P.A. Reuter Photos Ltd., 25 February 1961. Photograph. This is an original press photograph of Winston S. Churchill reading a letter on 25 February 1961 as he is driven back to his Hyde Park Gate home from the airport following a holiday on the Riviera. This image measures 8x10 in (20.3 x 25.4 cm) on glossy photo paper. Condition is very good. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scuffing with only some very slight bruising to the corners. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “P.A. Reuter Photos Ltd.”, a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph from February 1961, and a typed caption. The original caption is titled “SIR WINSTON’S HOME – AND ‘IN HARNESS’”. The caption reads: “The holiday’s over, and 86-year-old SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL gets down to reading letters in the car as he leaves London Airport to-night (Saturday) on the way to his London home at Hyde Park Gate. He had just flown back from the Riviera by BEA liner. He was away for a fortnight. February 25th 1961.” Churchill’s official biography records that he left his Hyde Park Gate home in London for Monte Carlo on 11 February.
This original press photograph was taken in the twilight of Churchill’s remarkable life. Almost six years earlier, on 5 April 1955, Churchill had resigned his second and final premiership at the age of 80. During the last decade of his long life, Churchill passed "into a living national memorial" of the time he had lived and the Nation, Empire, and free world he had served. It is interesting to note that on 7 February 1961, just a few weeks before this photograph was taken, “Churchill received an unexpected telegram. It was from the Queen and Prince Philip, then on tour in Pakistan. ‘We both send you our best wishes from Malakand,’ they wrote. It was here, in the remote wild countryside of the former North-West Frontier of India, that Churchill had fought in the army of the Queen’s great-great grandmother.” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.1319)
The day after Churchill died, on 25 January 1965, the Queen sent a message of an entirely different kind - a message to Parliament announcing: "Confident in the support of Parliament for the due acknowledgement of our debt of gratitude and in thanksgiving for the life and example of a national hero" and concluded "I have directed that Sir Winston's body shall lie in State in Westminster Hall and that thereafter the funeral service shall be held in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul.” Churchill's state funeral was attended by the Queen herself, other members of the royal family, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and representatives of 112 countries. It was the first time in a century that a British monarch attended a commoner’s funeral.
This press photo once belonged to The Daily Telegraph’s working archive. During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, including physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005406