Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill Had the World’s Sincerest Bromance
History has seen its fair share of bromances — Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Timon and Pumba, the Property Brothers — but one pair of bros stands Solo cups above the rest: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Spencer Churchill. Because if there’s any better way to bond than winning a beer pong tournament, it’s taking down the Nazis.
Although the Lend-Lease program made Britain more dependent on America than the Republic on the Empire, the two men treated each other largely as equals. They had both been raised by wealthy, prominent families in their respective countries and been educated at some of the finest schools they had to offer as well. Most importantly, though, they had both spent some of their formative (and favorite) years on the sea — one fighting to preserve the United Kingdom’s status as the world’s preeminent naval power, and the other seeking to establish the United States as its successor.
When the bros met at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in 1941 — to discuss the postwar world in what would become the Atlantic Charter — Churchill made his introduction especially grandiose, as he thought it was their first time hanging out. Party foul: they’d originally met in 1918 at Gray’s Inn, London’s premier lawyer association, but Churchill had simply forgotten (one too many brandies, perhaps?). Nevertheless, the second time around the Squire of Hyde Park made quite the impression: Churchill said “meeting [Roosevelt] was like opening your first bottle of champagne.” Thus, Churchill’s IRL blunder was quickly forgiven.
Of course, the two had been corresponding for a number of years because of the whole Hitler thing, and forgetting someone’s name isn’t quite as bad as annexing Czechoslovakia. Churchill once even told his private secretary of his bro, “No lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt,” though the war would only bring them together personally a handful of times. The majority of their interactions took place over telegram — but fortunately, “unlimited data” wasn’t a thing back then. So just two months after their rendezvous in Placentia Bay, Churchill concluded a particularly intimate message with: “How I wish we could have another talk.” Without the DM slide at his disposal, Roosevelt responded, also by telegram: “I wish I could see you again!”
Outside of naval affairs, the American and the Englishman had plenty in common: They were both as blue-blooded as a lobster dinner at The Breakers and, boy, did they enjoy getting turnt as fuck. What else would you expect of the Congressman who said, “I believe now would be a good time for a beer” after Prohibition was repealed and the Member of Parliament who drank “champagne at all meals”?
Though Roosevelt preferred martinis and cigarettes to Churchill’s brandy and cigars, over the course of their relationship they frequently slipped away from their wives so they could stay up late drinking and debating. In fact, Roosevelt called these the “Winston Hours,” as there was nothing Churchill loved more than not sleeping and yelling about colonialism. (It was famously noted that, afterward, Roosevelt had to sleep for ten hours a night, three days in a row, to recuperate.)
The two had very little to hide from each other. When Winnie visited the White House in December 1941, he was posted up in the Monroe Room, a guest suite which had been prepared just to his liking: “There must be a tray in his room with a plentiful supply of all the drinkables that were needed,” wrote Eleanor Roosevelt in The Atlantic in 1965, on hosting him. Clearly, Churchill was dedicated to his routine, which also included hot baths in the morning. Following one of these, he was just straight-up luxuriating in bed, bare-ass naked. Franklin had awoken earlier and having apparently already dressed himself, he decided to roll on by and see how the Prime Minister had enjoyed his stay thus far — and entered without knocking. Upon spying his buddy’s crown jewels, Franklin immediately began to retreat. Churchill simply looked at him and said: “Pray enter. His Majesty’s First Minister has nothing to hide from the President of the United States.” (Later, Roosevelt would say of his friend’s naked ass: “He’s pink and white all over.”)
The Axis of Evil didn’t facilitate their long-distance relationship, but the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom always maintained their own sort of Bro Code: With each loss or victory (or hangover), they would check in with each other. After the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, for instance, Roosevelt wrote to Churchill: “I realize how the fall of Singapore has affected you and the British people…I hope you will be of good heart in these trying weeks because I am very sure that you have the great confidence of the masses. I want you to know that I think of you often and I know you will not hesitate to ask me if there is anything you think I can do.”
Later that same year, FDR would come down with a nasty flu. Upon learning of it, Churchill cabled him with the kind of lame joke you’d only get away with sending to your BFF: “It is a nuizenza to have the fluenza.” In fact, throughout the course of their friendship Roosevelt would have to put up with a ton of awful Churchill humor, like when he described Charles de Gaulle as a “female llama who had been surprised in her bath.” But hey, when you and your pal are trying to stop a guy whose face is perpetually stuck in Movember, you gotta have a little humor.
Despite Churchill’s bad jokes, Roosevelt was unabashed in his adoration of the Prime Minister. He once told Churchill’s closest Royal Navy commander, Charles Thompson, to take care of his friend: “He’s about the greatest man in the world. In fact he may very likely be the greatest.” Churchill felt the same — even in the tumultuous final days of the war. As the two governments bickered over agreement on a peace settlement, Churchill telegraphed Roosevelt: “I regard the matter as closed and to prove my sincerity I will use one of my very few Latin quotations, ‘Amantium irae amoris integratio est.’” Translation: “Lovers’ quarrels always go with true love.” Their efforts (and friendship) would achieve the lasting peace they each wanted, though Roosevelt would never know it: he died just a week after receiving Churchill’s final love letter.
While it is unfortunate that these best buds didn’t get to share in some celebratory cigars after defeating Hitler, the President had once cabled the Prime Minister a long and introspective message that ended with perhaps, at that point, the sweetest thing one man had ever said to another: “It is fun to be in the same decade with you.” For millions of others who were able to smoke, drink, and ultimately sleep soundly because of their brilliant strategy and beautiful friendship, it was a life-saving stroke of luck.
Josh Fjelstad is a writer and creative director in New York.
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