Bosses of the Bank of England almost outed former Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the new 5-pound note as they were worried his records during the Second World War might upset the Germans and the Japanese visiting the country.
Before deciding on whether it is appropriate to put Churchill on the new 5-pound note, officials had issued a warning to then Governor of the bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, stating that Britain’s prime minister during WWII might be a person too controversial to be printed on money due to his wartime records.
the memo dated April 11, 2012, a previously highly-classified document but was brought to light in lieu of the freedom of information laws, advised Sir Mervyn that Churchill is a likely choice because his name is broadly recognized and that he is highly regarded by the public for his strong role as a leader in face of a great war. However, it also carried a warning saying that “the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent”.
The rest of the memo which is believed to be related to Britain’s relations with former enemy countries Germany and Japan were edited.
‘Public bodies are obliged to redact any material which might impact on Britain’s international relations with another country, and this is what has happened here,’ a source from the bank issued a statement about this matter last October 11.
However, Churchill’s biographer, Andrew Roberts, had this to say:
‘The comments redacted would have been about irritating the Germans. I don’t think a German or Japanese tourist would be in the slightest bit put off by the fact there is Churchill on a £5 note and he is the man who flattened Dresden and Hiroshima. They appreciate he’s the greatest Englishman who ever lived so you put him on the currency. It’s surprising this hasn’t happened earlier.’
Part of the warning issued by the officials also talked about Churchill’s ‘disastrous’ decision about returning Britain to the gold standard in the 1920s. At that time, critics of the WWII prime minister, backed by the Bank of England, claimed the move brought about massive unemployment issues, setbacks and industrial troubles in the late 1920s up to the early 1930s.
Nevertheless, the staff of the bank who amde their own research about the said matter noted:
‘If academics do pick up on the move to the gold standard it is likely they will refer to the role of the Bank and Churchill’s own criticism of the Bank.’
Churchill will appear on the 5-pound note starting 2016.
Not Just Churchill
Another English high-profile individual who went under intense scrutiny before making it as a money image is Pride and Prejudice
Miss Austen, known for being a prim spinster, had to undergo a background check to assure the same officials who raised issues about Churchill the author had a clean slate when it comes to her private life.
Miss Austen is set to appear in the 10-pound note starting in 2017.
‘We have taken great care to ensure men and women chosen are admired by the British public,’ a bank spokesman stated in defense to the rigid examinations they did.
Jane Austen Society’s Maureen Stiller seemed quite happy about the background check bank officials did on the author saying:
‘I love the fact they went to the trouble of checking her private life. But there is absolutely no controversy there.’
However, some found it odd that they did knowing that fellow author Charles Dickens who graced the 10-pound note from 1992 to 2003 had a not-so-proper private life – he having at least one mistress.