London: Kemsley Picture Services, June 1954. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 14 June 1954 wearing his robes and insignia and marching at the head of his fellow Companions in the procession to St. George’s Chapel after he was invested by Queen Elizabeth II as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.1 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is clean, crisp, and free of scuffing with only some light edge wear and creasing to the corners.
This press photo once belonged to the working archives of The Daily Telegraph. The verso bears a copyright stamp of “Kemsley Picture Services” (below the caption slip), a received stamp of The Daily Telegraph dated JUN 1954, and an original typed caption titled “SIR WINSTON INSTALLED AS KNIGHT COMPANION.” The caption reads, “THE PRIME MINISTER, SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, WAS INSTALLED TO-DAY AS A KNIGHT COMPANION OF THE MOST NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER AT A SERVICE HELD IN ST. GEORGE’S CHAPEL, WINDSOR, AFTER HAVING BEEN INVESTED WITH HIS INSIGNIA BY HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN, SOVERIGN (sic) OF THE ORDER, IN THE THRONE ROOM AT WINDSOR CASTLE EARLIER IN THE DAY.” The printed date is “14-6-54”.
The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded by King Edward III in 1348, is Britain’s most senior order of knighthood. Awarded at the sole discretion of the Sovereign, membership is limited to no more than 24 living members. Knighthood was first offered to Churchill by King George VI at the end of Churchill’s first, wartime premiership. Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to a Labour landslide in the General Election of July 1945. After Churchill drove to Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation, the King offered Churchill the Order of the Garter. Churchill “asked leave to decline.” He famously quipped (not to the King), “I could hardly accept His Majesty’s offer of the Garter when his people have given me the Order of the Boot.” More seriously, he explained privately to the King’s Private Secretary five days later “I felt that the times were too sad for honours or rewards” and added “After all, my great reward was the kindness and intimacy with which the King has treated me during these hard and perilous years which we have endured and enjoyed in common.”
Not until late in his second and final premiership did Churchill accept the offer, which was renewed by Queen Elizabeth II. On 14 June 1954 the Garter Ceremony was in the Throne Room at Windsor Castle. When Churchill resigned as Prime Minister the following year, the Queen offered him a dukedom (having earlier ascertained from Churchill’s Private Secretary that he would refuse the offer – in keeping with the notion that no further dukedoms would be given to non-Royal personages). Fortunately for all, the greater temptation of ending his life in the House of Commons caused Churchill to decline. Churchill later told his Private Secretary, Jock Colville, “I very nearly accepted, I was so moved by her beauty and her charm and the kindness with which she made this offer… But finally I remembered that I must die as I have always been – Winston Churchill.” Unaware that Colville himself had reassured the Crown that the offer would be refused, Churchill noted “…it’s an odd thing, but she seemed almost relieved.”. Item #005605