Winston Churchill was ‘probably’ sexually abused as a schoolboy, a novelist has claimed. Picture: Reuters/GPO/Handout

London - Winston Churchill was ‘probably’ sexually abused as a schoolboy, a novelist has claimed.

The future prime minister was subjected to ‘appalling treatment’ at school, House of Cards author Lord Dobbs said.

The peer, who has also written four novels about Churchill, said: "He didn’t have a difficult childhood – he had an impossible childhood. He was neglected, he was abused physically, emotionally and probably sexually too."

Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival, which is sponsored by the Daily Mail, Lord Dobbs described how Churchill was brutally beaten by his headmaster after stealing some sugar.

He said an eight-year-old Churchill was "stripped" and "thrashed until the blood was coming from the wounds" by Reverend Herbert William Sneyd-Kynnersley at St George’s in Ascot. He did not say whether Sneyd-Kynnersley may have sexually assaulted him.

Lord Dobbs argued that Churchill’s violent treatment at school was critical in the making of Britain’s greatest war-time leader.

"In order to understand the man, I felt it necessary to understand the young child," he said.

"His first days at his first school, St George’s in Ascot run by a Reverend Sneyd-Kynnersley, a man who was brutish in his violence even by Victorian standards.

"Winston was one day found to have stolen a pocketful of sugar. For that crime he was taken to the headmaster’s study and thrashed. He had to be broken."

"He was stripped, held down over a beating block, and thrashed and thrashed again – until the blood was coming from the wounds. But Winston wasn’t like the rest of us. After he recovered from that thrashing he found an opportunity to sneak back into that headmaster’s study and stole his straw boater that he used for official occasions."

"He took that straw boater – the sign of authority – to the woods and for one glorious afternoon kicked the crap out of it. Not bad for an eight-year-old boy who had just been so cruelly abused."

"In that eight-year-old boy I could see some of the origins of the 65-year-old man."

Churchill attended St George’s between 1882 and 1884. According to the school’s website its headmaster was notorious for his belief in "cruel floggings, some of which were inflicted on young Winston".

In his autobiography My Early Life, Churchill wrote: "Flogging with the birch in accordance with the Eton fashion was a great feature of the curriculum."

Lord Dobbs, a close adviser to Margaret Thatcher, is most famous for his House of Cards trilogy, which was adapted for UK television in the Nineties. It was recently remade in the US by Netflix, starring Kevin Spacey.