A symbol of freedom and of friendship

Chattel on display

The Ordre de la Libération is a French order which was awarded to heroes of the Liberation of France during the Second World War. It is the second highest honour after the Légion d’Honneur. This Cross of Lorraine trophy, presented to Churchill as part of the award, represents not only Churchill’s role in liberating France from the Germans, but the mellowing relationship between two important world leaders.

Relations between Churchill and General, later President, De Gaulle were somewhat of a rollercoaster during the Second World War. There seems to have been a mixture of mutual admiration and antipathy between the two.

Despite this, De Gaulle spent many evenings at Chartwell and is just one of Churchill’s many famous guests who have signed the visitor book, located in the hall. The glass Lalique cockerel in the drawing room was even a gift to Lady Churchill from De Gaulle. One evening at Chartwell the two leaders once again found themselves in an intense argument. As an apology to Clementine (though oddly not Churchill himself with whom he had quarrelled), De Gaulle sent the glass cockerel.

The Lalique cockerel. a gift from General De Gaulle, on display at Chartwell
Churchill's Lalique cockerel from De Gaulle on display at Chartwell, a National Trust property in Kent
The Lalique cockerel. a gift from General De Gaulle, on display at Chartwell

The Ordre de la Libération was awarded to various honourees between January 1941-1946. Whilst General Eisenhower was awarded the honour, Churchill was inexplicably missed out at the time, in what is believed to be a genuine oversight.

This oversight would not be forgotten by de Gaulle, who even 12 years later was still eager to make amends. As soon as he returned as French President in 1958 De Gaulle ensured Churchill was honoured and the order was reopened to allow the ceremony to take place. It was a significant sign that the relationship between these two strong characters had started to mellow.

Churchill finally received the honour from De Gaulle in Paris on 6 November 1958.He received both the medal, and the crystal Cross of Lorraine which is the item we hope to acquire with our ‘Keep Church at Chartwell’ appeal.

The report by The Times on 7 November 1958 expresses the bond created between De Gaulle and Churchill: ‘In the presence of many distinguished guests, the two men expressed their admiration for each other and affirmed their faith in Anglo-French unity…

Later Sir Winston Churchill was presented as a souvenir with a Cross of Lorraine…It is said to weigh 3lb and the jest was current today that its weight referred to Sir Winston Churchill’s famous wartime remark: “Of all the crosses I have borne in my life, the heaviest is the Cross of Lorraine”…General de Gaulle said in reply that today’s ceremony signified that France knew what she owed Sir Winston Churchill, whom he esteemed and admired more than ever. Nothing was more important than the determination of Britain and France to remain untied in order to march towards their destiny. ‘Long live Churchill, long live Britain, long live France’. Sir Winston was visibly moved, and so were many of those present…’

Keep Churchill at Chartwell

We need to raise £7.1 million by January 2017 in order to save this cross, as well as many other of Churchill's personal belonging, for the nation. We cannot do it without your generosity.

Donate today and help us keep history alive at Chartwell.