One of the most important figures of the 20th century, the entire world’s history would’ve been scripted very differently if it wasn’t for Winston Churchill. One of the greatest war leaders, he was an inspirational statesman, stubborn imperialist, poetic speech writer, master public speaker, and intense patriot who led Britain to victory in the Second World War.
With a zest for the finer things in life, the sight of Winston Churchill smoking cigars, alongside his love for champagne, became two of his defining characteristics. As one of the most popular and significant individuals in political history, we’ve taken a closer look at his early life, long political career, major accomplishments, and the smokes he enjoyed the most.
Who was Winston Churchill?
Twice appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill was born November 30, 1874, in Blenheim Place, Oxfordshire. Despite being the product of wealthy, aristocratic parents, the young Churchill was far from a model student during his school days.
Poorly behaved and boisterous in the classroom, he didn’t attend university. The army proved to be his salvation when he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst) at the third time of asking, as a cadet in the calvary. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had a high standing in the Conservative Party ranks, with their political careers ending up following similar paths. Lord Randolph died a month after Churchill graduated from Sandhurst.
After he left Sandhurst, Churchill entered the world of journalism. He reported news on the Cuban War of Independence from Spain before serving in India for 19 months, working as both a soldier and a journalist. He was also a notable participant in the battle of Omdurman in Sudan, commanding a troop of 25 lancers.
Still yet to turn a quarter of a century, the next assignment in his dizzying political correspondence portfolio was to cover the Boer War in South Africa. London’s Morning Post deemed him worthy of a staggering pay-packet – a thousand dollars a month plus expenses. He was captured as a prisoner of war before dramatically escaping just four weeks into his captivity by scaling the prison fence.
Despite the Boers launching a massive manhunt, he could safely navigate the 300-mile journey through enemy territory, eventually smuggling his way onto a freight train that carried him to freedom in Portuguese East Africa.
His exploits captivated the British public, who needed a hero given they were losing the war, launching his political career.
What was Winston Churchill best known for?
With such a chequered past before returning to England in 1900, it seems absurd that he still hadn’t reached the headlines.
At this point, he really threw himself into the British political system. He became a Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Oldham before switching allegiance to the Liberals four years later.
Churchill took on a variety of roles under H. H. Asquith’s government, including Home Secretary and First Lord of the Admiralty. In the years between the two world wars, Churchill once again changed sides, re-joining the Conservatives and serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1924. This saw him make one of the most catastrophic political decisions of his career – the restoration of the Gold Standard.
However, it was the failure of another politician that gave Churchill his big break. As Churchill expressed growing concern over the resurgence of German nationalism, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was doing all he could to appease Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Confidence in Chamberlain’s conduct of the war plummeted, paving the way for Churchill to take the top job on May 10, 1940.
During this period, he became renowned for his extraordinary leadership skills and stirring speeches, which helped galvanize the nation. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” Churchill told the House of Commons in his first speech as prime minister.
Even though he was ousted two months after Germany’s surrender in 1945, he won the hearts of the public. This was evident in his broadcast on Victory in Europe Day (the day after Germany’s surrender). Whilst at Whitehall, he addressed the crowds claiming, “This is your victory”. The people replied, “No, it is yours”.
He became Prime Minister again in 1951, finally retiring in 1955 after nine years in the hot seat. A winner of the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for his many books on English and world history, Sir Winston Churchill received a knighthood in 1953 and was voted the greatest-ever Briton (beating the likes of Shakespeare and Darwin) in the 2002 BBC poll, 100 Greatest Britons.
For some. he remains an intensely controversial figure, but he will forever be celebrated for his audacious, brave, and tireless resolve during Britain’s darkest hours in WW2 to defeat the might of Nazi Germany.
The cigar legacy of Winston Churchill
An avid and dedicated cigar smoker, Churchill would typically burn through eight to ten cigars a day. He came across cigars when serving in Cuba in 1895, and a new habit was born.
Borrowing from another of his famous witticisms, “My tastes are simple. I am easily satisfied with the best”. It was Cuban cigars that won the heart of Churchill. He became synonymous with two brands in particular: La Aroma de Cuba and Romeo y Julieta.
Davidoff Cigars were inspired by Winston Churchill and we’re big fans of their Late Hour cigar, which pays tribute to the man’s work ethic that often went deep into the night. The tobacco is aged for six months in the finest Scotch whiskey casks and delivers white pepper, charred wood, earth, and a subtle boozy-sweetness.
No matter what he was smoking, Churchill used his cigars to symbolize his determination and success. His perseverance was especially noticeable when he took a flight in a high-altitude plane that required the use of oxygen masks. To satisfy his cigar fix, he devised a special mask that allowed him to smoke cigars through a hole.
Churchill had such an impact on the cigar industry that he even had a cigar size named after him. Churchills are longer sticks, usually measuring 7” x 48-50, with the extra length giving an additional 30-60 minutes burn time.
If Winston has taught us anything, it’s that you can always find time to enjoy a premium cigar (even if you’re leading your country through WW2). Find some time of your own to visit your local Casa de Montecristo cigar lounge and become a cigar connoisseur, just like Winston.