London: Fox Photos, 14 August 1946. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill dressed in his regalia for his installation as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports on 14 August 1946. The image, measuring 8 x 5 in (20.3 x 12.7 cm), is a gelatin silver print on matte photo paper. Condition is very good. The paper is clean, crisp, and free of scratching with only some light edge wear and two pin holes to the upper corners confined to the margins. This photograph features a heavy application of paint originally applied by the newspaper’s art department to isolate Churchill in print. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Fox Photos”, an additional illegible Swedish copyright stamp, two stamps reading "Svenska Dagbladets Bild-Arkiv" (Svenska Dagbladets is a Stockholm daily newspaper, and bild-arkiv translates to photo archive), a clipping of a Swedish caption as it appeared in print, and a typed English caption reading, “With traditional ceremony, Mr. Churchill, Britain’s wartime leader, was today installed as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports at Dover. Only two commoners have held the appointment previously.”
The Lord Warden is a Royal appointment dating back to the 12th century associated with defense of the realm. The Cinque Ports comprise Dover, Sandwich, New Romney, Hastings, and Hythe, to which Rye and Winchelsea were later added. Although the post was largely ceremonial by the time Churchill was appointed the 158th Lord Warden by the King in 1941, Churchill was then consumed with distinctly non-ceremonial duties as wartime Prime Minister. This explains why the elaborate formal Installation ceremony did not take place until 14 August 1946. As Churchill said in his remarks during the Installation, eliciting laughter from his amused audience: “…I took a keen interest in my duties which at the time were by no means ceremonial…”
On 14 August Churchill rode through cheering crowds, dressed in his elaborate Lord Warden regalia and flashing his famous V sign, to the Court of Shepway for the formal Installation ceremony. Upon Churchill’s appointment in 1941 The Times had written: “To this august tradition of Keeper of the Gates of England and Watcher of the English Seas, Mr. Churchill now succeeds. As First Lord in two wars he has fully qualified to preside in this ancient shrine of the seafaring tradition. As the dauntless leader of the Nation in the moment of its greatest peril he can wear the symbolic dignity as no other man can do.”
The August 1946 Installation must have been bittersweet for Churchill; although Churchill had done perhaps more during the Second World War to protect the Realm than perhaps any preceding Lord Warden, less than a year earlier Churchill had lost his premiership when Labour outpolled the Conservatives in the General Election of July 1945. The Lord Warden would remain Leader of the Opposition until his second and final premiership following the General Election of October 1951. This press photo once belonged to the working archives of Svenska Dagbladets.
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, with 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 #005643