London: P.A. Reuter Photos Ltd., 30 July 1955. Photograph. This is an original press photo of Winston S. Churchill arriving at 10 Downing Street for lunch with Prime Minister Anthony Eden on 29 July 1955 following Eden’s return from the Geneva summit with the U.S., Soviet, and French leaders. This image measures 10 x 8 in (25.4 x 20.3 cm) on matte photo paper. Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scuffing. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “P.A.-Reuter Photos Ltd.”, a published stamp of The Daily Telegraph from 30 July 1955, remnants of a typed caption, handwritten printing notes, and a clipping of the caption as it was printed. A crop line runs down the center of the photograph with some paint applied by The Daily Telegraph Art Department to isolate Churchill from the background figures. The original caption clipping reads: “LUNCHEON AT HIS OLD HOME. Sir Winston Churchill outside 10, Downing Street when he arrived from Chartwell yesterday to lunch with Sir Anthony Eden. A large crowd greeted Sir Winston.”
The photograph’s physical metaphor of Churchill being separated from the scene is apropos to the moment. The summit from which Prime Minister Eden had just returned had been a great, unrealized ambition of Churchill’s second and final premiership. Indeed, it was Churchill who coined the term “summit” which has been used to characterize every subsequent meeting between world leaders. Churchill had resigned his second and final premiership just a few months prior on 5 April 1955. It fell to Churchill’s successor, Anthony Eden, to attend the Geneva summit.
A week of talks took place over six days beginning on 18 July 1955. Little was agreed to or accomplished, apart from establishing direct communication between the leaders. Whether the result would have been different had Churchill been present is an interesting question. It is hard to imagine that Churchill did not consider the question himself. Had Churchill been confident a summit was finally, definitively in the offing, he would almost certainly have further delayed his resignation.
In March the American Ambassador indicated that Eisenhower “was not in fact contemplating a meeting with the Russians at all” thus leaving Churchill without pretext to evade his 5 April resignation date. “What Churchill did not know… was that there had been ‘quiet talks’” between Eden’s staff and the Americans. Eden went behind Churchill’s back to the Americans in order to “ease Churchill out of Downing Street”. That said, Eden had been Churchill’s “right-hand man for fifteen years – the longest-serving heir apparent in British political history”. (Roberts, Walking with Destiny, pp.948-49) His impatience to finally grasp the long-promised premiership was understandable, even if his ultimate performance in the role was disappointing; Eden’s long-awaited premiership (1955-1957) proved fraught and arguably diminished, rather than crowned, his stature and reputation. By January 1957, he had resigned, undone by both ill health and the Suez crisis.
The crop line in this photograph is proximate to the line of demarcation in Churchill’s life. After resigning his second premiership, 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, culminating in his death on 24 January 1965 and his remarkably elaborate state funeral. In attendance were “six sovereigns, six presidents and sixteen prime ministers” as well as representatives of 112 nations. Queen Elizabeth II also attended – the first time in a century that a British monarch attend a commoner’s funeral. Before the service in St. Paul’s cathedral, Churchill’s coffin had passed through the countryside on a train. The Oxford don, Dr. A. L. Rowse, recorded “The Western sky filled with the lurid glow of winter sunset; the sun setting on the British Empire.”. Item #005448