I suppose that, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln, no one has had more words written about him than Winston Churchill and, particularly after the 30 years and multiple volumes of output by his official biographer Martin Gilbert, one might wonder what else could there possible be to say or write about him. And this was my thought when I attended a week long seminar on Churchill several years ago, sponsored by Hillsdale College and hosted by its President Larry Arnn, a Churchill scholar in his own right. So why did I opt to read the Andrew Roberts’ biography, Churchill: Walking With Destiny, rather than the one volume Churchill: A Life by Gilbert? One, Roberts was a best-selling author of Napoleon, which was impressive, but more importantly what commanded my attention was that Roberts had gained exclusive access to extensive new materials, including transcripts of War Cabinet meetings, diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs from Churchill’s contemporaries. In addition, the Royal Family permitted Roberts, in a first for a Churchill biographer, to read the detailed notes taken by King George VI in his diary after his weekly meetings with Churchill during World War II, which opened up new ways in which to understand this relationship and provided new depth to understanding this great leader’s pursuit of his destiny.
And this work was a compelling read for all its 982 pages, a real page turner. History and all of its momentous occasions over this man’s almost 70 years of public life and leadership are given detail that is boggling and I found myself having to go back and forth in the narrative to keep up with the personalities and the action. But this was part of the fun. It has become my favorite biography and, despite his many flaws and mistakes, it has solidified my view that he was the greatest leader of the 20th century.