The Curmudgeon


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Great Britons

In a singularly appropriate sign of the times, the outgoing governor of the Bank of England has recommended replacing the portrait of Elizabeth Fry on the five-pound note with that of a verbose, self-complacent blowhard, a sort of early-twentieth-century Michael Gove.

Elizabeth Fry, the only non-royal woman thus far to be depicted on British money, was a social reformer and a humanitarian; Winston Churchill was a social reactionary and an egomaniac. Fry was energetic, competent and compassionate; Churchill was energetic, hare-brained and self-serving. Fry campaigned for offenders to be more humanely treated; Churchill advocated concentration camps and forced sterilisation. Fry wrote a book about conditions in prisons; Churchill wrote lots of books about Winston Churchill. Fry was a Quaker who improved the lives of others; Churchill was an armchair general who contributed more than most to the bloody fiasco of the Dardanelles campaign.

Aside from his having given birth to Margaret Thatcher, who according to Conservative Party theology burst forth from some orifice of his like a milk-snatching Athene from an ambrosia-guzzling Zeus, Churchill's claim to greatness rests mainly on some speeches he made during the Second World War. In the early part of that war Britain did rather badly, thanks in large part to the pre-war policies of one Winston Churchill; but he evidently muddled us through in the end, with some small assistance from the USA, the USSR, the proles and the subject peoples of the British Empire, not necessarily in that order. It is true that Fry was from a banking family (which, rather than all that philanthropic nonsense, is doubtless how she got onto the currency in the first place), while Churchill was from a military one; but it should be fairly obvious which of them is the more fitting figure to adorn our currency in the present day.


  • At 5:17 pm , Anonymous The Judge said...

    Time also perhaps to dust off those jokes about calling the £2 coin a 'Thatcher', in that they both were thick, brassy and tried to pass themselves off as sovereigns.

  • At 6:29 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    That deserves to stand with the comment by one of Churchill's colleagues on his history of the First World War as won by Winston Churchill: "Winston has written a book all about himself and called it The World Crisis."


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