Americans know the indomitable Winston Churchill, who
led Britain during World War II.
Candice Millardís new book, "Hero of the
Empire," shows how the young Churchillís military
adventures in South Africa, at the impressionable age of
24, prepared him for the later challenge of leading a
nation at war while serving as Englandís prime
by Londonís Morning Post newspaper to cover the Boer
War in South Africa, which began in 1899, Churchill
demonstrated bravery in a train attack. Then, he escaped
from a prison with some cash, a biscuit and four
chocolate bars. He lacked a plan, a map, a compass or a
weapon. Thirsty, hungry and sweating in the blistering
sun, the young war correspondent crossed hundreds of
miles of South Africanís terrain, a place where luck
and destiny seem to have been his constant companions.
is what launched his political career. This is where he
developed so many of the leadership qualities we
associate him with ó agility, ingenuity, determination
and grit. You can see all of these very clearly on the
South African veld," Millard said during a
telephone interview from her home in Kansas City, Kan.
voracious reader, Churchill was a gifted writer and also
possessed a genius for leadership, the author said.
had this innate confidence that he was able to project
to others. He believed he could do extraordinary things,
and he believed you could do extraordinary things,"
boarding a ship for South Africa, Churchill shopped on
Londonís fashionable Bond Street, where he purchased
about $4,000 in fine vintages of wine and spirits to
fortify himself while overseas. His valet, Thomas
Walden, came, too.
exhaustive histories of Churchillís life were written
by Sir Martin Gilbert and William Manchester, but
Millard hones in on her subjectís youthful arrogance
and boundless ambition.
was sort of born ready. Thatís a pretty rare
quality," Millard said. "He rubbed people
wrong all the time in the British military. You donít
self advertise. You donít say, ĎHey, by the way, I
want to win these medals.í "
Churchill thanked the men who helped him flee South
did owe a great debt of gratitude (to those men),"
Millard said. "He bought gold watches for each of
these men, and he had them engraved with his thanks. I
actually saw a couple of them while I was in South
Africa. There was one at a great museum in Durban."
her first book, "The River of Doubt: Theodore
Rooseveltís Darkest Journey," Millard examined
the former presidentís harrowing journey through South
Americaís Brazilian rain forest, a trip on which he
nearly died. The author likes to take one story about a
famous person that she believes illuminates his or her
character and the era in which that person lived.
for Churchill, Millard said, "He reminds me so much
of Roosevelt. They were so ambitious and both voracious
readers and incredibly skilled writers and incredibly
brave. They were very arrogant and got on everybodyís
desire for achievement, the author said, appears to have
come from his American mother, the Brooklyn-born
Jeanette (Jennie) Jerome, who became Lady Randolph
Churchill when she married Lord Randolph Churchill in
Churchillís social connections and political advice
mattered enormously to her son.
was hugely important to him as an up-and-comer. She had
all of these incredible relationships, possibly affairs
she had had with high-ranking men. She used that. He
asked her to use it again and again."
added that young Churchill told his mother, "This
is a pushing age, and we must push with the best."