No More Champagne: Churchill and his Money (Great Lives) Kindle Edition
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Winston Churchill was in debt most of his life. But it was a "gentleman's" debt; he owed money to maintain his lifestyle. His parents - American mother and British father - lived beyond their means. His mother, in particular, lived on the edge of financial failing which was the result of her profligate spending. There seemed to be little incentive for any of the Churchills to maintain a budget; borrowed and gifted money was easily obtained. Bills to shops were rung up with little regard to their ultimate payment or the effect of late payment to the vendor. David Lough's book is filled with detail about Churchill's spending on houses, drink and cigars, and gambling. He gambled in casinos and in the stock market. He also tended to lose more than he won. Occasionally, when pressed for money, he would decree a period of budgeting, but the periods never seemed to last for very long or were effective. Churchill cobbled together an income by writing and government service and some inheritance.
But what David Lough doesn't attempt to do is to psych analyse Winston Churchill through his handling of his finances. Most readers of the book are familiar enough with Churchill's "black dog" periods. Was his over-spending a reaction to the reappearances in his life of that "black dog"? Lough rather writes about Churchill's life equating where he was financially, politically, and socially in various points.
I'd say that David Lough's book is not for someone looking for a general biography of Winston Churchill. The book is very heavy with facts and figures as well as dates and places. The last two things are common in a biography but Lough's book is special because he writes with emphasis on the first two. He includes at the beginning of each chapter a handy guide to Exchange rates and Inflation multiples which help the reader understand the worth of the money at the time. Also included is a fine set of illustrations of Churchill and the people important in his life. This is a detailed and well written book.
Since Churchill was the grandson of a duke and of a Wall Street millionaire most people would assume that money was the last thing he would ever have to worry about. But his father Lord Randolph Churchill was a younger son whose financial inheritance was small, and his maternal grandfather Leonard Jerome's financial affairs were too tangled and uncertain to allow him to leave much to his descendants. Churchill's parents lived in grand style on fairly small incomes, borrowing fortunes and spending even larger ones. Young Winston grew up thinking of money as a nuisance that other people had to worry about.
Churchill carried on the family tradition tenfold when he became an adult. He was an indefatigable journalist, turning out reams of copy for which he was quite well paid. He then proceeeded to spend much more than he earned as he began to make his way in politics, got married and started a family, and rose to the British Cabinet before his fortieth birthday. He spent lavishly, bought houses and estates he couldn't afford, gambled at Monte Carlo and Biarritz, and borrowed and borrowed again from wealthy friends. The pattern continued and intensified through World War I and the Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. He had impressive streaks of good luck and then devastating periods of bad luck, such as when he made the decision to invest heavily in US stocks in the summer of 1929. Many of his investments might now raise eyebrows and lead to accusations of insider trading, influence peddling, and profiteering, but his powerful personality and multitudinous political and financial connections allowed him and his fortunes to thrive nevertheless.
This is a well written and eye opening chronicle of excess. Churchill made and squandered several fortunes in his long lifetime, shuffling funds back and forth between different investment vehicles and trusts. It was fascinating and amusing to read about the gall and indifference to public opinion with which he went about dealing with his finances, squeezing time out of his busiest days to deal with his money managers even in the darkest wartime moments. I felt sorriest for his wife Clementine, who came from a family of gamblers and spendthrifts and who was much more cautious with money as a result, but I was relieved to learn that one end result of her husband's machinations left her and their children fairly well provided for
Winston Churchill deserves his reputation as a giant of twentieth century world history, and nothing in this book detracts from it. Rather, Lough's tale rounds out the tale of Churchill's life and makes him even more impressive, (and exasperating.)