Throughout his life, Churchill exhibited a peculiarly individual sense of style, with a love of military uniforms, specially designed zip-up ‘siren suits’ (so called because they could be put on quickly when the air raid sirens sounded), his bow ties and his famous V for Victory hand gestures. Churchill was always drawn to fine clothes. In his younger days, he wore frock coats, trousers and vests as part of his Parliamentary wardrobe, and his suits and overcoats were made by the best tailors in London.
As early as 1905, Churchill visited Poole & Co in Savile Row and he returned frequently in the years following, although later in his career a cutter was usually sent to Chartwell to measure Churchill at home. He eventually stopped ordering his suits from them – the expense became too great and he ended up owing them a considerable sum of money – but to celebrate the centenary of Churchill’s first order with them, Henry Poole & Co revived the chalk-striped flannel of the suit they made for him around 1936. See more on the Henry Poole website.
Churchill’s fondness for cigars was born during his time in Havana, Cuba, in 1885, along with a lifetime habit of siestas. Just before his twenty-first birthday, Churchill went on a semi-official expedition there and witnessed the fighting between the Spanish government soldiers and guerilla fighters at Arroyo Blanco. He was to continue smoking cigars throughout his life. Like his drinking, Churchill’s consumption of cigars was not as prodigious as it seemed. He tended to chew on cigars, puffing the smoke out rather than inhaling, often discarding them half-smoked. It is said that when Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery told him, ‘I neither drink nor smoke and am a hundred per cent fit’, Churchill famously replied ‘I drink and smoke and I am two hundred per cent fit’.
Churchill’s younger brother, Jack, was born in 1880 when Churchill was five. They saw little of their parents and both of them were looked after by a nanny. Mrs Everest (she was, in fact, a spinster; the ‘Mrs’ was an honorary title) was hired when Winston was only a few months old.
The children led a peripatetic life, often travelling with her from their home in Ireland (the ‘Little Lodge’, where the Churchills lived when his grandfather, the 7th Duke of Marlborough, became Viceroy of Ireland), to the Isle of Wight, to Blenheim and to London.
For Churchill, dining was about more than good food, fine French champagne and a robust Havana cigar. He used dining as an art to both to display his conversational talents and to engage in political debate. During the WWII, he presided over dinners at key conferences, using them to exert his considerable conversational skills to attempt to persuade his allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, to fight the war according to his strategic vision. Churchill used dining and the dinner table to do what could not always be done at the conference table.
Throughout his life, he relished his food and ate out often, spending considerable amounts of money on fine meals at hotels and restaurants. He liked traditional English dishes like roast beef and Yorkshire pudding as well as French haute cuisine. He enjoyed shellfish more than fish – he particularly enjoyed raw oysters – and Stilton cheese more than sweet desserts (‘pudding’), but he could easily be persuaded to have both when the opportunity arose! He insisted that ‘puddings’ be expressive. His family heard him announce on more than one occasion, ‘Take away this pudding – It has no theme!’
[My ideal of a good dinner] is to discuss good food, and, after this good food has been discussed, to discuss a good topic – with myself the chief conversationalist.
Churchill, 1925, “Ephesian” [Roberts C. Bechhofer] in Winston Churchill (cited in Langworth, Churchill: In His Own Words)
Churchill died in 1965 and yet his name – and his legacy – lives on, in the educational organisations that he established in his lifetime and in the initiatives set up after his death, to promote excellence, innovation and leadership in education and research in science, technology, health and welfare and the arts. Churchill cared passionately about the future of his country and believed strongly in the importance of education and research in securing success and leadership in the years ahead.
The privilege of a university education is a great one; the more widely it is extended the better for any country.
Churchill, 12 May 1948, University of Oslo
Although Churchill enjoyed travelling and holidays, he was happiest at Chartwell. Purchased in 1922, much against Clementine’s wishes, it was dilapidated and in very poor repair and Churchill dedicated much of his energy – and funds – to renovating and developing the house and grounds. He ended up doing much of the smaller building work himself, taking on the construction of a dam, a swimming pool (which proved very costly to heat), brick walls around the vegetable garden and creating a butterfly house out of a former larder, as well as re-tiling a cottage in Chartwell’s grounds.
Churchill loved animals, large and small. He had always loved horses – he took part in the last great cavalry charge at Omdurman as a soldier in the 21st Lancers, played polo and, in later life, owned broodmares and racehorses – but he also enjoyed having cats and dogs at his side – and oftentimes even on his bed – while at Chartwell.
Churchill surrounded himself with a veritable menagerie of animals, including sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, guinea pigs, hens, ducks, swans and goldfish and, of course, cats and dogs (notably two brown poodles, Rufus I and Rufus II). In 1926 during an economy drive – Chartwell and its staff were expensive to run – many of the animals were sold, but he couldn’t bear to part with his prized Middle White pigs.
Churchill was a man of many interests. He took a keen interest in the development of both silent movies and ‘talking pictures’ and turned the dining room at Chartwell into a cinema room so that we could watch movies in the comfort of his own home. He often stayed up late into the night, particularly during the Second World War, relaxing from the tensions of the day. He particularly enjoyed the film Lady Hamilton (That Hamilton Woman in the US), Alexander Korda’s 1941 patriotic epic starring Laurence Olivier, as Nelson, and Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton.
Although not often thought of as a sportsman, Churchill was a fine fencer in his schooldays, becoming English Public Schools Champion at fencing during his time at Harrow School. But it was riding that he most enjoyed. Always a keen horseman, life as a cavalry officer in the Queen’s Own Hussars suited him enormously. He learnt to play polo as a subaltern, hunted (infrequently) and, although he played polo until his fifties, eventually turned to racehorses – he owned many – to continue his involvement with horses.
In later life, Churchill owned twelve brood mares (his first, in 1945, called ‘Madonna’) and in the summer of 1949, he bought a racehorse – a three-year-old colt called ‘Colonist II’ – which was the first of many thoroughbreds (including, of course, one named ‘Pol Roger’!). Churchill was made a member of the Jockey Club in 1950, much to his delight. His racing colours – pink and chocolate brown (Lord Randolph’s colours) – became the colours of Churchill College, Cambridge
A common trap that people fall into is to refer to Winston Churchill’s beloved country estate in Kent as “ Chartwell Manor.” Even Mary Soames in her wonderful memoir A Daughter’s Tale made this error.
It is true the house was informally, but only ever informally, called Chartwell Manor around the time Mary was born and her father bought the estate in 1922—simply because it was a big and imposing residence. But it was not then and never had been a manor house, and it is quite incorrect and careless to use this as its proper name. Churchill himself never appears to have referred to his house as a manor and simply used “Chartwell” on his stationery. Most of all, the National Trust, as the present owner, does not use the term “manor” because it is legally wrong.
Parts of the house are mediaeval, and down the centuries it was called Well Street or Wellstreet, or occasionally Well Place. It was renamed Chartwell by John Campbell Colquhoun, who bought the estate in the nineteenth century, and the name first appears in the 1851 Kent census. The name was taken from the
Daniel Todman, Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937–1941, Allen Lane, 2016, 848 pages, £30.
Review by Mark Klobas
Mark Klobas teaches history at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and hosts a podcast for the New Books Network.
Daniel Todman’s Into Battle is the first half of an ambitious effort to encapsulate the entirety of Britain’s Second World War experience into a comprehensive narrative, one that begins in the prewar era and promises to end (in a volume scheduled to be published next year) two years after the surrender of the Axis powers. It is a revisionist assessment of the war, that is one that embraces modern perspectives on a story that has often been told in an effort to offer a better understanding of the true dimensions of the conflict.
This effort begins with Todman’s choice of 1937 as his starting point. Opening with the celebrations of the coronation of King George VI, Todman portrays a nation in its last full year free from the immediate threat of war. His focus here is on the changes that Britain was facing, both domestically and internationally, and the stresses these posed to the status quo. Todman uses this to put into context the challenge posed by Hitler’s increasingly aggressive defiance of the Versailles settlement. Drawing upon the lessons of the First World War, the governments of both Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain began a rearmament program designed to build up a modern, mechanized military without straining an economy still recovering from the Great Depression.
Antoine Capet is Professor Emeritus of British Studies at the University of Rouen.
The “Churchill industry” does not only operate in the Anglophone publishing world. France has seen a number of recent publications, which add little if anything to our knowledge of the great man, his entourage, and his times. See for instance my reviews of Frédéric Ferney’s Tu seras un raté, mon fils! in FH 169 and Churchill: La femme du Lion by Philippe Alexandre and Béatrix de l’Aulnoit in FH 172.
The latest petit livre appeared in December 2016, just in time for the festive season and the presents associated with it. The title Winston Churchill has nothing special to attract the buyer. The sales pitch only comes with a small logo below it giving the name of this new series (the next book is to be on Marie-Antoinette—another sure crowd-puller): “Biographie gourmande” (a food-lover’s biography). No doubt there is a market for such a book in France. The pity is that the author has only an embarrassingly superficial knowledge of her subject, and she piles up cliché upon cliché, along with all the old “canards,” on Churchill’s drinking in particular.
Gen David Petraeus at the National Churchill Library and Center
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
Getting the Bearings
HAMPSHIRE—The description of the armorial bearings of the Royal College of Defence Studies on page 21 [image on page 18] is unspecific about which elements represent the branches of the armed forces. Could you please elucidate?
—Paul H. Courtenay
Dr. Stewart obliges:
OXFORD—I am happy to provide the expanded version of the text describing the “Beast” or “the Great Beast,” as the bearings are affectionately known, which features in the College’s updated history that I completed last month:
The trident represents the Royal Navy, the lion the Army, and the wings of the lion the Royal Air Force. In 1955 a silver chain was added around the neck to denote the civilian members in attendance at Seaford House; the laurel wreath replaced this after consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Andrew Roberts is the author of many books, including, most recently, the major new biography Napoleon. His next book will be a full-scale biography of Churchill. This article is adapted from his speech to the 33rd International Churchill Conference in Washington, D. C., 29 October 2016
The concept of the British stiff upper lip was invented by the Victorians, and was especially prevalent in the upper classes, where it was considered infra dig to show one’s emotions openly. It was widely believed that the British Empire itself depended on the capacity of officers and gentlemen to rise above their natural human emotions and stay calm and collected, regardless of whatever appalling thing was happening. The very centre of that British belief-system was to be found in the British Army.
In earlier periods tearfulness did not imply a lack of manliness or self-control. At Admiral Horatio Nelson’s funeral in January 1806, for example, every single one of the eight admirals who carried the coffin down the Nave of St Paul’s Cathedral was in tears, as were at least half of the all-male congregation. Regency men were not expected to have to control their emotions in the way that their Victorian grandsons and great-grandsons were.
Yet there was one Victorian upper-class British Army officer and gentleman who cried in public to such an extraordinary extent that it was remarked upon on so many occasions that we need to regard him instead as a Regency figure born out of his time. Winston Churchill was a man of such powerful emotions, with
The Churchill Centre has formed a partnership with the George Washington University, Washington, DC, to establish the National Churchill Library and Center, which willl be housed on the first floor of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library. This will be the first major research facility in the nation’s capital dedicated to the study of Sir Winston Churchill.
As both scholar and statesman, Winston Churchill is an inspiring figure in leadership and diplomacy. The new Center, through its collections, interdisciplinary academic programs, and educational exhibits, will offer students, faculty, researchers, and the public the opportunity to examine Churchill’s life and legacy. The Churchill Centre is raising $8 million to fund:
• Facilities – $2 million (estimate)
• Endowed Professorship of Churchill Studies & 20th Century British History – $2.5 million Read More >
Join or Renew NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >
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The next issue of Finest Hour will be about "Churchill, Race, and Religion." In the foreword, Lord Boateng, Chair of the Churchill Archives Trust, writes: “Sir Winston did not run away from controversy in his life and would not expect anything less in that which has followed. We do owe him and each other, however, civility and respect in the conduct of those arguments—not least, since we owe to him and the global anti-fascist fight, which he helped lead to such good effect, the secure freedom to hold those arguments at all.” … See MoreSee Less
The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.