Winston Churchill’s Cigars: A Puff of History and Tradition

The Iconic Symbol of Winston Churchill

The statue of Churchill with Roosevelt by Lawrence Holofcener shows him with a cigar in hand. Photo by Maggie Coates

Winston Churchill is an emblematic figure in British history, often celebrated for his indomitable spirit and leadership during World War Two. Yet, alongside his resounding speeches and the famous V for victory sign, one cannot overlook another defining characteristic of the man—his enduring love for cigars.


A Cuban Affair: The Birth of a Lifelong Habit

Churchill’s journey with cigars began towards the end of the 19th century during his assignment as a war correspondent in Cuba. Not only did the country expose him to the harsh realities of military life but it also introduced him to one of its finest exports: cigars. The brands that caught his preference were the venerable Cuban labels, Romeo y Julieta and La Aroma de Cuba.

Upon his return to London and his subsequent entry into the Parliament in 1900, Churchill continued his cigar indulgence. He regularly ordered his preferred brands from Robert Lewis, a quaint cigar shop situated at 19 St James Street in Mayfair. Astonishingly, records show that he continued his patronage for a remarkable 64 years.


Through Thick and Thin: Cigars During World War Two

When Churchill steered Britain through its bleakest hours, his love for cigars did not wane. Despite the difficulties of securing imports during wartime, he was often gifted his favourite brands by well-wishers globally. However, in 1941, a shipment from Cuba aroused suspicion, owing to the potential of Nazi agents in the country tampering with the cigars. After a thorough investigation by M15 and scientific advisers, the cigars were declared safe, much to Churchill’s delight. To commemorate the occasion, he distributed these cigars to every member of the Cabinet Defence Committee.


Collector’s Delight: The Allure of a Part-Smoked Churchill Cigar

Cigars were not just Churchill’s personal indulgence; they also became cherished keepsakes. Partially smoked cigars by Churchill himself have turned into highly prized collectables, especially those featuring his characteristic bite marks. Authenticity remains crucial, with a clear history of provenance needed for validation. Recently, in March 2023, one such relic fetched a staggering £25,500 at an auction.


Shop sign. Photo by Maggie Coates

A Legacy Enshrined: Sit in Churchill’s Chair

For those looking to imbibe the spirit of Winston Churchill, a visit to the Churchill War Rooms offers an immersive experience. Although sitting in Churchill’s wartime chair is no longer permissible due to conservation concerns, there is still a chair at his St James Street cigar supplier that visitors can occupy—of course, preferably while trying out a cigar.

The relationship between Winston Churchill and his cigars is far from superficial; it’s woven intricately into the fabric of his public persona and reflects the era he navigated with deft skill. As we learn more about this fascinating character from British history, his cigars remain not just an idiosyncrasy but a token of resilience and unyielding spirit, much like the man himself.


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