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Most people today think of Winston Churchill as simply the wartime British bulldog - a jowly, cigar-chomping old fighter demanding blood, sweat and tears from his nation. But the well-known story of the elder statesman has overshadowed an earlier part of his life that is no less fascinating, and that has never before been fully told. It is a tale of romance, ambition, intrigue and glamour in Edwardian London, when the city was the centre of the world, and when its best and brightest were dazzled by the meteoric rise to power of a young politician with a famous name and a long aristocratic background.

Winston Churchill gave his maiden speech in Parliament at the very beginning of King Edward VII's reign in 1901 when he was only 26. By the time the guns of August 1914 swept away the Edwardian idyll, he was First Lord of the Admiralty - the civilian head of the largest navy in the world. In the intervening years, he often cut a dashing figure, romancing several society beauties, tangling with some of the most powerful political figures of his time, championing major social reforms, becoming one of the leading orators of the day, publishing six books, supervising an armed assault on anarchists, and working harder perhaps than anyone else to prepare his nation for war.

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