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A Newsreel of Winston Churchill Presented with the Society Insignia at Anderson House

In January 1952, Americans prepared with great excitement for a visit from Sir Winston Churchill during the first months of his second term in office as prime minister of Great Britain. The popular leader had coined the phrase "the special relationship" to describe the connection between the United States and Great Britain, particularly to emphasize the bond forged out of their shared trials in the Second World War. For the Society of the Cincinnati, the transatlantic visit was an opportunity to welcome Churchill on the basis of a special relationship born through joint struggles in a much earlier conflict—the Revolutionary War. Cameras rolled in the ballroom of Anderson House as the prime minister was presented with his Eagle insignia and certificate of membership for the Society of the Cincinnati on January 16, 1952.

In fact, Churchill's relationship with the Society had begun almost five years before with his admission as a member of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Connecticut . At first glance the connection may not be readily apparent between the leader of America's adversary during the Revolutionary War and the patriotic society founded to perpetuate the memory of "the separation of the colonies of North America from the domination of Great Britain." But even the throes of the Revolution that separated the two nations politically did not completely sever the binding ties of common heritage and language. In the centuries ahead, faced with international conflict and change, the countries became natural allies. The marriage of American wealth to British tradition was common in personal as well as national alliances throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This intertwining was demonstrated perhaps nowhere more clearly than in the union of Winston Churchill's parents—Lord Randolph Churchill, scion of an ancient English family and a staunch conservative in Parliament, and Jeanette "Jennie" Jerome, the American daughter of a wealthy stock market promoter from New York. Through his mother's family, several of Winston Churchill's ancestors had fought in the Revolution on behalf of the American cause. This dual heritage allowed him to straddle both sides of what he called the "War between Us and We" while championing the current alliance between the two nations.

Churchill's American ancestry did not escape the notice of the Society of the Cincinnati. In April 1947, Col. Bryce Metcalf, president general of the Society, wrote to Churchill stating that it gave him "great satisfaction to report that the Society holds you to be eligible to hereditary membership in the right of your ancestor, Lieutenant Reuben Murray of Burrall's Regiment, such membership being in the Society in the State of Connecticut." Colonel Metcalf was also president of the Connecticut Society at the time and likely anxious for Churchill to settle his membership with the Society in that state rather than through his other ancestors, who had served in Massachusetts and New York. Churchill wrote back granting permission for his name to be put forward for election, which duly occurred on July 4, 1947, in Hartford. The former prime minister's acceptance into membership of a select American hereditary society was an event highlighted in newspapers around the country.

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