A post on Facebook tells the story of a supposed conversation between former prime minister Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine Churchill.
In the anecdote, shared more than 1,700 times, Mrs Churchill tells her husband that she had been speaking with a street sweeper who had been “madly in love” with her many years before. Asked if that meant she could have been a street sweeper’s wife, she replies that no, the man would have become prime minister if she had married him, implying that she was behind Churchill’s success.
No source is given for this quote, and a historian specialising in Churchill has described it as a “manufactured quote”.
As fact checking service Snopes has previously written, fabricated quotes following the “if I had married him” trope have been circulating online and in print since at least the 1990s. They have been applied to many high-profile couples including a string of former US presidents and first ladies such as Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hilary Clinton and George W. and Laura Bush.
All the stories follow a very similar format, and the former love interests can take the form not only of street sweepers, but other workers who make a living via manual labour such as mechanics or builders.