Arms and the Covenant.
CHURCHILL Winston S. (1938.)
£10000.00 [First Edition]
Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.
First edition. 8vo., original blue cloth. London, George G. Harrap & Co.
With a bald presentation inscription from Churchill to the Duke of Westminster “Bendor from Winston June 1938.”
A book that goes to the heart of Churchill‘s role in moving Britain onto a war footing in the late ’30s, when he led the fight against the appeasers. Churchill and the Duke (always known as Bendor, after a family race-horse) were the oldest and closest of friends before the war, playing tennis and polo, gambling, yachting, hunting, shooting, and fishing. Their friendship was not to survive the late 1930s, the rise of Hitler and the outbreak of war, thanks to Bendor’s strongly anti-war sentiments. He had always displayed more than the routine anti-semitism indulged in by the British upper classes, and in 1939 joined “The Link”, an organisation whose declared aim was to “promote better relations between the British and German peoples by non-political means”, but which had a strongly pro-Nazi and anti-semitic streak.
The message of Arms and the Covenant, a collection of Churchill’s speeches urging rearmament, would have been deeply unpalatable to Westminster; Bendor was notably absent from the list of people who thanked Churchill for copies, and their next recorded communication is 10 days after the declaration of war in September 1939, when Churchill wrote him a tactful but very unambiguous letter about his attitude towards the conflict: “pursuance of this line will lead you into measureless odium and vexation. When a country is fighting a war of this kind, very hard experiences lie before those who preach defeatism and set themselves up against the main will of the nation . . . I beg you not to spurn the counsels of a life-long friend.”
Bendor spent the war as a model citizen, fire-watching and bomb-spotting when in London, hunting rabbits with his pack of dachshunds when in the country, and Churchill’s letter at first appears to have succeeded; however the evidence suggests that Westminster did not completely surrender his pro-German views. Bendor was famously infatuated with Coco Chanel, the great icon of twentieth century coutre, and they shared a long and tempestuous relationship through the late 1920’s, spawning the fantastic, if apparently apocryphal, twin stories that Bendor proposed by having both of their initials placed on every lamppost in Westminster, and her refusal by saying that “there have been many Duchesses of Westminster, but only one Coco Chanel.”
It was through Bendor that Chanel was introduced to Churchill and he approved of her influence on Westminster, writing to his wife that ‘She is vy agreeable – really a gt & strong being fit to rule a man or an Empire.’ Chanel appears to have shared Bendor’s anti-communist, anti-semitic, and pro-German views; as late as 1943-4 Chanel appears to have been involved in an operation codenamed ‘Modellhut,’ in which members of the Nazi hierarchy immediately below Hitler, although without his knowledge or approval, sought to use Chanel to convey a message to Churchill offering a peaceful end to the conflict. In the words of Chanel’s biographer Henry Gidel, “It is certain that from the beginning Chanel’s initiative was secretly supported by Bendor who had already tried to get his friend Churchill to accept his point of view… Bendor believed that if Chanel had even a small chance of bringing the Germans or their intermediaries together with Churchill it was worth the effort.” Ultimately the effort ended in failure when Chanel’s intended accomplice, Vera Bate Lombardi, the British socialite who had first been responsible for introducing Chanel to Bendor, denounced Chanel and all involved for collaborating with the Nazis.
Despite an affectionate tribute from Churchill on Bendor‘s death, relations don’t seem to have resumed with the same intimacy after war and the Duke appeared only rarely in Churchill’s papers. Bendors distaste for the book presented to him by Churchill is neatly encompassed by his giving of the copy almost immediately to a clerk in his office by the name of McSherry, from whose family we have recently purchased it; the rather battered external appearance romantically suggests that the Duke might first have thrown the offending volume into the wastepaper basket, or out of the window.
Stock Code: 129614