Churchill 'was sexually abused as a boy'
Historian says prep school thrashings physically and emotionally scarred the future British PM
Winston Churchill, Britain’s most famous prime minister and greatest wartime leader, was “probably sexually abused”, the novelist Lord Dobbs has claimed.
The Conservative peer, who has researched the life of Churchill and written numerous fictional novels about the politician’s time in office, made the allegation while giving a talk entitled Churchill: the origins of greatness.Although, he did not say who may have abused Churchill, Lord Dobbs gave a vivid account of how at the age of eight Churchill was stripped naked by the founder of his boys’ school and repeatedly thrashed.The experience at St George’s School in Ascot, Berkshire, was said to have left him both physically and emotionally scarred.
Lord Dobbs, the author of the famous House of Cards political thriller series, told Chalke Valley History Festival in Wiltshire: “He [Churchill] was neglected, he was abused physically, emotionally and probably sexually too.”Explaining how as a novelist he began his research “from inside the head” of his subject, the peer said: “Before I got to grips with Winston, I wanted to know who the man was.
“What made him react, what made him joyful, what drove him on? He was a driven man. He was obsessive in many ways.
“You don’t become great by being nice and kind and cuddly.
“You become great by doing things that other people simply don’t have the gumption or the opportunity to do.
“I felt it necessary to understand the young child. He didn’t have a difficult childhood – he had an impossible childhood.
“He was neglected, he was abused physically, emotionally and probably sexually too.”Churchill began boarding at St George’s in 1882, aged just seven. The school was founded five years earlier by the Reverend Herbert William Sneyd-Kynnersley as a boys’ prep school.However, Sneyd-Kynnersley, the son of a Birmingham magistrate who as headmaster taught Latin and Greek, was well known for severely floggings his pupils, including Churchill.Lord Dobbs, who was chief of staff under Margaret Thatcher, said: “His first days at his first school – St George’s in Ascot - run by a Reverend Sneyd-Kynnersley, a man who was brutish in his violence even by Victorian standards.
“Winston was one day found to have stolen a packet of sugar. For that crime he was taken to the headmaster’s study and thrashed. He had to be broken.
“He was stripped, held down over a beating block, and thrashed and thrashed again until the blood was coming from the wounds. And, it was only after this appalling treatment was discovered by his nanny that his parents eventually took him from this school.”Churchill was removed from the school in 1884 and went Brunswick School in Hove where his academic performance improved.
He eventually went to Harrow.
“Sneyd-Kynnersley was trying to break this young boy. That was when he developed a nervous stutter. He became a very sickly young boy. Had it been done to me I would have said: ‘Look, what is it I have to do to stop this?’“But, Winston wasn’t like the rest of us. After he recovered from that thrashing he found an opportunity to sneak back into that headmaster’s study and stole the headmaster’s straw boater, that he used for official occasions.
“He took that straw boater – the sign of authority – to the woods and for one glorious afternoon kicked the crap out of it. Not bad for an eight-year-old boy who had just been so cruelly abused.
“Winston wasn’t like most of us. There was something inside him. In that eight-year-old boy I could see some of the origins of the 65-year-old man.”
– © The Daily Telegraph