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Was Churchill a great orator?

Source 8

Speech notes for Churchill’s radio broadcast made immediately before the coronation broadcast of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953

Reference

CHUR 5/51A-C (images 454-460)

Simplified Transcript

We have had a day which we will all remember. It is my honour to round the day off. You have heard Prime Ministers of the Empire and Commonwealth pay tributes to you.

Now as night falls the new Queen herself will speak to you. The age of chivalry is not dead. Here is a Lady we respect because she is our Queen and we love because of the person she is.

It is our dearest hope that the Queen will be happy and that her reign will be glorious.

We pray for rulers who serve their country and for the people to prosper free from fear.

May God grant us these blessings.

The Queen.

Original Transcript

Prime Ministers Broadcast on Coronation Night 2.6.53
The Queen’s Coronation Broadcast Introduction [2 June 1953 → (this part is handwritten, the first title has been crossed out)

We have had a day
    which the oldest are proud to have lived to see
        and the youngest will remember all their lives.

It is my duty and honour
     to lead you to its culmination.

You have heard Prime Ministers
    of the Empire and Commonwealth
        pay their moving tributes
            on behalf of the famous states and races for whom they speak.

The splendours of this 2nd of June
    glow in our minds.

Now as night falls
    you will hear the voice
        of our Sovereign herself,

    crowned in our history
        and enthroned for ever in our hearts.

+       +       +       +       +        +        +        +        +        +        +         +         + 

Let it not be thought
     that the age of chivalry belongs to the past.

Here at the summit of our world wide community
    is a Lady whom we respect because she is our Queen
        and whom we love because she is herself.

'Gracious' and 'noble' are words familiar to us all
    in courtly phrasing.

Tonight they have a new ring in them
    because we know they are true
        about the gleaming figure whom Providence
            has brought to us –

    and brought to us
        in times where the present is hard
            and the future veiled.

+       +       +       +       +        +        +        +        +        +        +         +         + 

It is our dearest hope
    that The Queen will be happy

    and our resolve – unswerving –
        that her reign shall be as glorious
            as her devoted subjects can help her to make it.

We pray to have rulers who serve,
    for nations who comfort each other,
        and for peoples who thrive and prosper –

    free from fear.

May God grant us these blessings.

The Queen.

What is this source?

These are the typescript notes which Churchill used to introduce the Coronation broadcast of Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.

Background to this source

As Prime Minister in 1952 on the death of King George VI, Winston Churchill played a prominent role in the coronation of the new Queen, Elizabeth II, the following year.

Additional information

The speech notes are typewritten with some changes written in by hand by Churchill. These are the final draft of the notes which Churchill would have used when actually making the broadcast. Churchill’s secretaries were trained to set out the words on the page as you see here – like poetry or blank verse. They called this ‘psalm form’. If you try and read the words aloud, the layout on the page might help you get a sense of the pace and rhythm of the speech. However, the main reason for the layout was that it made it easy for Churchill to keep his place – perhaps he ran a finger down the page as he spoke and could glance down for a reminder of where he was in the speech.
After this set of notes, there is an earlier draft of the speech in the file. Changes have been made here but the layout is also different.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember we are hoping this source can be useful to us in whether Churchill was a good orator. Sources usually help historians in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What does Churchill say about the Coronation Day which has taken place?
  2. What does he say about the Queen?
  3. What does he hope for the future?

Deeper level

 

Tick if this is present

If you have put a tick, what makes you think this?

On a scale of 0-5 (0 being absent and 5 being strongly represented), indicate how important this attribute is to the speech.

Correctness of Diction

Is it clear what Churchill means even if some words are unfamiliar?

     

Rhythm

Does his speech seem like blank verse poetry?

     

Accumulation of Argument

Does he build his argument?

     

Analogy

Does he use examples from the past or from people’s knowledge to illustrate his point?

     

Emotions of the speaker and the audience aroused

Do the audience know Churchill’s final point before he gets there?

     

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • We might consider that part of the art of the orator is making a speech which fits the occasion. In this instance, Churchill is the ‘link man’ rather than the main attraction. He is preparing the audience for the Queen’s broadcast. Is he therefore acting like a ‘warm up’ man for a TV broadcast (i.e. someone who prepares the audience for what is coming next so that they will have the appropriate reaction – this is done in TV studios where there is a comedy programme, a comedian who is not in the show will entertain the audience and make them laugh so that they will laugh more readily at the comedy they are about to see).
  • In this instance the speech is not a political one and, as this is the script of a speech for a broadcast we do not have the audience reaction. What reaction might Churchill have been seeking to get from the words he chose? What sort of atmosphere was he trying to conjure up? Remember also that the Queen was a young woman in 1953: did Churchill have a message for her in these words?
  • Additional drafts of the speech may offer further interpretation and can be found here in the Churchill Archive: (CHUR 5/51A-C images 458-60).

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