Churchill had refused the Order of the Garter in 1945, quipping that he couldn't accept the garter from the king after the people gave him the boot. But in 1953 he relented and accepted the honour? Is it known what exactly made him change his mind?

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    Sour grapes dissipating?
    – DVK
    Mar 2, 2013 at 20:52
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    @DVK: Possibly, that's the sorta null hypothesis. But maybe there's something else. Mar 2, 2013 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


The order of the garter was "Restored to gift of the Sovereign by Attlee in 1946". So maybe he wouldn't accept it from the Labour prime minister but would accept it from the monarch.

I personally think 'sour grapes, dissipating' is the explanation, it fits with his personality, which seems a bit tempestuous. And he did change party (or "Cross the Floor") twice, so perhaps he was open to changing his mind from time to time.

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    Interesting! Thanks for making this connection. Mar 3, 2013 at 16:26
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    Churchill was too opinionated, and consistent in what he believed to be correct policy, to ever truly be a member of either the Conservatives or the Liberals. From time-to-time, however, the "Churchill Party-of-one" formed a coalition government with the party in power, to mutual advantage. Oct 19, 2013 at 4:52
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    The sovereign was Elizabeth II by now, not George VI. May 25, 2017 at 12:01

What makes the most sense to me was that in 1945 he (actually his party) had just been voted out of office. At this point he still had hopes of getting back the majority (and perhaps the PM office), and in fact he did regain it in 1951.

So I think in 1945 he was mostly telling you what his problem was. He was still an active politician, and as such it would be next to impossible to accept such an honor without it being tainted by Great Britian's extant political climate. People could not help but speculate that there were crass political dimensions to the "honor".

In 1953 he was PM again. However, he was also 78, and suffered a fairly bad stroke, after which he never walked or spoke quite right again. He was clearly in his declining years, and in fact retired the PM position 2 years later. So at this point the logic that compelled him to decline the honor a decade prior no longer applied. Its also quite possible that, given his failing health, the soverign was a bit more insistent on giving it to him this time, for fear of any further wait causing it to have to be bestowed posthumously.

  • This is an interesting angle. If I understand correctly, you posit that the Order of the Garter is sort of a parting gift that senior politicians that retire from active politics sometimes get - like a peerage a hundred years ago, or like an appointment to the Eurocommission nowadays. This is a nice theory, but do you have sources for it? +1 anyway Mar 6, 2013 at 11:15
  • @FelixGoldberg - That's sort of an inside-out way of looking at it. He didn't want it to look like a political gift, so he refused it while he still had a political career ahead of him. Actually though, the wiki page did say he was offered a peerage instead, but his son didn't want to inherit it (I think he had political ambitions too, and didn't want to be stuck in the House of Lords).
    – T.E.D.
    Mar 6, 2013 at 13:17
  • Ok, I see what you meant. Mar 6, 2013 at 13:41

Are you mixing it up with Churchill's refusal of being made a Duke, the highest rank below the Royal Family? He was returned as PM but he went on too long in the position as he was somewhat brain damaged from strokes, diabetes and his drinking and smoking cigars. Yet he lasted until he was 90 and the first PM to be ever given a State funeral. He was a great war time leader who inspired people but not such a good peace time leader. The Order of the Garter is always prescribed by the Queen or monarch. And George the sixth was still on the throne until 1952 when he died suddenly.

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    this does not really answer the question; in fact, this looks much more like an semi-coherent rambling than an answer to a question.
    – sds
    Oct 21, 2013 at 3:52

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