Churchill’s love of the high life

Winston Churchill's love of living well meant he was always short of a bob or two.


Winston Churchill lived a life beyond his means

Winston Churchill was famously sybaritic: he loved good wine, expensive cigars, polo ponies, racehorses and gambling. Surprisingly little has been written about this side of Churchill, but in No More Champagne, David Lough, a former banker, seeks to fill the gap, as does Simon Read in Winston Churchill Reporting, a book that covers the great man's adventurous early life.

The picture emerges of someone who was as great a risk-taker with money as he was in politics. His parents were not well off, though this didn't stop them living the high life, a habit they passed on to the young Churchill. During his early career as a soldier and journalist he developed, among other things, his taste for Havana cigars, during an assignment in Cuba. As a young politician, between 1908 and 1914, Winston's household spent an average of £1,106 a year on wine alone, about £104,400 in today's money.

His love of living well meant he was always short of money, lurching from one cash-flow crisis to another, and just managing, through his writing, to make ends meet. A new guide to his life, by the historian Paul Addison, to be published in the New Year, suggests that in the 1930s Churchill's literary earnings came to the equivalent of £600,000 a year. Even that was never quite enough. He took huge advances, but spent freely, convinced he could always earn more if the money ran out. In 1937 he even put his beloved house, Chartwell, on the market only to be rescued at the last minute by a financier who took over his debts.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE

Get 6 issues free

Sign up to Money Morning

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Don't miss the latest investment and personal finances news, market analysis, plus money-saving tips with our free twice-daily newsletter

Sign up

Nessie is still a £30m draw

The heyday of the Loch Ness Monster may be over, but what a heyday it was. According to A Monstrous Commotion, by Gareth Williams, rumours of a monster date from 563AD, though they didn't really get going until 1933 when all sorts of people suddenly started reporting seeing something. These included Miss Fraser, the proprietor of a tea shop, who spotted a 30ft creature "resembling a caterpillar".

Late that year the Daily Mail sponsored a big-game hunter called Marmaduke Wetherell to lead an expedition to find the monster. He found a trail of massive footprints on the shore. MONSTER OF LOCH NESS IS NOT A LEGEND BUT A FACT, screamed the Daily Mail. The National History Museum, however, thought the footprints had been made by the foot of a dead hippopotamus, or possibly an umbrella stand.

Nessie Fever broke out again in the 1950s and lasted, on and off, for years. One expedition, sponsored by The New York Times, took 108,000 photos, though none of the monster. Another, in 1983, employed $100,000 of sonar equipment on 144 floating units and only detected a single 3ft fish. But, as Craig Brown says in The Mail on Sunday, Nessie, like other fading stars, is still a draw, attracting 300,000 visitors a year, and making £30m. "Only if he could persuaded to dress up in a tutu and duet twice nightly with Lord Lucan in a medley of Abba's greatest hits could he hope to do better."

Tabloid money: the Queen's 7% pay rise

"Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement containedgood news for the Queen," says Ephraim Hardcastle in theDaily Mail. "HM gets a 7% pay rise next year as the SovereignGrant rises by £2.8m to £42.8m, a detail meriting just a linein the Chancellor's statement Why does the cuts-obsessedLabour Party, led by republican Jeremy Corbyn, dare nottake exception?"

"Claims of Tory sleaze, thuggery and attempted blackmailof a government minister are lapping ever closer to DavidCameron and close chum Lord Feldman," says Trevor Kavanaghin The Sun. "Dozens of complaints were made to Tory HQ,headed by Feldman, about young men and women bullied intocompromising sex acts... Now ex-party chairman Grant Shapps...has been forced to resign as a minister. Lord Feldman's denial ofall blame is looking increasingly thin. He needs to step aside orrisk leaving Mr Cameron exposed to charges of shielding a pal."

"Tim Yeo is the latest former Tory MP to lose in the libel courts,facing an estimated £400,000 bill for his failed action againstThe Sunday Times," says Ephraim Hardcastle in the Daily Mail."Last year Andrew Mitchell lost £3m in his Plebgate' libel trialagainst The Sun. In 2001, Jeffrey Archer was jailed for lying in alibel case against the Daily Star. In 1998 Rupert Allason lost a libelaction against the BBC, and in 1999 ex-Cabinet minister JonathanAitken was jailed for 18 months for perjury and perverting thecourse of justice in a libel trial. Neil Hamilton was bankruptedafter losing a 1997 libel action against Mohamed Al-Fayed. Aitkensays: Don't sue. It's a mug's game. Sue in haste, repent and paythe bills. Which in my case totalled £4m'."

Boris Johnson's supporters have invited Tory MPs to a party atMark's Club next month, says James Forsyth in The Sun. Giventhat champagne costs £80 a bottle in this Mayfair establishment,it's "another sign that the Boris operation is getting into gear"