Got change for a Winston? Churchill's face coming to a fiver near you

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Former Conservative prime minister honoured by the Establishment. Note: This time it's not Thatcher
Former Conservative prime minister honoured by the Establishment. Note: This time it's not Thatcher

Winston Churchill is to become only the second ever prime minister to feature on a banknote.

Outgoing Bank of England governor Mervyn King unveiled the choice of the war leader as the next historical figure to appear on the new £5 note at Churchill's former home of Chertwell in Kent this lunchtime.

"To merit inclusion a character must have made a lasting contribution which is universally recognised and has had enduring benefits," King said.

"It is a high hurdle, but one that Churchill easily clears to become the first statesman to join our list."


King appears to have forgotten the inclusion of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, who in addition to defeating Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo also served as prime minister from 1828 to 1830 and again in 1834.

The Bank of England only began the practice of memorialising historical figures in 1970. Previous recipients of the honour include naturalist Charles Darwin, physicist Isaac Newton and architect Christopher Wren.

King even suggested the fiver, Britain's most popular banknote, could become known as a 'Winston'.

"The Bank of England has, through its banknotes, a unique and rare opportunity to promote awareness of our nation’s history and acknowledge the life and work of great Britons," he added.

"Sir Winston Churchill was a truly great British leader, orator and writer. Above that, he remains a hero of the entire free world. His energy, courage,  eloquence, wit and public service are an inspiration to us all."

The Bank's decision is not in line with a recent piece of research which suggested members of the public were unfamiliar with the figures appearing on their currency, however.

A survey by OnePoll in December 2011 found Princess Diana was the public figure deemed the people's choice. Other top alternatives included David Beckham, Freddie Mercury and Dame Judi Dench.

The new £5 note features the 'lion' portrait of Winston Churchill taken in December 1941 and a view of Westminster with Big Ben showing the time the ex-prime minister delivered his speech on taking office.

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