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Winston Churchill refused to pay his tailor's bills

By Reuters | December 7th 2015
A statue of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain. (Photo: Reuters)

Refusal to pay the bills of one's tailor was famously almost a point of honour among English gentlemen in past centuries, and Winston Churchill was no exception, newly released archives show.

Britain's World War II 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 offence, 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," Mr Sherwood added on Poole's website.

Mr 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 him, 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, Russian Prime Minister Prince Otto von Bismarck, American banker JP 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 last surviving letter from Poole, written in 1875, said: "There will be nothing much to leave behind me."

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