Nowadays, having a tattoo isn't a big deal. Today, tattoos are popular and more accepted than ever. Sir Winston Churchill didn't have this luxury when he got his tattoo in the 1930's.
Did Winston Churchill Have a Tattoo?
Yes! Despite being an officer in the army, Churchill reportedly got an anchor inked on his right upper arm. In that era, anchor tattoos were typically reserved for navy-men due to the maritime association and nautical symbolism, and considering Churchill was in a different branch of the military, this is most unusual.
Especially in his place in the aristocracy and political elite, Winston Churchill's status as a tattooed man was particularly rare, and not something often seen in the high society circles he belonged to.
The tattoo of an anchor is said to be on his right arm near his shoulder.
His Mother, Lady Randolph Churchill's, Tattoo
Churchill, perhaps inspired by his mother's unique relationship with tattoos, got one after his military service. Sir Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie Spencer-Churchill (née Jennie Jerome) was a wild woman and a free-spirit likely instilling Winston with his fierce level of ambition and independence. The daughter of a wealthy American business tycoon, Jennie rebelled, travelling the world, and marrying an English aristocrat. On the return leg of her journey around the world, when her steam ship came into port, she is said to have seen a talented sailor's tattoos on another man, and asked for the artist to report to her to hash out some ideas for a tattoo for Lady Randolph Churchill. The pair discussed several ideas, but Churchill was ultimately intrigued by the Egyptian and Greek mythology behind the ouroboros — a snake eating itself.
Jennie Spencer-Churchill was given the tattoo on her wrist then and there and arrived back in England with her new permanent artwork, much to the dismay of her aristocratic in-laws.
Except, that story may not be true. Upon her death, no tattoos were noted and family never went on the record to talk about her ink. Her biographer speculates that the entire story was either concocted or given credence by Lady Randolph Churchill to cement her image as a wild woman, creating and enhancing the air of mystery around herself.
Why has no-one seen it?
In the early half of the 20th century tattoos were considered as only being for low class blue-collar workers and navy-men, certainly not something commonplace for those in high society and this was most certainly the reason Sir Winston Churchills tattoo never saw the spotlight.
As far as we can tell, he never spoke of it or referred to it, it's existence is only known because of third party accounts. We've scoured the Churchill Society's archives as well as the internet looking for photographic evidence and despite many pictures of him in a swimsuit and arms bare decades after he was supposed to have been inked, we can't see a trace of a tattoo.
This leads us to believe that not only may it not exist, it's possible the rumour was perpetrated in the same way as his mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, did of hers to cement and augment a reputation.