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George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War Iby Miranda Carter
Synopses & Reviews
In the years before the First World War, the great European powers were ruled by three first cousins: King George V of Britain, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war that set twentieth-century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world.
Miranda Carter uses the cousins’ correspondence and a host of historical sources to tell the tragicomic story of a tiny, glittering, solipsistic world that was often preposterously out of kilter with its times, struggling to stay in command of politics and world events as history overtook it. George, Nicholas and Wilhelm is a brilliant and sometimes darkly hilarious portrait of these men—damaged, egotistical Wilhelm; quiet, stubborn Nicholas; and anxious, dutiful George—and their lives, foibles and obsessions, from tantrums to uniforms to stamp collecting. It is also alive with fresh, subtle portraits of other familiar figures: Queen Victoria—grandmother to two of them, grandmother-in-law to the third—whose conservatism and bullying obsession with family left a dangerous legacy; and Edward VII, the playboy “arch-vulgarian” who turned out to have a remarkable gift for international relations and the theatrics of mass politics. At the same time, Carter weaves through their stories a riveting account of the events that led to World War I, showing how the personal and the political interacted, sometimes to devastating effect.
For all three men the war would be a disaster that destroyed forever the illusion of their close family relationships, with any sense of peace and harmony shattered in a final coda of murder, betrayal and abdication.
Draws on correspondence and diaries to trace the parallel stories of monarchs William II of Germany, George V of Britain, and Nicholas II of Russia, who at the onset of World War I wrongly counted on their shared family relationship to safeguard European interests. By the award-winning author of Anthony Blunt.
A story of the self-delusion of royalty: three monarchs who were also three first cousins—Wilhelm II, the last kaiser of Germany; George V of Britain; and Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia—and their mistaken belief, on the very brink of World War I, that their family connection could save Europe from itself.
In the years before the war, Wilhelm, George, and Nicholas corresponded and wrote about each other in their diaries. The Three Emperors uses these sources—a hidden history of how Europe went from an age of empire to a more democratic and more brutal one—to tell the tragicomic story of a tiny, glittering, solipsistic world.
From the kaiser’s tantrums to the tsar’s indecisions to King George’s stamp collection, Carter makes clear how anachronistic the three emperors were: marooned by history in positions out of kilter with their time and ill-equipped by education and personality to deal with the modern world. She delineates the responsibility they bore for the outbreak of the war, and explores the possibility that, had they been more capable men, they might have averted it.
A remarkable combination of royal biography and keenly analytical history that is riveting, often comical, and ultimately tragic.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Miranda Carter is the author of Anthony Blunt: His Lives, which won the Orwell Prize for political writing and the Royal Society of Literature W. H. Heinemann Award, and was chosen as one of The New York Times Book Review’s seven Best Books of 2002. She lives in London with her husband and two sons.
Table of Contents
Three childhoods, three countries — Wilhelm: an experiment in perfection, 1859 — George: coming second, 1865 — Nicholas: a diamond-studded ivory tower, 1868 — Family ties, imperial contests — Wilhelm emperor 1888-90 — Young men in love 1891-94 — Wilhelm anglophile 1891-95 — Perfidious Muscovy 1895-97 — Behind the wall 1893-1904 — Imperial imperatives 1898-1901 — A bright new century — The fourth emperor 1901-4 — Unintended consequences 1904-5 — Continental shifts 1906-8 — A Balkan crisis 1908-9 — Edward's mantle 1910-11 — Celebrations and warnings 1911-14 — July 1914 — Armageddon — A war 1914-18.
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Biography » Historical