Churchill And His Money

 

David Lough uses Churchill’s own most private records, many never researched before, to chronicle his family’s chronic shortage of money, his own extravagance and his recurring losses from gambling or trading in shares and currencies.

 

Churchill’s contemporaries may have expected his father’s Marlborough family money to provide a comfortable start in life, but the truth was that it had been reduced to selling its silver by the time he was born. On his mother’s side, the Jeromes had been equally busy losing his grandfather’s early Wall Street fortune.

 

Churchill’s own parents lived in the style of aristocrats, but at a cost well beyond their means. When his father died early, without providing properly for his two young sons, the elder of the two could only cling on to his place in the Edwardian world by borrowing, ignoring bills and supplementing his meagre rations as an army officer by doubling up as a war correspondent.

 

Before he was twenty-five years old, Churchill had turned himself into the world’s most highly paid journalists, but politics, high spending and his failure to marry the hoped-for ‘rich heiress’ soon consumed the savings. Faced like many others with financial ruin after the Great War, he had to be rescued first by a loan from the former King’s financial adviser (never repaid), then by a Welsh train crash that killed a distant Irish cousin to deliver a timely inheritance.

 

Churchill had spent it all within a decade, gambling more heavily than he ever admitted, mis-managing the costs of modernising his country estate at Chartwell and losing his head in New York’s 1929 stock market crash. He struggled to stay afloat during the 1930s, conjuring up stopgap books from old newspaper articles, declaring periods of household economy that seldom lasted, always juggling writing deadlines with the remains of his political career. On the side, he traded actively in shares or currency futures to help make ends meet, but usually only succeeded in losing more. As his warnings about possible European war gained ground, he had to seek two more secret cash injections to avoid financial collapse, the first in 1938 as Hitler’s Anschluss fell.

 

Yet, having started the war with no money, he ended it with the today’s equivalent of £4 million ($6 million) in his bank, having spent more time than hitherto realized on his private affairs, which he conducted as ruthlessly as he waged war itself.

 

By 1945, he had no real need for the cash injection that followed his friends’ purchase of Chartwell, but recognized an attractive deal when he saw one. Using the money to buy up neighboring farms and start a racing stable, he turned his mind to the record offers pouring in from around the world for his war memoirs. Once his advisers had devised a scheme to keep most of the proceeds out of the clutches of the taxman, his life’s one constant foe, he orchestrated the books’ sale in New York for a world record sum.

 

No More Champagne reveals the breath-taking scale of Churchill’s personal risk-taking and his ability to talk or write himself out of the tightest of corners, all the time linking the private man and the public figure. The result is one of the most original and surprising books about Churchill to emerge for many years, listed  by The Wall Street Journal at the head of its list of the ‘Best Biographies of 2015’.