Viking longships and Leningrad cigar boxes: Chartwell reveals Winston Churchill's gifts

By Richard Moss | 18 November 2013

From Stalin's Viking long boat to De Gaul's cockerel, the many gifts received by Winston Churchill go on display at Chartwell

a photo of a library room with leather armchair, lamp, book cases and a table with cigars, cigar box and other trinkets
Some of the gifts received by Winston Churchill, shown in situ at Chartwell© National Trust, Jonathan Primmer
For Winston Churchill, receiving gifts from fellow statesmen and admirers was just part of the daily round of a man of worldwide influence and renown.

From brandy and cigars to an ivory miniature painted with a single cat’s hair and, of course, more cigars, the gifts flowed from figures like Stalin and Roosevelt to appreciative members of the general public.

Stalin’s offering (after the 1944 Moscow Conference) was a 19th century cut glass fruit bowl in the shape of a Viking longship. Roosevelt presented a set of maps and De Gaulle made a Gallic gesture by presenting Churchill’s wife Clementine with a Lalique crystal cockerel.

Now, more than 60 years on, these trinkets and treasures are going on display for the first time in an exhibition called Gifts of Power at Churchill’s much-loved family home, Chartwell.

The National Trust property, from which Churchill drew inspiration from 1924 until the end of his life, remains as much as it was when he lived here, with pictures, books and personal mementos evoking the career and wide-ranging interests of a great statesman, writer, painter and family man.

And visitors will discover that, rather like a father who receives golf-themed gifts every Christmas, Churchill was the recipient of countless cigar-themed offerings.

Among the inevitable barrage of cigar boxes was one from Russia – inscribed ‘Winston Churchill April 1945, Leningrad’ – with a lifelike portrait of Winston made from cigar leaves in its lid. King Peter II of Yugoslavia, meanwhile, opted for a sliver cigar box with a delicately engraved map of London on the front.

Other favourite Churchillian interests were catered for in presents such as a Portuguese brandy glass warmer in the shape of a donkey pulling a cart and a drawer of silver cutlery given by the city of Sheffield.

“Churchill was given a huge variety of gifts from a range of sources, reflecting his worldwide influence and admiration,” says Judith Evans, the house and collections manager at Chartwell.

“Among the glittering and expensive gifts from other political powerhouses of his day are a number of items from the general public. Many of these items have never been seen before and we look forward to sharing their stories with our visitors."

  • Gift of Power is on display at Chartwell, Westerham from November 18 2013 - February 23 2014. Open 11am-4pm (closed December 25-26). A children’s trail around the garden also highlights the animals Churchill was offered as gifts. Normal admission prices apply.

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a photo of a brandy warming device in the shape of a donkey and cart which tips and warms the glass with a wick
A donkey brandy glass warmer© National Trust, Jonathan Primmer
a black and white photo of a glass cockeril
Lalique crystal cockeril© National Trust, Jonathan Primmer
a detail of a cigarette box with an engraving of the Houses of Parliament on it
Silver cigar box made by Asprey of London – given by King Peter II of Yugoslavia for Christmas 1942© National Trust, Jonathan Primmer
a photo of a man peering into a display case with a cigar box in it
Churchill's great-grandson, Randolph, admires the Russian cigar box© National Trust, Jonathan Primmer

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