Churchill: A Nation’s Farewell
Monday, 30 November -0001

Churchill: A Nation’s Farewell

Jeremy Paxman takes an unsparing look at Britain’s wartime leader

Written by Ben Felsenburg
Ben-Felsenburg-portrait-176It would have been a wonderfully eccentric and oh-so-British final resting place for Winston Churchill: his ashes scattered across the croquet lawn at Chartwell, just feet away from the graves of his beloved poodles Rufus I and Rufus II. In the end, Jeremy Paxman tells us in Churchill: A Nation’s Farewell (BBC One, Wednesday at 9pm), the wartime leader changed the terms of his original will and instead was laid to rest in a churchyard next to his father Randolph. But first the nation bid farewell to the colossus who had inspired hope against the odds, in 1940, and ultimately victory.

The state funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral exactly 50 years ago was a landmark moment: the grandeur and dignity of the spectacle glimpsed in the archive footage seems to belong more to the Victorian age in which Churchill was born than the Swinging Sixties that led to the Britain we know now. Still, Paxman’s documentary is not a paean of nostalgia, and the presenter’s judgement is unsparing: he tells us that outside the years of the Second World War, Churchill’s political career was often one of failure, and – as an opponent of the women’s vote and immigration – of a doomed defiance of change. Yet he survives into the modern age, perhaps the only politician whose name has coined a term of praise – ‘Churchillian’ – and more than a century on from his first appearance as a waxwork figure, still drawing the crowds in his seventh incarnation at Madame Tussauds.

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