June 27, 2023

The Art of Being Winston Churchill: Polo


Winston Churchill kept a stable of polo ponies at Chartwell, maintaining them during his sporadic campaigns of austerity. He continued to play polo throughout the 1920s, describing the sport to his son Randolph as the “Emperor of Games.” To keep the right arm he had damaged in an 1896 accident in India as strong as possible, he lifted dumbbells daily.

On April 18, 1922, after playing at the Duke of Westminster’s Eaton Hall home, Churchill was thrown from his horse while dismounting and so badly injured that he could not move or even sit up in bed for thirty-six hours. Fortunately he was not paralyzed or permanently damaged. He was so deeply shaken, however, that he determined finally to give up the game that had been his passion for more than twenty-five years since his days as a cavalry officer in the reign of Queen Victoria.

But he did not. Churchill played with the Prince of Wales on occasion in 1924. He played on the House of Commons team that defeated the House of Lords in 1925. He finally played his last game on January 8, 1927, at Wembley, as a guest of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes. He was fifty-two years old.

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Barry Singer is proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City and author of Churchill Style (2012).

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