By BARRY SINGER
As a young gentleman about town and bachelor MP during the Edwardian era, Winston Churchill most often dined at Edward Willis’s Restaurant or at the Coburg Hotel on Carlos Place, just around the corner from his Mount Street apartment. Originally known as the Prince of Saxe Coburg Hotel, the Coburg changed its Germanic sounding name during the First World War to the Connaught, transforming itself into London’s most quintessentially English hotel.
The Connaught first opened in 1815 in what originally had been a pair of Georgian houses. In 1892 these houses were demolished, and the present structure opened in 1897. The name adopted during the Great War was chosen from the title of Queen Victoria’s third son, Prince Arthur, the first Duke of Connaught. As a newly-commissioned second lieutenant in June 1895, Churchill had served as part of an escort for the Duke during a visit to Aldershot by the Emir of Afghanistan. “I was seven hours on horseback without dismounting,” Churchill wrote his mother, “but it was a great honour.”
The following month, when the future King George V and Queen Mary visited Aldershot in July 1895, Churchill had “quite a long talk with the Duke of Connaught about the Election.” The General Election of 1895 was the first in more than sixty years in which William Gladstone was not a candidate. Only Churchill in the twentieth century would match Gladstone’s record for parliamentary longevity.
Barry Singer is the author of Churchill Style (Abrams Image, 2012) and the proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City.