Britain’s World War Two leader had racked up a bill of 197 pounds by 1937 – around 12,000 pounds ($18,000) at today’s prices – with Savile Row tailor Henry Poole and Co before he was finally asked to pay up.
He took offense, refused to settle the bill and never darkened Poole’s door again.
Despite the arrears, the tailor had continued to make clothes for Churchill, said James Sherwood, a historian who has examined Poole and Co’s archives.
“Churchill said it was for morale, it was good for us [Henry Poole] to dress him and he wasn’t aware we were short of cash. He never did pay, and never came back – he never forgave us,” Sherwood added on Poole’s website.
Churchill, who led the British government during the war and again in the 1950s, was in exalted company when it came to not settling tailors’ bills.
The son of author Charles Dickens, for example, ran up a bill with Poole which eventually had to be paid by his father.
When he was prince of Wales in the 1870s, King Edward VII, made “infrequent payments on account that accumulated over years”. When a bill was eventually sent to the prince, he withdrew his custom and only came back 20 years later when he became king.
Other famous – and better behaved – customers of the tailor included author Bram Stoker, Prussian Prime Minister Prince Otto von Bismarck, American banker J.P. Morgan and Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, who was visited in person by the tailors in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
When company founder Henry Poole died, his high-profile clients owed him a huge amount and the firm was in a bad financial situation, the archives show.
The last surviving letter from Poole, written in 1875, said: “there will be nothing much to leave behind me. I have worked for a prince and for the public and must die a poor man.”
The archives, which go back to 1865, have been dusted off, rebound and the public can view them by appointment for the first time at Poole’s in Savile Row, central London.