. And there’s been 51 sets of
papers that have been deposited at Churchill College
Cambridge in the archives there in Cambridge since the last
major biography of Churchill. There has been the diaries of Ivan Maisky the Soviet
ambassador in 1932 to ’43 which have also been
published in Moscow in the last four years. And about eight years ago I
discovered the Bateman accounts of the war cabinet. And that too now allows us to know what everybody was
saying in the war cabinet. So, there are these
and other things. And the Churchill family
very generously allowed me to have exclusive access to
Pamela Harriman’s love letters. And Pamela Harriman led a very
active love life during the Second World War.>>David M. Rubenstein:
she was married to Winston Churchill’s
son, is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: She was
married and had a baby to.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right.>>Andrew Roberts: Winston
Churchill’s son during war. But she also had an affair with
Averill Harriman very famously who she FDR’s envoy
who she later married. And also, with Jack Whitney
and Ed Murrow the journalist. And [inaudible] Sir
Charles Portal.>>David M. Rubenstein:
What about [inaudible]?>>Andrew Roberts:
And General Kenneth. General [inaudible]. General Kenneth Anderson. And someone we just
know of as Jerry.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts: They’re
just the people in the – from the Second World
War that we know of. Although I had exclusive access to her papers clearly nobody
had exclusive access to her. And – sorry about that
ladies and gentleman. But what we get is therefore
a new picture of Churchill from all of these new sources.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right. So, the family – you went
to the family and said, “Would you cooperate
and give me this?” Or did they call you?>>Andrew Roberts: I
called them again and again.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And they said, “Okay.?”>>Andrew Roberts: Ultimately.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right. And how long does it take to
go through all the materials that you have and all the
other existing materials? Does that take a month
or two of research?>>Andrew Roberts:
Four years of research.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Four years.>>Andrew Roberts: Four years.>>David M. Rubenstein: For, for four years you’re
just researching?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: And.>>Andrew Roberts: And this
is, this is the fifth book that I’ve written with Churchill
in the title or the subtitle. So, over 30 years. So, I very much sort of felt
that I, I’d got the basis of it in my mind anyhow.>>David M. Rubenstein: Well
so when you’re doing a – four years of research. I mean I know from my own
research, and I write notes, I lose them and so forth. So, how do you – what is
your system to keep the notes and catalog everything to
make sure you can recall it when you need to go to write?>>Andrew Roberts: Well
you do two things really. First of all, you knock
out a timeline that takes from the day he’s born
to the day he dies. And what he was doing in every
– on every important occasion. And sometimes each hour of
a very important moments like in the early part
of the Second World War. And the second thing you do is
make, in my case I think it was like 300 or 400 even files
of Churchill’s connections with different things.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts: And
then you work out how to slip the issues file
into the overall timeline.>>David M. Rubenstein: When,
when you do this research, you do it by yourself or
you have a researcher?>>Andrew Roberts: I’ve never
once employed a researcher in my life.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And you put everything
on a computer in the end?>>Andrew Roberts:
Absolutely yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And so, how long does
to take to write this after you do four
years of research?>>Andrew Roberts: I wrote
that book in 100 days.>>David M. Rubenstein:
100 days?>>Andrew Roberts: Yeah. I was writing 5,000 words a day. And it took me yes three
months and 10 days.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
you just sit by a computer or typewriter and write it out?>>Andrew Roberts: I do. Usually in my dressing
[inaudible] slippers. And when – I start at
4:00 in the morning. And I go through
until lunchtime. And then at lunchtime when
I’m feeling a little tired, I drink a can of Red Bull. The coffee-caffeine drink which
is not good by the way for you to drink 100 cans of
Red Bull over 100 days. I’m certain it isn’t. Certainly not very
good for my weight. But it keeps you,
keeps you buzzing this for the necessary
hours [inaudible].>>David M. Rubenstein:
You’d write until what time?>>Andrew Roberts:
I’ll write – not, not late until about
9:00 at night. And then I go straight to
bed and start again at 4:00.>>David M. Rubenstein: And then
would you rewrite the next day or you would – or this is it?>>Andrew Roberts: I
don’t do any rewriting until the very end. And then I go through it twice. And then hand it
onto the publisher.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, after doing four years of
research and previously written about him before after this book
was completed do admire him more than you did before? Or you admire less
than you did before?>>Andrew Roberts: More in fact. And I admired him quite
a lot before I wrote it. It’s an interesting
thing sometimes with people that
you write about. Sometimes you wind up
hating them, despising them. The more you know about them
the more you see their clay feet and the more you just can’t
bear being with them any longer. With Churchill I felt a real
sadness when I had to give up. Because you only have to
wait two or three pages in his speeches to find some
brilliant [foreign language] or some wonderful
phrase or some joke that makes you want to read on.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, why
do you think it is that probably of all non-royals he’s the
most popular British figure in modern times? And is that still case?>>Andrew Roberts: Well
unfortunately it it’s the case from people who know about him. But unfortunately, there’s
extraordinary ignorance about Churchill. 20% of British teenagers think that he was a fictional
character. And that which is a
nerve-wracking thing really. But of the people who know who he was he is
tremendously popular.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, why is he so popular in the United States
do you think?>>Andrew Roberts:
Well I think it helps that he was part
American, of course. It helps.>>David M. Rubenstein:
His mother was American.>>Andrew Roberts: His
mother as born in Brooklyn. That he was a – somebody
who liked Americans. Got on with them. Appreciated of course the vital
importance of being allied to the Roosevelt
administration during the war. Because he made so many comments
and phrases and quotations that are good for you in life. You know things that you
can live your life by. And of course, he
helped defeat fascism.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Now this book has been on the best seller
list for a long time. And it’s a very long book. So, do you think that – were
you surprised that a book of what 1,000 pages or so would
make the best seller list?>>Andrew Roberts: I
was surprised actually. My publishers kept telling
me to make it shorter. And I have in fact
made it shorter. It was originally 60,000
words longer than it is. But they kept saying that the
glue wouldn’t work on the spine. And the pages would
keep falling out. And so, I cut 6,000 –
60,000 words which was like chopping off
my own fingernails. Sorry fingers. And it finally fitted into that. It could have been David; it
could have been 10 times longer. The amount of concision constant
concision one has to use with Churchill because he wrote
37 books and 800 articles.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
the most surprising thing that you learned
in your research and that you wrote
about is what?>>Andrew Roberts:
Which is something I got from the king’s diaries in fact,
was the extraordinary level of frustration that
Churchill felt that the United States
was moving slow – so slowly towards getting
into the Second World War. He understood emotionally
and intellectually of course that there was an enormous
America first movement. And Charles Lindbergh and all of that were keeping
America isolated. But he still also felt that the
greatest democracy should have done more earlier to have
tried to destroy fascism.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now, he
is known in the United States and around the world
for his very good wit and his good writing style. He obviously won the Nobel
Prize for literature. But was all the wit and all
the funny statements he used to make, where they prepared
in advance or was his wit that quick, he could
just come up with them? And what is your single
favorite Churchill story?>>Andrew Roberts: His
wit was incredibly fast. Yes, he had that capacity like
Noel Coward or Groucho Marx and various other people to be
able to give a brilliant reply. My favorite one at the moment. I’ve got two favorite one’s. Am I allowed two?>>David M. Rubenstein: Oh, yes.>>Andrew Roberts: Okay my
favorite one at the moment, and there’s about 200
Churchill jokes in this book. And – but the one I
particularly like at the moment and this is going to be good
Ii think to a literal audience like the Washington
Book Festival. Was when his, his, his private
secretary Jack Colville came to him and said that their
cook had been made pregnant as the result of a nocturnal
assignation with a man in the street in Verona. And Churchill replied,
“Obviously not one of the two gentlemen.” Oh, and the other one. Sorry. The other one. Was when Joachim von Ribbentrop
the Nazi foreign minister of course, but at that time
German Ambassador to London came up to Churchill at a reception. And threatened him. And said that in the
next war Italy will be on the side of the Third Reich. And Churchill immediately
replied, “Well it seems only fair. We had to have them last time.”>>David M. Rubenstein: I give
you one of my Churchill stories. After he’s finished
his second term as Prime Minister he
comes to Virginia. He goes to Richmond. He’s being toured around for
a dinner by a leading lady in the Richmond society. And she says, “Can I get
you dinner, Sir Winston?” He says, “Yes.” And she said, “What
would you like?” He said, “Well, I’d like
some of tat chicken breast.” She says, “Well in mixed company
we don’t use the word breast. It’s white meat.” He said, “Okay can I have
some of that white meat?” Okay. Next day he leaves. Sends her a telegram thank you
very much for the hospitality. Please take this corsage and
put it over your white meat. [ Laughter ]>>David M. Rubenstein: So.>>Andrew Roberts: Yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
let’s go through his life. So, he’s born to
privilege is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: Very much. He’s born in Blenheim
Palace which is the greatest and grandest palace
in the United Kingdom. And he’s the grandson of a duke.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts: Even
the royals are envious of Blenheim Palace.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
does he grow up as a child with a great scholarly record? He is great athlete? Was is his strength as a child?>>Andrew Roberts:
Yes, he is sportsman. He won the fencing, the public-school
fencing competition. Later went on to be a very
successful polo player. So, he was fit, young,
healthy lad. Which one doesn’t always think
of him when one sees the big.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right.>>Andrew Roberts:
Pictures of him being sort of you know large in later life. He was very fit as a young man. And he wasn’t anything like so
dim as he made himself out to be in his autobiography
My Early Life. Where he said he couldn’t
do Latin and Greek. In fact, when you
go to the archives and see his school reports,
he was in the top third of all of his classes including
in Latin. And I’s very rare for
a politician to try to make himself to
be more ignorant and dim then he genuinely is. But this is what Churchill did.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, did
he go to Oxford or Cambridge?>>Andrew Roberts: Neither. He went Sandhurst. And – which is our
military academy. And he excelled as a horseman. And did very well there. But he educated himself entirely
by reading all the great books of the Western Cannon
when he was in the Army.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
he graduated and then he went into the military directly?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes. Yes. After Sandhurst he went
off to the northwest frontier of India to fight one of
the border wars [inaudible].>>David M. Rubenstein: And he was in the Boer
Wars fighting them?>>Andrew Roberts: He
was in the Boer War. Before that he was in the
Sudan, the war in the Sudan. He managed to actually
fight in four campaigns on three continents in
the first five years that he was in the army. Amazing.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now,
was he captured as a prisoner?>>Andrew Roberts: He was yes. After the Boer’s South African,
Africans captured his train, the armored train
that he was on. He then was – he was captured. After two months he
managed to escape. And he crossed 300 miles
of enemy territory. At one point he had to
hide down a mine shaft. And when candle guttered out, he
felt rats climbing over his face down in the bottom
of the mine shaft. But he managed to get back
to British territory and was in international
hero after that.>>David M. Rubenstein: But
he abandons the military and goes into journalism. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: No, he was
a journalist at the same time that he was a soldier. Rather strangely he was able to
write, to write as a journalist. He became the best
paid war correspondent in the world at the time.>>David M. Rubenstein:
While he, while he’s in the military
he’s also a journalist?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes. Exactly.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, when does he decide
to run for the parliament?>>Andrew Roberts: Well
he’d already run once for parliament before
he went out to.>>David M. Rubenstein:
But he lost.>>Andrew Roberts: Fight in
the – but he lost his seat, the first time he fought. And this was very fortunate because of course it allowed
him then to become a war hero as well as a war
correspondent in the Boer War. But then when he
came back after that, he stood for the
same seat and won it.>>David M. Rubenstein:
As a conservative?>>Andrew Roberts:
As a conservative.>>David M. Rubenstein: Alright. So, does he rise up in
the parliament as a member of the conservative party?>>Andrew Roberts: No,
he’s still a back bencher. His father had been
chancellor of the Exchequer. And a very senior conservative. One of the great Victorian
politicians of the era. But he is still back bencher. When he left the
conservative party and crossed over the floor of the house.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And when does he become
First Lord of the Admiralty?>>Andrew Roberts: Not until
1911 which is seven years after he’s crossed over
the floor of the house. Before that he was
brought into the liberal – having joined the liberal party. Only two years later
he was brought into the liberal government. And then he rose up
to be home secretary. And then after that First Lord.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right. As the First Lord
of the Admiralty in the United States
I guess that would be like the Secretary
of the Navy in fact. He in World War One
he designs a plan under which the British are
going to attack the soft under belly of the Germans
and the opposition axis. Does that plan work?>>Andrew Roberts: No. It was a catastrophic disaster. And the idea was to try to
knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war. They were the junior partner
of Germany and Austria Hungry. And his plan which was a
brilliant one in so many ways to try to get a fleet up
into the-off Constantinople. Modern day Istanbul and
force the Ottoman Empire out of the war, fell on
the execution of the plan, which Churchill wasn’t
responsible for but nonetheless he wasn’t there. But nonetheless it
was a disaster. And then he doubled down
on the defeat terribly in the Gallipoli Campaign
in an attempt to try to ultimately turn the
whole process there. And ultimately 147,000 people
were killed or wounded in that.>>David M. Rubenstein: So. Is he?>>Andrew Roberts:
In that campaign.>>David M. Rubenstein: Forced out as the First
Lord of the Admiralty?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes,
he was forced to resign. And he decided even though
wasn’t – he didn’t need to because of his age to go
and fight in the trenches of the first world war
on the western front.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, he
was a member of the parliament, a member of the cabinet and he
goes and – a trench soldier. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: He resigned
– he was a member of parliament, but he’d resigned
from the cabinet, over the Gallipoli catastrophe. But he decided that
he was going to go in as a redemptive thing you
know to decide that he was going to share the dangers of his men. He became a Lieutenant
Colonel of the 6th Battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers. And he was on the
front line constantly. He went into the no man’s
land no fewer than 30 times.>>David M. Rubenstein: Did he
come close to getting shot at?>>Andrew Roberts: Every day. And lots of people
around him were killed. He once said that there’s
nothing more exhilarating in life than to be
shot at without result.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, he ultimately goes back
into the parliament. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: Or
he’s already in the parliament. But the goes back
sort of redeemed?>>Andrew Roberts:
After his regiment was – his battalion was amalgamated
with another battalion and somebody else more senior
than him took over his regiment. Therefore – you know nothing
to do with him as it were. He went back into
The House of Commons. And criticized the great
– he did two things. Firstly, he had already
supported the concept of the tank. He was very much the person who put the money behind the
creation of the tank hoping that it was going to be able
to defeat the trench warfare. And he – so, he supported that when he got back
into to parliament. And he also criticized
the appalling losses in the battle of the Somme. And others of those massive
offenses in the western front.>>David M. Rubenstein: But what
party is he in the parliament?>>Andrew Roberts: Liberal. Still in the liberal party.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Now he then switches again to the conservative party?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes, but
that’s not until 1922 or.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts: ’23 when he,
he’d left the conservative party in 1904 because of free trade. He believed in free trade. And when the conservative party
dumped the concept of free trade and adopted protectionism, he
left the conservative party. But when the conservative
party went back to free trade, he
then went back. And he had a marvelous
line about that which was that anyone can rat, but it takes a certain
ingenuity to re-rat.>>David M. Rubenstein: What
did he think of tariffs?>>Andrew Roberts:
He was against them.>>David M. Rubenstein:
He was against tariff?>>Andrew Roberts: Very much. Yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, he rises up again and among
the things he does when he’s in parliament is, he’s very
much against Mahatma Gandhi. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes. Yes, absolutely. He was an imperialist. He believed in Britain’s
role in India.>>David M. Rubenstein: And
so, does he focus on kind of putting Mahatma Gandhi
down and the protest down?>>Andrew Roberts:
You – very much, yes. He was rude about
Mahatma Gandhi. He – some of his more
caustic comments were made about Mahatma Gandhi. He called him a half-naked
[foreign language] who striding up the steps of the vice
regal lodge in order to speak to the viceroy of India which he
didn’t think that he should do because he believed
that Gandhi only spoke for the Hindu, Hindu’s there. And had no interest in the
untouchables or the Muslims.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts:
Or the Princes.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now he
also is close to some members of the royal family so
when King Edward is going to maybe marry an American
woman who was twice divorced. He supports King Edward?>>Andrew Roberts: In the sense. He new and liked the king
as a friend for many years. He didn’t think that
Mrs. Simpson needed to be officially
Queen of England. He though that it was perfectly
possible that they could go down the European route and
have what’s called a morganatic marriage whereby you’re married
perfectly legally but the – you don’t – your wife
doesn’t take the same rank and status as you. And it’s something that for all
intense and purposes we have at the moment because the Prince of Wales’ wife is not
the Princess of Wales. She’s the Duchess of Cornwall. So, it’s something that
was a bit before it’s time.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And he also is against the German armament
that he sees, rearmament. And he says that the British
are not being strong enough in rearming itself?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes,
he’s the first person and for many years
the only person to actually see what
Adolph Hitler and Nazi’s were all about. The – I mean by person I mean
senior British politician. And he spotted Hitler and
the Nazis early and he warned against the allowing
them to get away with what they were
trying to do in Europe. And he was in favor of rearming
especially in the air of course.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
ultimately when the war breaks out in Europe, he’s
made the First Order of the Admiralty again?>>Andrew Roberts: That’s right. Because he’d proved right
about Hitler and the Nazi’s and everybody else
had got it wrong. Finally, on the 3rd of September
1939 the day the Second World War broke out Churchill was made
– was given his old job back of First Lord of the Admiralty.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right. The Prime Minister then
was Stanley Baldwin?>>Andrew Roberts:
Neville Chamberlin.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Neville Chamberlin was then. Baldwin was before?>>Andrew Roberts:
Was before that, yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right. So, he – it was Chamberlin that makes him the First
Order of the Admiralty?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And at what point does
Chamberlin has to step down?>>Andrew Roberts: Chamberlin’s
steps down on the 10th of May 1940 as a result of
the catastrophic Norway, Norway campaign which
was debated in parliament on the 7th and the 8th. And then on the 10th he
was forced to resign. Which turns out to
be the exact same day that Adolph Hitler unleashed
Blitzkrieg on the west. It was one of the great
coincidences of history.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, he becomes – so when Neville Chamberlin steps down Churchill is
selected as Prime Minster?>>Andrew Roberts:
That’s right, yes. And on the same day
that Hitler’s attacks.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, at that – he’s that – what age is he at that point?>>Andrew Roberts: 65.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, he finally becomes
Prime Minster at 65?>>Andrew Roberts: Yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: And
his main mission then is to win the war, but he needs
to get the Americans in. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts:
Yes, of course. It was the – after the
Russians, the key thing and one of the most important statistics
of the Second World War is that for every five German’s
killed in combat four of them died on the
eastern front. So, the thing that really bled
the German army dry was the war on the eastern front
against the USSR. But the way – the only way that we could then deliver a
knockout blow in the west was to have the United
States on board.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, he spends time going over to visit Churchill and
does Churchill enjoy meeting with him? Or Churchill too much of a
supplicant for Roosevelt?>>Andrew Roberts: He
flew over and took the – took a ship over the Atlantic
six times in the course of the war in order
to meet Roosevelt. And then they also met of course
at Tehran and Yalta as well. And no, he certainly
was not a supplicant. He was trying to
persuade Roosevelt to fight a Mediterranean
strategy and actually did sell him the
British strategy for the war.>>David M. Rubenstein: But until Pearl Harbor
Roosevelt was not prepared as I understand it
to put any troops in. Is that right?>>Andrew Roberts: That’s right. Yes. No, of course. When the – until the attack on Pearl Harbor Roosevelt
could give moral support at the beginning when they met
in August 1941 in Placentia Bay. And they also – he also
Lend-Lease of March and April 1941 gave a tremendous
financial support to Britain.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, it
was said that Churchill came over and stayed at the
White house sometimes for a week or 10 days or so. And that Mrs. Roosevelt
got tired of him hanging around there and walking
around without any clothing on. Is that true?>>Andrew Roberts: Well it
was more like three weeks that he stayed in
the White House. And he was walking around
without any clothing in his own bathroom
which I think is probably perfectly acceptable. He wasn’t a – he wasn’t walking around the whole
of the White House. And certainly, Eleanor
Roosevelt never saw him [foreign language].>>David M. Rubenstein: So, I
thought they said that she got so tired of Churchill
being in the White House that they decided
to buy Blair House. That’s not true?>>Andrew Roberts:
No that’s not true. And he also – she got
on with him alright. But what she didn’t
like was the way that he would keep her
husband up until 3:00 in the morning talking
strategy and drinking cocktails.>>David M. Rubenstein: Speaking
– now Churchill was thought to be a very good drinker. That is that he would
drink a lot and didn’t get completely drunk. Is that true?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes. That is very true. And in fact, when I mentioned
FDRs cocktails he couldn’t stand FDRs cocktails. That was the one thing
that he didn’t drink. But he drank pretty
much everything else. A normal lunch would consist – during the Second World War
would consist of a glass or two of champagne before lunch. And then a glass or two of white
wine with the first course. And a glass or two of red
wine with the second course. And then a glass
or two of brandy. And diner would be
almost exactly the same. And he’d also drink whisky
and soda from about 6:00 in the evening all the way
through 3:00 in the morning. And he would not get drunk. He had this incredible capacity
for alcohol which is a second to none in anyone that I’ve ever
written about or thought of. On one occasion in 2,194 days of the Second World War
Churchill did get drunk. And in everybody’s diary they
say that the meeting which went on till 3:00 am he
was clearly drunk. And what they’ve
decided to do was to hold the same
meeting the next morning as though the other
one hadn’t happened.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now he was also a big
cigar smoker as well.>>Andrew Roberts: 160,000
cigars it’s estimated that he smoked in the
course of his life. Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: On a
typical day he would smoke?>>Andrew Roberts: He’d just
them lit the entire day. They’d keep going out actually. They kept going out a lot. He didn’t inhale. He was – he would just
gesticulate with his cigar. He’d light it. He’d put it in his mouth. He’d suck it a bit and
then it would go out. And then he’d relight it. It was a prop as much as so much
as he’s [inaudible] tobacco.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, he made an number of famous speeches when
he was prime minister. Speeches talking
about that they will – the British will never give up. Spend the time on the beaches
and defend England and so forth. Were those written by him? Did he have speech writers to
write those brilliant speeches?>>Andrew Roberts: He never
employed a speech writer in his whole life. Not one. He never
employed a spin doctor. He had nothing like that at all. It was entirely — came
from his own brain.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And so, he would write it. Now, he – as a youth
he had a lisp. Did he ultimately kind
of get out of that or?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes. He managed to master that by the
time he was in his late teens.>>David M. Rubenstein: And so.>>Andrew Roberts: He
had – can I just say. I think the audience would be
interested about his techniques.>>David M. Rubenstein: Yes.>>Andrew Roberts: His
speaking techniques.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts:
Because he was asked by his private secretary what
were the tricks of the trade? What were the special things
that he had mastered in order to make these incredible
moral boosting speeches in 1940 and 1941? And he said that there
were really three things. The first was that you
keep your sentences short. Each sentence should convey one
thought and one thought only. So, don’t bog them
down with subclauses. And then keep your words short. Don’t use long words to
show off how clever you are. Just choose the right word. And if possible, also make
that work Anglo – for – coming from the Anglo-Saxon
or the old English. Because that way the
English-speaking peoples have used these words for 1,000 years
would understand what they were – what he was talking about. And when you mentioned
the we shall fight on the beeches speech
of the 4th of June 1940 where he was telling the British
people what they were going to do when the Germans landed. Of the – in that last
paragraph about we shall fight with over growing
confidence in the air. Ending with the phrase “We
shall never surrender.” When you look at 141 words
of that paragraph all but two of them come from old English. The only two exceptions
being the word confidence which comes from the Latin. And surrender which
comes from the French.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Did he think at. [ Laughter ]>>David M. Rubenstein:
Did he think that in – privately that he was likely
to be captured at some point and maybe he’d be tried
as a war criminal himself?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes, yes. He was at one point he did say
you know “If this goes wrong, we’re going to be put up
against the wall and shot.” Which is why he made sure that he had a gun close
to him at all times. A revolver. He also had a machine
gun in his car. Every time he crossed the
Atlantic, he made sure that there was a Bren machine
gun so that if his ship was sunk by a U-boat, he would be
able to fire at the U-boat. So, he was very conscious
of this. He traveled 110,000 miles
during the Second World War. And very often within
radius of the Luftwaffe. And he was very conscious
of the dangers involved.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now,
he ran the war day-to-day from a bunker that was
how deep underground?>>Andrew Roberts: It’s about 30
or 40 maybe 50 feet underground. Yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And it was in – not vulnerable to
bombing attacks. In other words.>>Andrew Roberts: Well,
it never got a direct hit. So, we don’t know. But it, it’s pretty sturdy
when you go down there yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein: But
when Britain was being bombed, he would tend to go out and
observe what was happening? He wasn’t hiding in the
suburbs or something?>>Andrew Roberts: No. Well this is the thing. He – and it drove
his bodyguards wild. And indeed, his wife and
the king were very worried about the way that he used to go up onto the air ministry
roof to watch the bombing. To watch the blitz going
on as it was happening. He put on his tin helmet
and go up onto the roof, which is an extremely
dangerous thing to do when your cities being bombed.>>David M. Rubenstein: So,
what – how involved was he in the planning of D-day? And as he involved in helping
Roosevelt select Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander?>>Andrew Roberts: Churchill
originally wanted Alan Brooke to be the Supreme
Allied Commander. Then Roosevelt wanted
General Marshall. And so, Eisenhower who Churchill
fully approved of wound up being the third
choice as it were. But, in a way of course with the
American’s producing some 70% of the men and material for
D-day, it was ultimately going to be an American choice.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And when it was clear that it’s likely the
allies were going to win there were some meetings
Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. What did Churchill
think of Stalin?>>Andrew Roberts: Well
this is one of the problems for a biographer in that he
quite liked him even though he knew that Stalin was an
appalling mass murderer. And had been responsible
for the massacre of the Polish officers
in the Katyn Forest. Some 22,000 of them. Nonetheless he was able
to get on with Stalin. And they stayed up drinking
in the Kremlin till 3:00 in the morning on one occasion. And that seems to have been the
thing that bonded to two men. And he had a fairly good
working relationship with him.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now,
at Yalta it is often said in the United States that Roosevelt was maybe
not physically and mentally as strong as he should
have been. Did Churchill have that
perception as well?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes, he did. And he writes in his memoirs about how frail the
president was looking.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, ultimately the war is won. And so, the British people to thank Churchill reelect
him as Prime Minister?>>Andrew Roberts: I love the
way he asks questions knowing perfectly well what
the answer is. Sort of slightly pretending
not to know what the answer is. That being sort of question
mark the voice going up at the end of the sentence. No, as you know as
well as I do David, he was chucked out of office.>>David M. Rubenstein:
How could that happen? How could they do that?>>Andrew Roberts: Well, it’s
a series of things really. Firstly, is name was
only one on the 600 or so, 650 ballot papers. And although he of course
won his own constituency. People wanted to punish
the conservative party for the policy of appeasement
before the Second World War. And they also wanted all
the sort of good things that they thought were
going to free and thought that they had fought for like
nationalization of the Bank of England and the
welfare states and so on. And so, he lost this –
catastrophically lost one of the great landslide
defeats of the 20th Century. When his wife Clementine came to
him during the actual results, as the results were coming in
and it was clear what was going on and said, “That
it was a blessing, probably a blessing
in disguise.” And Churchill said, “Well from where I’m sitting
it seems quite remarkably well disguised.”>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, he did not expect to lose, is that correct?>>Andrew Roberts: No
[inaudible] expected.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, he – when you – he loses in that case he becomes
a leader of the opposition. So, was he very involved as
a leader of the opposition, spending a lot of
time in parliament?>>Andrew Roberts: No. No, he wasn’t. He – the labor party
had a huge majority. He knew that however well he
did he wasn’t going to be able to overthrow that until
the next election. And so – and he was
also exhausted. You know he had been fighting
everyday for six years. He was incredibly tied
by the end of the war. And so, he went on
holiday a lot. He painted a lot. He went down to Morocco to
Marrakesh to revive himself. And so, he was ready by 1950
he was absolutely ready to take on the labor party again.>>David M. Rubenstein: But,
let me make sure I understand. We see on television C-SPAN the
British Parliament having its debates and the House
of Commons, the leader of the
opposition the Prime Minister. Was he just not standing up
and having those debates?>>Andrew Roberts: No.>>David M. Rubenstein: Did
he have somebody else do that?>>Andrew Roberts: No, sorry. He was there al the time. For all he debates. He just wasn’t exerting
himself in the same way that he had exerted
himself during the war.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And you mentioned painting. He wrote a book about the
pleasure of painting and.>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: Was
he a really good painter?>>Andrew Roberts:
I think he was. But I’m no art connoisseur. I would bow to others
in that judgment. But several other people
especially those people who help teach him painting
did think he was very good. And I tell you also he
put forward his paintings to the annual exhibition
of The Royal Academy under different names. Under assumed names. And very often won
prizes for them.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, when he was the leader of the opposition, he was
invited to make a speech at Westminster College
in Fulton Missouri. And you and I were out
there not long ago.>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein: And was
– what did he say in that speech and why did it get
so much attention?>>Andrew Roberts: Yes,
it was a speech on the 5th of March 1946 in
Fulton Missouri. And known of course at
The Iron Curtain speech because he warned the United
States and Britain and the west about the real nature,
the true nature of Stalin and Soviet Communism
and the Imperialism that they were responsible for
in the eastern part of Europe. And it was a tremendously
unpopular speech. And he was attacked in the press and in congress and
in parliament. And only after that, that moment
in March 1946 was he slowly but surely proved right in
everything he had predicted.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, eventually his party
gets back in power. And so, he becomes Prime
Minster again at what age?>>Andrew Roberts: At 80.>>David M. Rubenstein: 77.>>Andrew Roberts: 77, 77 yeah. Well there you are. I told you knows all the
answers to the questions here. At 77. He’s 81 by
the time he leaves.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right.>>Andrew Roberts: Office.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, when he’s Prime Minster
at 77 is his health that good?>>Andrew Roberts: No, he’s
gone a bit deaf by now. He’s put on a lot of weight. And within a year
— sorry two years of becoming Prime Minister. A little over two years
later he has a stroke. Quite a debilitating
stroke where he had to go to Chartwell his house in Kent. And stay there for four months.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, people know that
he had a stroke?>>Andrew Roberts: No. They manage to keep
it completely secret. Some of his best
friends Lord Camrose who owned the Daily Telegraph. Lord Beaverbrook who owned
The Evening Standard. The people who also
owned The Sunday Times and various other newspapers. Brendon Bracken his
closest friend who owned The Financial times. They all got together
and decided to keep it out of the press.>>David M. Rubenstein: So.>>Andrew Roberts: So,
the government was run by his son-in-law by the
cabinet secretary and by one of his private secretary’s. None of whom were elected.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, when does he decide to
step down as Prime Minister?>>Andrew Roberts: April 1955.>>David M. Rubenstein:
And he’s then 81.>>Andrew Roberts: Yes.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Years old.>>Andrew Roberts:
Absolutely yeah.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, when he steps down what does he decide to do?>>Andrew Roberts: Write books. Go back to writing books. And he has been writing
the history of the Second World
War during his time as leader of the opposition. And so now he wrote
the English Speaking – The History of the
English Speaking Peoples. And other.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Now, he was awarded in 1953 the Nobel
Prize for literature. But why not Nobel
Prize for peace? Did he want the peace one
or the literature or what?>>Andrew Roberts:
He wanted peace one. And in fact, he must
be the only person in the world who’s
slightly disappointed when they get the Nobel
Prize for literature.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, in his later years he comes to the United States
from time to time?>>Andrew Roberts: A lot. Yes, exactly. And he loved America. He came here 14 times which in
those days when you had to come by ship was more onerous
of course then it is today. He was very friendly with
people like George Marshall and Eisenhower and others. So yes, he loved coming here.>>David M. Rubenstein: But he – did he ever meet President
Kennedy while President Kennedy was president?>>Andrew Roberts: No, not
whilst he was president.>>David M. Rubenstein: He’d
met him many years earlier.>>Andrew Roberts: He’d
met him when he was the son of the American Ambassador.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. So, today you would say
Churchill’s greatest legacy is what?>>Andrew Roberts: Oh golly. There are so many. I think his fierce denunciation
of totalitarianism and fascism of course has to stand head and
shoulders above all the others. The way in which he
helped save the world from those two monstrous
tyrannies. The sheer – his literary
legacy is quite extraordinary. Many of his books
really do bear re-reading to you in the audience here. His – for example My Early Life
his wonderful autobiography. I really do recommend you
all to read that immediately after you’ve read my book.>>David M. Rubenstein: Now, he had an extraordinary
relationship with his wife Clementine. Right? So, he — it
was a love affair. No girlfriends. No paramours nothing right?>>Andrew Roberts: It
was a great love affair. No girlfriends. No paramours. No.>>David M. Rubenstein: And
how many children did he have?>>Andrew Roberts: Five. One of whom died in infancy.>>David M. Rubenstein: And so, are any of his children
alive now?>>Andrew Roberts: No.>>David M. Rubenstein: And
he has how many grandchildren?>>Andrew Roberts: Oh, golly. How many grandchildren? Michael – we have
the former director of the International
Society here. How many grandchildren
were there?>>Five or six.>>Andrew Roberts: Five or six.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And they.>>Andrew Roberts: Thank you.>>David M. Rubenstein: And some of them live in the
United States. One of them does.>>Andrew Roberts: He did. He died.>>David M. Rubenstein:
No, he has – his granddaughters living here.>>Andrew Roberts: Oh, sorry. Yes, yes. Grand –
the granddaughter.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right.>>Andrew Roberts: Absolutely. Yes. No, Edwina of course.>>David M. Rubenstein: Right.>>Andrew Roberts:
Lives in New York. Yes. That his grandchildren.>>David M. Rubenstein: He was made an honorary
citizen of the United States. I think one of only two or
three people at that time who have been made honorary
citizen of the United States?>>Andrew Roberts: I think
he did it to Lafayette or somebody, didn’t you? Yes. You can image I don’t
like Lafayette terribly much. But, yes. I mean he
was very proud of that.>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay.>>Andrew Roberts: And it
was a wonderful to have done.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, for
those people who are watching, and some might be watching on
C-SPAN why should somebody now that you’ve heard
everything about this book, why should somebody want to
go out and buy this book?>>Andrew Roberts: Because it’s
the best Churchill ever written. [ Applause ]>>David M. Rubenstein: Okay. And when you finished it, did
you say, “Thank God I’m done.” Or do you say, “I wish I had
more time to work on Churchill?”>>Andrew Roberts: I was very
sad when I, when I finished it. Because I know that whatever
I write about for the rest of my life is going
to be in a sense a bit of an anticlimax
after this book.>>David M. Rubenstein: So, if
you had a chance to have dinner with Winston Churchill,
what would be the one or two questions
you’d want to ask him?>>Andrew Roberts: I would
right now give my little finger for the chance to have dinner
with Winston Churchill. I really would. If you had a portable
guillotine, I’d just give it
to you right now. And what I’d ask him is where did his sense
of density come from? And I think that
would be a good. And Also I’d love
him if he is able to have read all the biographies
about it, I’d love him to comment on some of the modern
ones that have been trashing him about his grand strategy in
the Second World War and so on. And get his take about
where they go wrong and what the truth was.>>David M. Rubenstein: No in
England today many people say, “Well if Winston Churchill were
alive, he would be in favor of Brexit or he’s
be against Brexit.” As a Churchill expert
what is your view on what he would have
said about Brexit.>>Andrew Roberts: Well
of course he was one of the great founders of
the European Movement. And so, in that sense he always
wanted France and Germany to come together so there could
never be another war as he said, “Putin must never fight Gaulle. But he never wanted Britain to
be part of the European Union. And so, I’d think he’d
been most definitely been in favor of Brexit.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Now, you’ve written his book about maybe the most popular
British person in America. Now you’re writing about
the least popular person in America who’s British. Tell us a little bit why
you’re writing this next book.>>Andrew Roberts: I’m writing
a biography of King George III, which is going to be, it’s
going to be – thank you. It’s going to be subtitled
Last King of America. And he is not the tyrant of the
Declaration of Independence. And he’s certainly not
the villain that is shown in the Hamilton musical. He was in fact an enlightened
figure and a renaissance prince. But he was extremely unlucky
to live in the same decade as these giants such as
Washington and Franklin and Adams and Madison and
Monroe and Hamilton and so on. So, I’m going to ask you to take
another look at your last king.>>David M. Rubenstein:
So, I have read this book. I highly recommend it to people. It – if you really like
Churchill and want to know more about Churchill, this is
the best book I’ve ever read on Churchill. So, thank you very
much for doing it.>>Andrew Roberts:
Thank you David. I really appreciate that. Thank you very much.>>David M. Rubenstein:
Thank you.

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