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Chris Matthews Likes WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys"

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"What I like most in Maier's giant work is the spine of this saga, the all-important record of influence the great soldier-statesman-historian's life exerted on the future American president." -- Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, review in Chartwell Bulletin, The Churchill Centre

Sunday, January 18, 2015

50th Anniversary of Winston Churchill's Passing is This Jan. 24: Read an Excerpt from "WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys" about Churchill's 1965 Funeral

This excerpt from "WHEN LIONS ROAR: The Churchills and the Kennedys" recounts the 1965 funeral for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and some who paid tribute. 

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” filled St. Paul’s Cathedral during the state funeral for Winston Churchill, a tribute to the British Empire’s greatest defender and a lifelong admirer of the United States. “I want it in memory of my American mother,” Winston instructed about the song to be played after his death. Nearly one million mourners filled the London streets near the cathedral to pay their last respects to “Winnie,” the fatherly figure who shepherded them through war.
In one of the pews, former president Dwight Eisenhower sat with tears in his eyes, recalling the “soldier, statesman and leader whom two great countries were proud to honor as their own.” Part of the American entourage that joined Eisenhower at the funeral included Undersecretary of State Averell Harriman, the roving diplomat for both FDR and JFK (and a fill-in for President Lyndon Johnson, sick at home with the flu), and Kay Halle, the longtime friend of both families. “Poor Randolph Churchill called me from London today—all choked up about his father,” Halle wrote to Bobby Kennedy before she left for London. “What a titan is Sir Winston. An eternal flame he is too.”
Many commentators recalled Churchill’s honorary citizenship awarded by President Kennedy less than two years earlier and expressed sorrow that two of the twentieth century’s most revered leaders had passed from the scene. Watching on television from Washington, New York Times columnist James Reston said that Churchill’s funeral impacted the capital “more than any other event since the assassination of President Kennedy.” Winston’s remarkable example underlined “the imponderables of life,” Reston said, and “suggested that sentiment and history, that ideas and philosophy, are also powerful, and that the ‘special relationship’ between London and Washington was not merely a source of contention with Paris, but by itself something highly important.”
As Winston’s coffin floated down the Thames on its way to burial, his friends and family struggled to consider life without him. At the cathedral, Aristotle Onassis wept inconsolably—“sobbing like a baby” said one observer—at the loss of his friend and the most famous guest aboard his yacht. Yet Ari kept enough composure to insist that his former wife, Tina, now married to Winston’s cousin John Spencer-Churchill, the Eleventh Duke of Marlborough, be seated far away from him in the pews.
On the flight back to America, Kay Halle flew with Eisenhower and Averell Harriman and talked about old times. Both she and Pamela Hayward, the ex-wife of Randolph Churchill, had been invited by the former president to join him on the returning air force plane, with officers in white jackets serving caviar and champagne. Halle recalled how Winston always credited Eisenhower with putting the Allied cause in World War II above nationalism and his being the “architect” of victory against the Nazi war machine. Ike described the painting Winston gave him as a gift. He joked about the gray-haired appearance of their wartime British contemporaries, such as former prime minister Anthony Eden. “Averell, they look older than we do, though they’re younger,” Ike teased, putting aside his and Harriman’s past political differences. 
For most of the long flight, Harriman chatted with Pamela, his former lover, whom he’d not seen in nearly fifteen years. The last time they’d spoke, she resented Averell’s fitful warning about her reputation after divorcing Randolph, as if she needed a morality lecture from a rich married man who’d cheated on his own wife with her. But this trip to attend Winston’s funeral became a sentimental journey for Pamela. Now living in New York, she felt pleased to see her son, Winston, and new grandchild, and still be treated by Clementine as a member of the Churchill extended family. At age forty-four, Pamela hardly looked dowdy, appearing just as attractive, with her light auburn hair and come-hither eyes, as when she and Harriman conducted their affair while Randolph was away at war. “It had been a memorable moment in Harriman’s life, saying good-bye to the leader he idolized, and seeing the woman who still possessed him and talking with her for hours as they crossed the Atlantic,” described his biographer Rudy Abramson. Both Ave and Pamela were still married during that plane ride, but six years later, when both their spouses had died, they met again, at a Georgetown dinner party hosted by publisher Katharine Graham (whose other guests included Kay Halle). “Since we were both suddenly free and alone, it just seemed the most natural thing in the world to kind of get together again,” explained Pamela. One of the witnesses at their wedding was Ethel Kennedy. When young Winston told Clementine about his mother’s intentions to marry Harriman, Churchill’s widow seemed pleased. “My dear,” replied Clemmie, “it’s an old flame rekindled.”

EXCERPT Adapted from "WHEN LIONS ROAR": Long Before Obama’s Cuba Deal, The Vatican Offered Secret Diplomacy To FDR with a Kennedy’s Help


Adapted from "WHEN LIONS ROAR": Long Before Obama’s Cuba Deal, The Vatican Offered Secret Diplomacy To FDR with a Kennedy’s Help.


By Thomas Maier

  Thomas Maier is the author of “When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys” (Crown).
 
Many were surprised by the Vatican’s role in secret displomatic meetings that led up to the recent ground-breaking American overture to Cuba. But President Obama wasn’t the first White House occupant offered such help from Rome.
     Arguably the first president to recognize the Vatican’s influence was Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the urging of his ambassdador in Great Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy -- the father of future president John F. Kennedy.
      In 1939, the world’s busiest and most complex spy center wasn’t found in London or Washington, but rather in Vatican City, the 110-acre, postage-stamp-size home to the Roman Catholic Church, buzzing with rumors of the impending World War II. Hugh Wilson, the departing U.S. ambassador in Berlin, called the Vatican “the best information service in Europe.” The Vatican had listening posts in virtually every nation, with its mix of concordats and papal nuncios keeping the Church’s intelligence arm well informed. Hitler and the Nazis tried to place their own spies within the Church’s midst.
     For years, the American government seemed ignorant of the Vatican’s preeminence in espionage. But as war approached, Joe Kennedy pushed the Roosevelt administration to catch up.
      “Experiences in London had taught me the value of being in touch with Rome with its vast sources of intelligence reaching almost every corner of the world,” Kennedy later recalled in his unpublished memoir. “The information that the Vatican had with reference to conditions in Germany, in Austria and in Italy had peculiar value to us.”
Visiting FDR's house in Hyde Park in 1936 were
(from left) Count Enrico Galeazzi, Joseph P. Kennedy
and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pacelli,
who became Pope Pius XII.
The Vatican connection proved an important political asset for the Kennedys in years to come. Joe used his discreet, largely unknown ties to Rome to buttress his position as one of America’s leading lay Catholics in public life, helped by his personal friendship with top clergy and his generous charitable donations as a wealthy man. His dream of seeing a Kennedy someday elected as the first Catholic president relied in part on the Church’s implicit support and on millions of ethnic Americans who identified with this barrier-breaking goal.
In the late 1930s, however, Kennedy’s main effort with the Vatican focused on gaining secret intelligence for the U.S. government. To underline his unique contributions, the London ambassador once again entrusted his cause with the president’s son, James Roosevelt. In April 1938, Kennedy sent young Roosevelt “a strictly confidential memorandum which I have received personally from Cardinal Pacelli,” then the Vatican’s secretary of state (and future Pope Pius XII), and asked Jimmy to pass it along to the president. A State Department document later said Pacelli’s memo outlined “the relations of the Vatican with various countries.”
How Joe Kennedy obtained the memo isn’t clear from documents (now housed in the JFK Presidential Library), though Jimmy portrayed it to his father as a small coup, a reminder of Joe’s unique contacts.
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, a thin-faced, austere man with thick eyeglasses, had been the Church’s chief diplomat since 1930, creating written treaties with several nations that allowed Catholics to practice their religion and run schools, hospitals, and church organizations without state interference. His 1933 concordat with Hitler’s Germany would later raise concerns about Pacelli’s view toward the Nazis. However, Winston Churchill, who had known Pacelli on a friendly basis since they first met in London in 1908, held a more nuanced view of the Vatican diplomat. Both Churchill and Pacelli shared a similar dread about the Bolsheviks in Russia. They feared communism would lead to the spread of godless dictatorships as threatening as the Nazis. In his memo to Kennedy, Pacelli said the Church felt “at times powerless and isolated in its daily struggle against all sorts of political excesses from the Bolsheviks to the new pagans arising from the ‘Aryan’ generations.”
Historically, many criticized Pacelli for a slowness or silence in confronting the Nazis, especially over their persecution of Jews both before and during World War II. But Pacelli’s 1938 memo makes clear his opposition to the Nazis and the embattled position Catholics faced with Hitler, despite the protections agreed upon with the concordat.
“No matter what pretexts are set forth by the German government, the real fact is that since the early time after the Concordat was signed a more or less open attitude against all clauses accepted in the Concordat was adopted by the German government,” Pacelli wrote in the translated version from Italian sent to the White House. “The Holy See has used all possible ways to protect the freedom of the Church and of the Catholics, keeping itself ever ready to do the best in order to avoid any more bitter conflict, and being always prompted by the desire of avoiding to make the situation more and more difficult.”
In his own note to Jimmy, Joe Kennedy pointed to portions of Pacelli’s memo that underlined the Vatican’s role as a beehive of intelligence and the strategic need for America to be more present in Rome. The future pope’s note read: “It will be very fine if you will convey to your Friend at home these personal private views of mine,” and he urged President Roosevelt to appoint a U.S. diplomat to the Vatican. Pacelli underlined that “in this very crucial moment of the European political life that the American Government is without a direct source of information from and a straight and intimate connection with the Vatican circles.”
For nearly a century, the American government had refused to send a diplomat to the Vatican, an opposition largely fueled by the nineteenth-century Know-Nothing movement and lingering anti-Catholic bigotry. Kennedy tried to convince Roosevelt to send an American envoy to the papal state, both as a practical improvement to U.S. intelligence abroad and good politics at home among many Catholic Democrats.
As the world inched toward war, this memo bolstered Kennedy’s argument for a better U.S. presence in Rome.