Did Churchill drink too much?

Many people have said that he did. In a recent interview, reported in The Daily Telegraph on 2 March, his 97-year-old niece, Lady Avon (widow of Anthony Eden), denied that his consumption was out of the ordinary. Alistair Lexden expressed a rather different view in a letter published in the paper on 5 March.

SIR - Lady Avon asserts that her uncle Winston Churchill drank “not more than most men” (report, March 2).

It is true that he would toy with a weak whisky, described by one of his private secretaries as “scotch-flavoured mouthwash”, for hours on end.

During and after meals, however, he imbibed on a scale not seen among politicians since the 18th century. It has been estimated that he consumed some 42,000 bottles of champagne during the course of his life.

Very substantial regular intake enabled him to avoid insobriety. The only occasion on which he was seen drunk was at the Tehran Conference in 1943 after a long night exchanging toasts with the Soviet leaders.

He wrote: “I had been brought up and trained to have the utmost contempt for people who got drunk—except on very exceptional occasions and a few anniversaries.”

Lord Lexden
London SW1