Winston Churchill was a huge party monster and racked up an absurd amount of debt

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British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill Biography

Despite Winston Churchill's popular image, Britain's most celebrated statesman spent much of his seemingly extravagant life on the edge of a financial cliff, according to retired banker and Oxford history scholar David Lough.

In Lough's "No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money," he outlines how Churchill flirted with severe debt while projecting an image of wealth, with his limitless appetite for cigars and champagne.

Churchill's private finances often threatened his political career, which spanned more than a half century, including two stints as prime minister.

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Winston Churchill through the years
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Winston Churchill was a huge party monster and racked up an absurd amount of debt
Charlie Chaplin, right, visits with Winston Churchill September 19, 1931. Chaplin was the guest of Churchill at the politician's home at Westerham, Kent, England. Chaplin is visiting in Europe in connection with his latest film. (AP Photo )
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is passed a machine gun during a visit to north east England, August 1, 1940, to inspect coastal fortifications. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill is cheered by shipyard workers after a short speech at a shipyard in north east England, Aug. 1, 1940. Churchill is visiting the region to inspect coastal fortifications and defence works. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
In this photo provided by the British government, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill tries a Tommy Gun during a visit to north-east England, Aug. 1, 1940, to inspect coastal fortifications and defence works. The background behind Churchill has been blotted out by the censor. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, seated right, were surrounded by their Amy and Navy chieftains when they held their meeting at sea. This picture was made aboard HMS Prince of Wales, British Battle ship, and was released by the White House August 14, 1941. Standing, left to right, Harry Hopkins, lease lend administrator, W. Averell Harriman, lease lend coordinator in London, Admiral E. J. King, commander of the Atlantic fleet, Gen. George Marshall, US Army chief of staff, Gen. Sir John G, Dill, chief of the imperial British staff, admiral Harold R. Stark, chief of US Naval operations and Admiral Sir Dudley Pound. (AP Photo)
Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill watches a Stirling bomber taxi-ing across an airfield during a visit to a Bomber Command aerodrome in England, in June 1941. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill chat aboard HMS Prince of Wales on August 14, 1941, a rendezvous that gave the world the Atlantic Charter. A prayer book is on Roosevelt's lap. Behind Churchill are General George Marshall, left, chief of staff, and General Sir John G. Dill, chief of Imperial British Staff. To the extreme left behind FDR is Capt. Elliott Roosevelt, his son. (AP Photo)
British Prime minister Winston Churchill, left, and Josef Stalin share a joke during their historic conference in Moscow, September 13, 1942. Photo taken from newsreel made in the Kremlin. (AP-Photo/Newsreel)
Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill inspects the ship's company of HMS Scylla, Oct. 13, 1942. (AP Photo)
Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill waves on his arrival in Valetta, Malta, in November 1943, en route to Cairo for the Sextant Conference. Churchill, accompanied by his son Randolph, fourth from right, is greeted by the Governor of Malta, Field Marshal Lord John Gort, centre right. (AP Photo/British Official Photo)
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek (left), President Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in an informal pose during an interlude in the North African conference, December 9, 1943. (AP Photo/United Nations)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, reviews American troops at a base in England on the eve of D-Day, June 1944, during World War II. The initials AAAO on the steel helmets with a line across the As stands for "Anywhere, Anytime, Anyhow, Bar Nothing." The identification shoulder patches of the G.I.s are blotted out by the censor. (AP Photo)
FILE---President Harry Truman, center, talks with Soviet leader Josef Stalin,left, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, at the Potsdam Conference near Berlin, on July 17,1945. Historians declare the conference was the start of the Cold War, the division of Germany and Europe into opposing camps. Hiroshima became an A-bomb target while the conference was under way. The nuclear arms race probably began forming in the minds of Soviet leaders while they were there. (AP Photo/files,)
Winston Churchill smiles as he stands in an open car in Antwerp, Belgium, on Nov. 17, 1945. (AP Photo/Clover)
Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill watches the pipers of the 51st Highland Division march past, in Germany, March 6, 1945, during a visit to the British-Canadian front. (AP Photo/Eddie Worth)
Britain's former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, waves his top hat acknowledging the cheers of the people of Luxembourg, July 15, 1946, after he arrived in the city to be made an Honourary Citizen. (AP Photo)
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, left, and U.S. President Harry Truman are aboard the yacht Williamsburg prior to a brief Potomac River cruise in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 5, 1952. Churchill is visiting in an official capacity to attend a conference with American and British officials to discuss common problems in Europe and the Middle and Far East. The painting in the background shows the U.S. frigate Constitution battling the British warship Java during the war of 1812. (AP Photo)
FILE--The flag-draped coffin of Winston Churchill passes St Stephens tower and the houses of Parliament in London in this Jan.30, 1965 file photo. The funeral cortege of Princess Diana, who was killed in a Paris car crash early Sunday, will pass Parliament on its way to Westminister Abbey on Saturday, Sept. 6,1997. While Churchill was given a state funeral, Diana's will be "unique," but not a state funeral as a consequence of her divorce from Prince Charles. (AP Photo/File)
Members of the British Royal Family, heads of state and members of visiting royal families stand on the steps at the front of St. Paul's Cathedral, Jan. 30, 1965, after the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill. (AP Photo)
The funeral barge carrying the coffin of Sir Winston Churchill, moves into mid-stream off Tower Pier, London, for the jorney up the Thames to Festival Hall Pier and Waterloo Station, Jan. 30, 1965. (AP Photo)
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To compensate for his financial woes, Churchill focused on becoming a prolific writer; however, his prose wasn't enough on its own, Lough notes.

So Churchill took an emergency bank loan, which brought his borrowings to £30,000 in 1925, or $2.1 million at current exchange rates and adjusting for inflation (inflation multiples: UK£ x 50).

Feeling the financial pinch, Churchill made several budget cuts to Chartwell, his country estate, in the summer of 1926.

He began by selling all of the cattle, chickens, pigs, and ponies housed on the estate.

Churchill cut the estate's monthly expenses, which cost nearly $33,400 (£480) and included food, wages, maintenance, and cars, in half.

"Nothing expensive is to be bought, by either of us, without talking it over," Churchill wrote to this wife Clementine, according to Lough.

"No more champagne is to be bought. Unless special directions are given only white or red wine, or whisky and soda will be offered at luncheon, or dinner. The Wine Book to be shown to me every week. No more port is to be opened without special instructions."

"Cigars must be reduced to four a day. None should be put on the table; but only produced out of my case."

In addition to the proposed savings, the Churchills would "very rarely, if at all," invite guests over to the estate and would discontinue serving fish during dinner.

Within a year, Churchill's cost-saving plan unraveled and his family shipped off for a lengthy cruise around the Mediterranean.

While traveling, Churchill added a stop to Normandy to enjoy a wild pig-hunt with the duke of Westminister and the duke's new girlfriend Coco Chanel.

Churchill made a second detour to a nearby casino and gambled away $24,350 (£350).

Meanwhile, Churchill was still dodging bills from his architect Philip Tilden who was hired in 1923 to build a new wing to the Chartwell estate.

According to Lough, the Churchill's wanted "larger bedrooms, new bathrooms and kitchen, a library, a large study, and a room for entertaining."

At the time, Churchill had not approved Tilden's building cost estimates before work began on Chartwell. The swelling modernization costs soared, resulting in a series of allegations and delayed payments for Tilden.

"There were renewed threats of legal action on both sides, but the financial trail disappears at this point because Churchill's bank accounts for the last part of 1927 and 1928 are missing from his archive," Lough notes.

In 1927, the Chartwell estate and its furnishings are estimated to have cost at least $2,783,400 (£40,000), nearly triple Churchill's original estimate.

Churchill went on to become prime minster in 1940 and helped craft a successful Allied strategy against the Nazi's during World War II.

He was elected prime minister again in 1951, however, his financial woes shadowed the remainder of his life.

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