London: Copyright International News Photos, 3 February 1949. Photograph. This original press photograph is a quintessential image of Winston S. Churchill as orator, delivering a speech in London’s venerable Guildhall after receiving the Grotius Medal on 3 February 1949. Churchill is captured full-length from a low angle in a frock coat, his closed hands near his lapels, his commanding presence set against the background of the Guildhall that was already ancient in Churchill’s 19th century Victorian youth. The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 10 x 8 in (25.4 x 20.3 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp and clean with some minor edge wear, a diagonal crease above Churchill’s head, bumped corners, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. This photograph features original hand-applied retouching to Churchill’s clothes and lectern, as well as original crop marks.
The verso bears the copyright stamp of “International News Photos” (covered by the original caption slip) and handwritten printing notations. The typed caption is titled HOLLAND HONOURS MR. CHURCHILL BY PRESENTATION OF THE GROTIUS MEDAL 3-2-49” and reads “At a ceremony at the Guildhall, London, today, presided over by the Lord Mayor, Sir George Aylwen, Mr. Winston Churchill was presented with the Grotius gold medal by a representative of the Dutch equivalent of the United Nations Association, The Vereniging Voor Internationale Rechtsorde. The medal was instituted in 1925, on the 300th anniversary of the publication of ‘De Jure Belli et Pacis’ by Hugo Grotius, which laid the foundations of International Law.” (Churchill, the “young man in a hurry” who used red “Action This Day” document labels during his wartime premiership, would have appreciated Grotius’s personal motto Ruit hora, time is running away.) In 1925 the Grotius Medal was established as an award for services rendered in the cause of intentional peace or international law.
Churchill was an early and ardent advocate of European unity. His 1946 Zurich speech formally revived the proposal for unification of Europe and “was widely discussed in Europe and America … interpreted by the Press of the world as an indication that the proposal for a United Europe must henceforth be recognized as a live and practical issue in international politics.” Some might find it difficult to comprehend that the twentieth century figure who served as the lodestone of quintessentially British vitality and an icon of Conservative Party leadership was a vital advocate for pan-European integration.
It helps to remember the life experience that informed Churchill’s perspective. Churchill had been a soldier, war leader, politician, and statesman, and had shouldered consequential leadership during two world wars; he could not fail to be a realist. Indeed, the very building in which Churchill spoke testified to both the resilience and vulnerability of Britain; Guildhall spent half a millennium as a London civic and ceremonial centre before its Great Hall’s roof was razed by German air raids on the night of 29 December 1940, during Churchill’s wartime premiership. Postwar Britain was diminished economically, militarily, and territorially. Churchill’s son Randolph wrote a few years later in his introduction to a 1950 book of his father’s speeches that Britain's "place in the world can only be regained" in part by "assumption by Britain of a leading role in promoting the unity of Europe." In the speech that Churchill is here pictured delivering he continues to emphasize the necessity of a United Europe, “Amid many difficulties and grave perils, Britain and the Netherlands, together with their neighbours are striving toward a unity that had never existed in Europe at any time since the fall of the Roman Empire.” (Complete Speeches, Vol. VII, p. 7783). Item #005252