Winston Churchill - Retirement and Death

Retirement and Death

Elizabeth II offered to create Churchill Duke of London, but this was declined due to the objections of his son Randolph, who would have inherited the title on his father's death. He did, however, accept a knighthood as Garter Knight. After leaving the premiership, Churchill spent less time in parliament until he stood down at the 1964 General Election. As a mere "back-bencher," Churchill spent most of his retirement at Chartwell and at his home in Hyde Park Gate, in London.

In the 1959 General Election Churchill's majority fell by more than a thousand, since many young voters in his constituency did not support an 85-year-old who could only enter the House of Commons in a wheelchair. As his mental and physical faculties decayed, he began to lose the battle he had fought for so long against the "black dog" of depression.

There was speculation that Churchill may have had Alzheimer's disease in his last years, although others maintain that his reduced mental capacity was merely the result of a series of strokes. In 1963, US President John F. Kennedy, acting under authorisation granted by an Act of Congress, proclaimed him an Honorary Citizen of the United States, but he was unable to attend the White House ceremony.

Despite poor health, Churchill still tried to remain active in public life, and on St George's Day 1964, sent a message of congratulations to the surviving veterans of the 1918 Zeebrugge Raid who were attending a service of commemoration in Deal, Kent, where two casualties of the raid were buried in the Hamilton Road Cemetery. On 15 January 1965, Churchill suffered a severe stroke that left him gravely ill. He died at his London home nine days later, at age 90, on the morning of Sunday 24 January 1965, 70 years to the day after his father's death.

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