Saturday, December 8, 2018

DAY 45: Steadfast Tin Soldiers

Visitors to Blenheim Palace are at times ambivalent about the place. But the one thing most unequivocally seem to love are the cases full of toy soldiers.

A caveat, however: The collection on display, manufactured by French firm Lucotte, is not Winston Churchill's, but those of his friend Paul Maze, meant to convey what Winston's collection might have looked like. Churchill's toy soldiers are lost to time. Perhaps they were manhandled by his son and grandson to the point where they had to be tossed. Perhaps an evil Jack-in-the-Box cursed them to fall down a drain or melt to only a lead heart in the nursery fire. In any case, just 44 cavalry and 53 foot soldiers thought to be Churchill's remain. They're on display at the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms in London. 

Winston Churchill's German-made lead soldiers, Cabinet War Rooms

As Churchill students tend to know, he received his first set of soldiers when he was seven, and continued collecting and deploying them up to his departure for Sandhurst--Britain's Royal Military College--at the age of 19. The massive trestle table that filled the nursery attic at No. 2 Connaught Place was Churchill's drawing board and training ground for military strategy. His favorite historical battles to re-enact, and at times rewrite, were Waterloo and the Battle of Blenheim, won by his ancestor John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough. But over time his collection expanded to number some 1500 soldiers of every description. 

Churchill recalls in his memoir My Early Life that his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, paid a rare visit to the nursery when his son was 12, and stumbled on the trestle table full of embattled figures. From that point on, Randolph decided Winston was destined for the army. Winston noted wistfully that he assumed his father had detected some genius for strategy in his obsession with soldiers. But in fact, Winston later learned, Randolph simply thought he was too stupid for any other career. 

It was one of a long string of misjudgments Randolph Churchill made regarding his elder son. 
Paul Maze collection of toy soldiers displayed at Blenheim Palace

For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel. 

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