Perhaps the breakout character on Netflix’s Queen Elizabeth II series The Crown is the one who isn’t a royal: Winston Churchill. His slow, post-World War II fade from prominence is depicted in the show by a heavily made-up John Lithgow (one of the few non-British actors in the cast). Here are a few things you may not have known about “The British Bulldog.”
He was an Aristocrat
A pre-requisite to becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom is being an elected member of the House of Commons, one of the nation’s two houses of Parliament. The leader of the party that wins the most seats in Parliament becomes the prime minister. However, Churchill’s family was very prominent and important, and relatives sat in the House of Lords, the other house of Parliament in which seats are passed down from generation to generation. Churchill was related to the Spencers, a noble family that is part of the aristocratic Marlboroughs. Churchill’s father was Lord Randolph Churchill and his mother was Lady Randolph Churchill.
He was American (and French)
Despite being of noble blood and living a life as one of the most important Englishmen of all time, Churchill was partially American…and French. His maternal grandfather was Leonard Jerome, a wealthy New York financier and stock speculator who descended from French immigrants.
His Time as Prime Minister Wasn’t Consecutive
On this third attempt at the sea, Churchill was elected as a member of Parliament for the first time in 1900 for the Conservative Party, representing Oldham, a town in the Manchester metropolitan area. He ascended to the office of prime minister in 1940, and held the position until 1945. After the Labour Party won control of Parliament in 1945, Churchill stepped down in favor of Labour head Clement Attlee. In 1951, Conservatives regained control and Churchill stepped up again until 1955. Churchill’s total time as PM: eight and a half years. And for most of it, he was Minister of Defense at the same time.
He’s an Honorary U.S. Citizen
Congress and the president can bestow this very rare honor on truly heroic non-Americans. It’s only been given out eight times. Among the recipients: French-born Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette, Mother Teresa, William Penn, and Winston Churchill. Churchill was the very first to receive the honor, in 1963, due to his role in helping the Allies win World War II.
He Didn’t Actually Exist
Of course, Winston Churchill actually existed. But in a 2008 survey of young English citizens about their knowledge of basic history, about 20 percent of British teenagers believed that Churchill was a fictional character, on par with Sherlock Holmes or King Arthur. (By the way, 65 percent thought King Arthur was a real person. 58 percent said the same about Sherlock.)