As British prime minister during World War II, Winston Churchill loomed large in the public consciousness. His speeches to rally Allied forces were heard around the world, with some of his speech impediment—a reported lateral lisp—evident.
Churchill had another oratory secret: He wore dentures, and one set is now up for auction.
Cotswold Auction Company is offering Churchill’s partial denture, which was used to replace six of his upper teeth, for public sale on February 6. The appliance, which may fetch between $6000 and $10,000, has a gold-mounted plate and is believed to have been crafted just prior to the start of World War II.
Dental problems began in Churchill's childhood, when his mother complained of the money their family was spending on his oral care. He lost a few teeth in his 20s, forcing a need for replacements.
According to the auction house, dentist Sir Wilfred Fish designed the dentures for Churchill. He likely had four sets made, two of which Churchill carried with him at all times in case one was lost or damaged. (His personal secretary was charged with toting the spare teeth.)
The latter might sometimes have been the result of Churchill’s own temper. During the war, Churchill was reputed to have thrown the teeth in anger at times. Once, he sat on them. On other occasions, Churchill complained the dentures were affecting his taste. But overall, he seemed pleased with Fish’s treatment, later nominating the dentist for knighthood.
One of the sets was buried with Churchill. Another of Churchill’s dental appliances is owned by the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
Fish created the replacement teeth with an eye on preserving Churchill’s lisp, which was still detectable when the prime minister used certain words or phrases. (To avoid an s or sh- sound, which he had trouble with, Churchill was said to have pronounced “Nazis” as “Narzees.”)
“From childhood, Churchill had a very distinctive natural lisp; he had trouble with his S’s,” Jane Hughes, head of learning at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, told The Guardian in 2010. “Churchill wanted to maintain [the lisp] because he was already so well known for it. The dentures wouldn’t quite connect with the top of the mouth, but that was on purpose.”
This isn’t the first time the teeth have come up for sale. In 2010, Nigel Cudlipp, son of dental technician Derek Cudlipp, sold a denture for $23,700.
Churchill was no stranger to having custom items fabricated for him. Engineers once crafted a sarcophagus-like pod that would protect the PM from high altitudes, which he found uncomfortable owing to health issues, during plane trips. Though it was determined to be impractical, Churchill got another flight upgrade: a heated toilet seat.
Cotswold doesn’t have the airplane egg or toilet for sale, but it is offering another major Churchill item. The microphone he used to announce the end of the war is expected to sell for up to $10,000.
[h/t The Messenger]