Here’s another historical synchro, this one related to a nanny who raised not one, but two British prime ministers. Once again, we have absconded this story from Beachcoming’s Bizarre Historical Blog.
When Churchill died in 1965 at the age of 90 there was one picture by his bedside. The picture was not of his wife (though their marriage had been a success), nor of his children, nor of his parents. Rather it was of his nanny who had left the earth seventy years before. As in many upper class British and American families of the era Churchill had a distant relationship with his parents. He described his American mother as being a far-off and rarely glimpsed star. And his true confidante and friend growing up was the governess Mrs Elizabeth Everest, who Churchill chose never to forget.
He visited her on her death bed (where she worried about his wet clothes). He tended her grave in later life and retained her image, as noted above, at his bedside–a memory of her soothing face.
Much is made of this remarkable lady by modern historians (who liken her as an example of upper class child-rearing) and Churchillians: one blog described her as the Nanny who Saved Western Civilization. In Churchill’s My Early Life he gives her, certainly, full praise. While the young Churchill was in many ways a rather unbecoming fellow, discharging pistols into the faces of Sudanese tribesmen and bullying other members of his unit, he did at least remain loyal to this member of the lower orders who had animated his early years.
But there is something else about Mrs Elizabeth Everest that the Beachcombing blogger had difficulty making sense of. It’s a synchronicity and Beachcoming had said elsewhere that finding meaning in coincidences is for the ‘weak minded.’ Well, it seems he has joined the pack.
When Mrs. Everest (no relation to Mt. Everest) moved on from the Churchills’ employ she became a nanny to another British family, the Attlees, where she stayed for the two remaining years of her life. The Attlees were an unremarkable upper middle class family with a tradition of serving their country in the law courts, and one of the children she took care of was Clement Attlee, then aged ten.
Later, Clement would lead the Labour Party in the Second World War, serve ably in the war cabinet and then take over from Churchill after the 1945 general election. Churchill came up with a whole battery of insults for the rather plain but well-meaning Clement: ‘a sheep in sheep’s clothing’, ‘an empty taxi drew up and Clem Atlee got out.’ Needless to say, they did not have particularly good relations: though they managed to generally remain civil to each other in some very tense situations.
Amazingly, one woman nannied two successive British prime ministers! If the Attlees had been part of the aristocracy then the coincidence would be a little bit easier to swallow. After all, there were perhaps a thousand families there, many of whom belonged to the British governing class: it could happen without too many sixes being rolled. But the Attlees were part of the upper middle classes and we are speaking here of tens thousand different families in London alone.
In the end, Beach decided that maybe some coincidences are meaningful and synchronicity is the nanny of our everyday reality. Well, he didn’t exactly say it that way, but we did! ;-)