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Christie's to Offer the Forbes Collection of Winston Churchill Letters and Books
Probably the most important surviving source for Churchill’s daily activities during the World War II, his engagement diary - a series of thirty engagement cards giving day-to-day details of the Prime Minister’s appointments from September 1939 to June 1945 - is expected to realise £80,000 to £120,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd., 2010.
LONDON.- Christie’s announced that they will offer at auction the most important and comprehensive private collection of letters and books related to Winston Churchill ever assembled. Presenting an insight into the mind and methods of one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century, the collection was assembled over a period of more than 30 years by Malcolm S. Forbes Jr., son of the late Malcolm Forbes, grandson of Forbes magazine founder B. C. Forbes and chief executive of Forbes Inc.

The collection will be offered in three parts; the first in London on 2 June, with a second section in New York on 3 December and a third part at South Kensington, London, in summer 2011.

Thomas Venning, Director of Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s, London: “Winston Churchill is one of the most famous historical figures of the 20th century and his feats as a politician, and as the war time Prime Minister of Great Britain in particular, continue to attract great attention and admiration. This outstanding collection presents an exceptional and fascinating insight into his personality, character, sharp wit and his distinctive way with words, with letters, photographs and books spanning his entire life, from his first portrait photo as a baby to correspondence from his last years. Steve Forbes has spent three decades collecting what is the most important and comprehensive private Churchill collection ever assembled, and we look forward to presenting this historically important archive to international collectors in three auctions over the next year.”

Part I of the Collection:
Part I of the Collection will be offered at Christie’s, 8 King Street, London on 2 June 2010 and will offer approximately 150 lots including letters, books, photographs and a cigar, with estimates ranging from £1,000 to £120,000. It is expected to realise in the region of £1 million.

Probably the most important surviving source for Churchill’s daily activities during the World War II, his engagement diary - a series of thirty engagement cards giving day-to-day details of the Prime Minister’s appointments from September 1939 to June 1945 - is expected to realise £80,000 to £120,000. The diary was kept meticulously by his Private Secretaries, and offers a unique and immediate source to the history of his wartime leadership. Meetings with President Roosevelt, Charles de Gaulle and Stalin are recorded, as well as his regular Tuesday meeting with the King which began as an evening appointment and soon become a weekly lunch.

The start of the Battle of Britain (11 July 1940) is marked by a Cabinet meeting, lunch with Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, and at 2pm a rapid visit to the South Coast. The cards also record more leisurely pursuits, including a football match at Wembley on 4 October 1941 and occasional evenings at the theatre.

The auction will offer Churchill’s exuberant account of the Battle of Omdurman, the last ever cavalry charge of the British army in which he took part as a young soldier (estimate: £30,000 to £50,000). In the letter written to Sir Ian Hamilton on 16 September 1898, he describes the battle in great detail and states that at one point, having been faced with the enemy of ‘at the very least 40,000 men – five miles long with great humps and squares at intervals’, and having been shot at and returned at pace to rejoin his squadron, ‘it was, I suppose, the most dangerous 2 minutes I should live to see.’

Churchill was later captured during his service in the Boer War and was sent to States Model School prison in Pretoria. At about 7.15pm on 12 December 1899, he escaped by vaulting a wall behind the latrines and having waited for some time in an outer garden, he left the prison perimeter and walked confidently down the road humming a tune until he chanced upon a railway and jumped aboard a moving train. This event was to cause quite a sensation and played a large part in his electoral success in Oldham the following year when he was first elected a Member of Parliament. The auction will offer the telegram sent by the Boer Police to Johannesburg as they attempted to track down the missing prisoner, who is described as: ‘Englishman 25 years old about 5 foot 8 inches tall medium build walks with a slight stoop. Pale features. Reddish-brown hair almost invisible small moustache. Speaks through his nose and cannot pronounce the letter S. Had last a brown suit on and cannot speak one word of Dutch.’ It is expected to realise £6,000 to £8,000.

Further highlights:

• A first edition, important presentation copy of Churchill’s book 'Arms and the Covenant' is expected to realise £12,000 to £18,000. The book was presented to Guy Burgess, the infamous double agent who worked for MI5 during the war and who was later revealed to have been recruited as a Soviet spy in the 1930s. The pair had met at Chartwell in October 1938 when Burgess, who was working as a young producer for the BBC, visited Churchill to record an interview. The pair are said to have talked for some hours about many subjects, including Chamberlain’s submission to Hitler over Chechoslovakia at Munich. The book is inscribed ‘To Guy Burgess, from Winston S. Churchill, to confirm his admirable sentiments.’

• A letter discussing religion written on 19 January 1899 to his cousin, Ivor, later 1st Viscount Wimborne, is expected to realise £6,000 to £9,000. Churhcill states that: ‘All religion is a delicious narcotic’ and that ‘Catholicism – all religion if you like, but particularly Catholicism, is a delicious narcotic. It may soothe the pains and chase our worries, but it checks our growth and saps our strength..... Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s & for God’s sake leave God to look after his own affairs.’

• An unsmoked Havana cigar by Camacho will be offered in a box inscribed ‘Hotel de Paris – Churchill Cigar. Dinner – April ‘63’ and with an accompanying note inscribed ‘Sir Winston Churchill... gave me this cigar at Luncheon – Hotel de Paris [Monte Carlo] / 12 April ‘63’. Given to Christopher Dunn, it is estimated to realise £1,000 to £1,500.

• A fascinating letter from Churchill to Eliot Crawshay-Williams, his former Assistant Private Secretary, written on 24 August 1909 and showing concern about potential disruption form Suffragettes is expected to realise £2,000 to £3,000. As he prepared for a meeting in Manchester against the backdrop of disturbances from the Suffragettes, Churchill, who had previously stated ‘I am not going to be henpecked on a subject of such importance’, asked of his assistant private secretary: ‘I hope you will see that all proper precautions are taken, that no women are allowed in the meeting unless vouched for.’ He asks for sufficient measures to take place, including that ‘the roofs as well as all cupboards and recesses’ be properly examined.

• A personal account of Churchill’s experiences as an officer in the trenches on the Front Line during the First World War are captured in a letter to the Hon. Mrs Edwin Montagu written on 7 April 1916 (estimate: £8,000 to £12,000). He writes that ‘There is a cannonade to the Northward tonight.... with only occasional shells, random bullets & patter of machine guns.’

• A fascinating criticism to the Military Secretary written on 22 June 1922 sees Churchill react strongly to the beaurocracy of the moment, stating that ‘I do not see any necessity to publish despatches about the suppression of rioting in India or Egypt.... we really cannot have despatches written about these brawlings. We shall have a dispatch from the Chief Constable of Surrey on the battle of Epson next.’ It is expected to realise £4,000 to £6,000.

• A personal and insightful letter from Churchill to his cousin, Mrs. Claire Sheridan, written on 27 January 1921 after her return from Russia carries an estimate of £5,000 to £8,000. Claire Sheridan was reputed to have had affairs with a number of leading Russian figures including Lenin, Trotsky and Kamenev, and Churchill writes ‘You did not seek my advice about yr going & I was not aware that you needed any on yr return. Anyhow it was almost impossible for me to bring myself to meet you fresh from the society of those whom I regard as fiendish criminals.’

• In 1940, Eliot Crawshaw-Williams, the former assistant private secretary to Churchill, had written to him pleading that he make terms with Hitler. He wrote ‘I’m all for winning this war if it can be done... But it does seem to me, and, I know to others, that “if and when” an informed view of the situation shows that we’ve really not got a practical chance of actual ultimate victory, no questions of prestige should stand in the way of our using our nuisance value while we have one to get the best peace terms possible. Otherwise, after losing many lives and much money, we shall merely find ourselves in the position of France – or much worse. I hope this doesn’t sound defeatist; I’m not that. Only realist.’ Churchill’s response was brief and to the point: ‘I am ashamed of you for writing such a letter. I return it to you – to burn & forget.’ The two letters will be offered together with an estimate of £6,000 to £8,000.

Steve Forbes has devoted nearly three decades of his life to collecting and enjoying the many facets of Churchill’s remarkable life and career. Like Churchill, his life has straddled the worlds of politics, journalism and publishing. Son of the late Malcolm Forbes and grandson of Forbes magazine founder B. C. Forbes, Steve is now editor-in-chief of the magazine, and chief executive of Forbes, Inc. In 1996 and 2000 he was a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for president, running on an economic platform of free trade, government economy and a flat-rate income tax. In 2008 he was national co-chair and senior policy advisor to the Rudolph Giuliani campaign. He is on the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation and remains an active force in American politics.

Christie's | Thomas Venning | Winston Churchill Letters and Books |


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