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The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965


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Pritzker Military Library

The Last Lion

This program is presented by Pritzker Military Library and made possible by the support of the Churchill Centre.


Greg Burns interviews author Paul Reid for this edition of Pritzker Military Library's Citizen Soldier.


William Manchester was a tremendously successful popular historian and biographer whose books include The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, The Last Lion: Alone, Goodbye Darkness, A World Lit Only by Fire, The Glory and the Dream, The Arms of Krupp, American Caesar, and The Death of A President. In 1998, after completing much of the research for the final volume of The Last Lion, Manchester suffered two strokes that left him unable to write. Manchester sought a writer with a reporting background to complete his work. In 2003, Manchester asked his friend Paul Reid to complete Defender of the Realm. Reid, who now lives in North Carolina, had spent many years as a feature writer for the Palm Beach Post. But Manchester died less than two months after passing the baton to Reid. Before writing Defender of the Realm, Reid augmented Manchester’s voluminous notes with extensive research of his own. The result, after more than eight years of effort, is the most thrilling volume of The Last Lion triptych.


The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965

Publication Date: November 6, 2012

Spanning the years of 1940-1965, THE LAST LION picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister-when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. The Churchill conjured up by William Manchester and Paul Reid is a man of indomitable courage, lightning fast intellect, and an irresistible will to action. THE LAST LION brilliantly recounts how Churchill organized his nation's military response and defense; compelled FDR into supporting America's beleaguered cousins, and personified the "never surrender" ethos that helped the Allies win the war, while at the same time adapting himself and his country to the inevitable shift of world power from the British Empire to the United States.


More than twenty years in the making, THE LAST LION presents a revelatory and unparalleled portrait of this brilliant, flawed, and dynamic leader. This is popular history at its most stirring.

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Crescendo in C

An unexpected ending for Manchester’s Churchill.


Mar 11, 2013


This magisterial three--volume biography of Winston Church-ill, begun by William Manchester nearly 30 years ago, has at last reached completion, though the path to its finale took a circuitous trip through the wilderness, reminiscent of Churchill himself. The Last Lion is doubtless the most popular Churchill biography, its lyrical adulation for the subject comparable to Carl Sandburg’s six-volume Lincoln biography.




No one had ever heard of Reid, a former feature writer for the Palm Beach Post who had taken up journalism as a second career in his late forties. He knew little about Churchill, and had never written a book before. Thus, the third and final volume is in some sense two stories: the continuation of the Churchill narrative, and the suspense drama of how it would turn out under another hand. Could a novice biographer possibly emulate Manchester’s gripping but sometimes overwrought prose (“Churchill’s feeling for the English tongue was sensual, almost erotic”) and satisfy demanding Churchillians at the same time?




Paul Reid’s summary judgment in this third volume is more sound: “He may have been born a Victorian,” writes Reid, “but he had turned himself into a Classical man. He did not live in the past; the past lived on in him.” This is just one, though the most important, of Reid’s departures from Manchester’s Churchill. And while Reid has produced a more restrained and disciplined narrative, it is nonetheless stirring reading because of the subject matter. Reid’s contribution is worthy of a place among the best Churchill books. Despite the subtle confusions and runaway grandiosity of Manchester’s first two volumes, they remain resplendent reads—so long as readers remember not to take the “last” part of the title literally.

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