Winston Churchill was probably sexually abused as a child, according to novelist and biographer Lord Dobbs.
The Conservative peer “has researched the life of Churchill and written numerous fictional novels about the politician’s time in office”, says The Daily Telegraph.
Dobbs made the abuse allegation during a public talk in which he argued that the violence Churchill faced during his school years was critical in the making of Britain’s greatest wartime leader.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
“In order to understand the man, I felt it necessary to understand the young child,” Dobbs said.
“He didn’t have a difficult childhood, he had an impossible childhood. He was neglected, he was abused physically, emotionally and probably sexually too.”
Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, Dobbs described how the then-future prime minister was brutally beaten by his headmaster after stealing some sugar.
The eight-year-old Churchill was allegedly “stripped” and “thrashed until the blood was coming from the wounds” by Reverend Herbert William Sneyd-Kynnersley.
Dobbs “did not say whether Sneyd-Kynnersley may have sexually assaulted” Churchill during his time at St George’s school, in Ascot, Berkshire, reports the Daily Mail.
Following the thrashing over the stolen sugar, the young Churchill “found an opportunity to sneak back into that headmaster’s study and stole his straw boater that he used for official occasions”, said Dobbs.
“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,” he added.
“In that eight-year-old boy I could see some of the origins of the 65-year-old man.”
Churchill attended St George’s between 1882 and 1884. According to the school’s website, its headmaster was notorious for his belief in “cruel floggings, some of which were inflicted on young Winston”.
In his autobiography, My Early Life, Churchill recalled: “Flogging with the birch in accordance with the Eton fashion was a great feature of the curriculum.”
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.