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Cecil Beaton
Churchill’s six-volume history of WWII won the Nobel Prize.
BUT WILL HE READ THEM?

The Queen’s gift to Trump is a set of history books with a pointed message

By Heather Timmons

During their visit to Buckingham Palace, US president Donald Trump and his wife Melania exchanged carefully chosen gifts with the Queen of England and her husband, Prince Philip.

The Trumps gave the Queen a $650 Tiffany’s red poppy brooch in silk and silver, the symbol of remembrance for World War I’s dead. Prince Philip was gifted a “personalized” Air Force One bomber jacket and the autobiography of the US military commander who led the first bombing of Japan after Pearl Harbor.

The Queen and her husband’s gift to the president was an abridged first edition of The Second World War by prime minister Winston S. Churchill. The six-volume history of the war won Churchill the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for its “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

Crafted from Churchill’s own notes, official correspondence, and personal remembrances, with the help of editors from Life magazine, the set has been described as an “invaluable” record of the war. Neither Soviet leader Joseph Stalin nor US president Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote a similar history, and it was serialized in the New York Times.

It details Churchill’s struggles to get the US involved in the war, the sometimes uneasy alliance between the three Allied powers, and the eventual defeat of their enemies. It is difficult not to read historical arguments against the alliance-threatening, nationalist, imperialist policies Trump has pursued.

Writing about the success of D-Day, for example, Churchill glowingly portrays the strength that comes from the partnership between the Allied Armies:

Complete unity prevails throughout the Allied Armies. There is a brotherhood in arms between us and our friends of the United States. There is complete confidence in the Supreme Commander General Eisenhower…the ardour and spirit of the troops, as I saw myself embarking in these last few days, was splendid to witness.

And writing about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Churchill underlines the eventual dangers of ignoring democratic processes and seizing absolute control of your own government:

Mussolini now had to bear the brunt of the military disasters into which he had, after so many years of rule, led his country. He has exercised almost absolute control and could not cast the burden on the monarchy, Parliamentary Institutions, the Fascist Party, or the General Staff. All fell on him. Now that the feeling that the war was lost spread through well-informed circles in Italy the blame fell upon the man who had so imperiously thrust the nation on the wrong and losing side…The lonely dictator sat at the summit of power, while military defeat and Italian slaughter in Russia, Tunis, and Sicily, were the evident prelude to direct invasion.

Trump was also gifted a pen set. His wife was gifted a “specially commissioned silver box with a handcrafted enamel lid” in the pattern of the Music Room in Buckingham Palace.