The unveiling of the new Churchill £5 note, already being dubbed ‘The Winston’ by some, which was announced at Chartwell on Friday came as a huge personal relief to me. For many months I have been carrying around the secret that this was to happen, being one of a small group who were informed and consulted, and was terrified that I might inadvertently let it slip. Now the news is finally out in the open, and the overriding response from the press seems to have been not why, but why has it taken so long. In fact, as the Governor explained at the opening, this is actually fast going for the Bank, and Churchill is only the second figure from the twentieth century to find his way on to a British note, the first being the composer Elgar.
My reward for keeping my secret was to attend the unveiling ceremony at Chartwell, Churchill’s house in Kent. The Churchill family were there in strength, including Lady Soames, his daughter, who described it as a proud day for her, her family – and the country. The note will not come into circulation until 2016, and security considerations meant that I could not get a prototype for the Archives Centre, but at the lunch afterwards Lady Soames was presented with an image of the design. It depicts the famous Karsh image of Churchill, taken in 1941, alongside images of the Houses of Parliament and the Nobel Medal for Literature, thereby representing Churchill as both a politician and a writer. It also features the quotation from May 1940, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. Perhaps this is the new mission statement for the British economy?