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Winston Churchill’s Secret Life

A new biography reveals the severe financial struggles of the famous prime minister

In No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, author David Lough reveals a lesser known side of Winston Churchill. Although the famous prime minister is certainly seen as a risk-taker by many for his fearless decision-making during World War II, the extent of the chances he took with his personal finances has never been examined like this before.

Lough creates a timeline of unfortunate financial decisions to tell the story of Churchill’s life. There’s the trip he embarked on to dispatch news from Cuba as a means of escaping England, where he could not keep up with his peers’ lavish spending. Then there was the time he squandered an unexpected inheritance—equivalent to about $5 million today.

“The most surprising thing I think he did,” says Lough, “was that during the 1930s, when he was so much in debt—and the debt was building up and up and getting worse and worse however hard he tried—whenever he was on holiday in France, he would still go to the casino and gamble away and lose another $50,000 a year on top of everything else.” 

Churchill’s problems were not caused by a lack of ingenuity. “By the time he was 25,” says Lough, “he had inherited not an acre of land or any money from his parents or anybody, but he had made himself what in today’s terms would be a millionaire.” He simply couldn’t seem to resist the temptation to gamble, spend, or make high-risk investments with his earnings. He was a self-made man, but his desire to maintain the allure of being part of the wealthy class created quite a dark chest of secrets for this historical icon. 

No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money, $17.60, amazon.com