Six World Leaders Who Lived In London

By M@ Last edited 29 months ago

Last Updated 15 January 2022

Six World Leaders Who Lived In London

The Queen and her illustrious ancestors are not the only world leaders who have called London home.

Vladimir Lenin

In London: 1902-3, 1905, 1908
Local tube stops: Russell Square, King's Cross
What he did next: Overthrew the Russian government, founded the Soviet Union and served as its first leader

The communist revolutionary wasn't exactly treasured by Tsarist Russia. As a consequence, Lenin spent the early years of the 20th century living in Western Europe, including six spells in London.

Lenin first moved to the capital in April 1902, where he met the ill-fated Leon Trotsky. From a small office at 37a Clerkenwell Green, he published Iskra, a leading socialist newspaper. The building is now the Marx Memorial Library, where you can see this impressive mural, featuring Lenin on the right.

The term 'Bolshevik' was coined by Lenin in London, during a congress in July 1903. The word meant 'those in the majority' (in favour of a strong top-down leadership), in contrast to the rival Mensheviks, who were in the minority. The split is said to have taken place in what is now the Three Johns pub in Islington.

Lenin returned to London several times in the following years, making much use of the British Library's reading room for book research. In 1905, he took rooms at 16 Percy Circus, Pentonville, which is today marked by a blue plaque. His brief stay at 36 Tavistock Place in Bloomsbury in May 1908 is similarly commemorated.  

During his 1905 stay, Lenin supposedly popped over to The Crown on Clerkenwell Green for a pint, where he met his eventual successor...

Joseph Stalin

In London: 1905, 1907
Local tube stop: Whitechapel
What he did next: Became the second leader of the Soviet Union, killed millions of his own people, turned the country into a nuclear superpower

From Britannia and Eve, 1 March 1950. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.

While Lenin was splashing out on bourgois Bloomsbury digs, Stalin settled for a sixpence doss house off Whitechapel Road.

Via Google Street View

In 1907, the budding monster spent several nights in Tower House on Fieldgate Street, while attending the nearby Fifth Congress of the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party. The building still exists, but is now that ultimate symbol of capitalist society: luxury apartments.

Very little is recorded about the 28-year-old's two week stay in London. Some sources say Stalin also lodged with a Russian cobbler at 77 Jubilee Street, a half mile to the east of Tower House.

Ho Chi Minh

In London: 1913-?
Local tube station: Piccadilly, Ealing Broadway
What he did next: Founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam)

New Zealand House on Haymarket sports a slightly dubious plaque to Ho Chi Minh. It looks like an official English Heritage blue plaque, but was commissioned by the Britain Vietnam Association. It marks the former location of the Carlton Hotel, where Ho Chi Minh supposedly cheffed in 1913. It may be so, but there is no evidence to support this.

Ho Chi Minh certainly did live in London for a spell. He claimed to have lived in West Ealing and Crouch End, though the addresses are unknown. In his autobiography, the leader also says that he worked at the Drayton Court Hotel (now a Fuller's pub) in Ealing.

John Quincy Adams

In London: 1815-1817
Local tube station: The tube didn't exist at the time. If it had, then Boston Manor would have been the closest station to Adams's home
What he did next: Became the sixth President of the United States of America

Adams was born in Massachusetts, but lived for two years in London as a diplomat. He worked from an office on Craven Street, Charing Cross — the same road in which Benjamin Franklin had been resident half a century before.

Adams was poorly paid. Having initially stayed in Cavendish Square, he moved the family out to Ealing to save money. His house, on the corner of Windmill Road and The Rise, was known as Little Boston — a reference to the nearby Boston Manor House, and not Adams's New England origins.

John F Kennedy

Bust of JFK on Marylebone Road

In London: 1935, 1938-39
Local tube station: Knightsbridge
What he did next: Became 35th President of the United States of America, sent Americans to the Moon, died an infamous death

It's a little-known fact that JFK spent quite a bit of time in London. The future President's first visit was in 1935, when he intended to study at London School of Economics. Ill health meant it wasn't to be, and he returned home after just a few weeks.

Kennedy returned in June 1938 to work with his father and brother at the US Embassy, newly moved to Grosvenor Square in Mayfair. As prime diplomats, the Kennedys were granted plush accommodation in Princes Gate, Kensington. The property sold for a staggering £70 million in 2015. Kennedy Jr spent a fair amount of time travelling, but lived here long enough that we might claim him as a Londoner.

Bashar al-Assad

In London: 1992-1994
Local tube station: Edgware Road
What he did next: Became President of Syria, presided over civil war, accused of war crimes

The Syrian leader studied ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital, Marylebone Road, where he is remembered as '‘a sensitive young man who was incredibly polite and punctual’.

He was forced to curtail his studies in 1994, when his older brother died in a car accident. Bashar returned to Syria as heir apparent to the Syrian dictatorship, succeeding his father in 2000.

After an eight year absence, he returned to London in 2002 and revisited the hospital. That trip also took in a visit to 10 Downing Street and an audience with the Queen, appointments that would be unthinkable today.

His wife, Asma al-Assad (née Akhras), is a proper Londoner. She was raised in East Acton and studied at King's. Although sanctions mean that the couple are banned from travelling to the rest of the EU, Asma is free to visit Britain thanks to her UK citizenship.