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King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who…

King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War (2006)

by Catrine Clay

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Themes: family, duty, royalty, loyalty, education, politics, religion, patriotism, jealousy
Setting: Europe 1880s or so until 1919

This book is about three European rulers who were all caught up in World War I. But what makes it interesting is that the book focuses not on their politics, but on their relationships - the three men were cousins, all descended from England's Queen Victoria. George V of England, Tsar Nicholas of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany were roughly contemporaries and all knew each other very well. They didn't exactly grow up together, but there was a lot of visiting back and forth, a lot of correspondence, and a lot of family drama to go around.

As I read it, I couldn't help thinking how different everything could have been if Kaiser Wilhelm, or Willie as the family called him, had been raised differently. Caught between his Prussian grandfather and king and his English mother and grandmother, Queen Victoria, he was always in the middle of the tension. Prussia was an ambitious country, and there was plenty of room for drama, with the way everyone royal in Europe was related to everyone else. That made any war a family matter. And then Willie was deformed at birth, with a damaged arm and inner ear which made his mother reject him. He could have compensated for that, but there were a lot of other influences at work.

Then there was the tsar. Brought up in strict seclusion to protect him from the revolutionaries who eventually murdered his grandfather, the tsar and his family grew up out of touch with the mood of the country. He and his English cousins were close, but nothing could really have saved him from the violence which swept Russia.

I liked this book, but it was really more detailed than it needed to be. It would have been a much better read if she had cut about 150 pages. Too many names, too many details, and so much build up to get to the end. It must have been good, though, because I dreamed about saving the tsar last night. I was sure I could have prevented World War I if we had just assassinated the kaiser at the right time. Which may be true, but may have just been the sleep meds talking. Still, worth reading if you are interested in the subject and don't mind the many details. Good pictures helped. I think the kaiser was the clear winner in the looks department, but that may have been because the other two wore such heavy beards that you couldn't see their faces past the fuzz. 3.5 stars. ( )
1 vote cmbohn | Sep 29, 2010 |
4417. King, Kaiser, Tsar Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War, by Catrine Clay (read 4 Mar 2008) This is a mostly fluff book, but it deals with interesting subjects . It does not pretend to be a "study" of the men or their times. It has source notes and a bibliography, but I was sorry that it did not even explain how the Kaiser and the Tsar are related--they certainly are not first cousins, though I presume they are related by marriage and also may well be more distant cousins. George V is of course a first cousin to both the Kaiser and the Tsar. I have read good biographies of all three men so I did not have to read this, but I have trouble resisting reading royal biography intertwined with the First World War. Contrary to what another reviewer says, I do not believe that Nicholas II is a grandson of Queen Victoria. ( )
  Schmerguls | Mar 4, 2008 |
I always knew that George V of England, Wilhelm II of Prussia and Nicholas II of Russia were cousins, on an intellectual level, since they are all grandchildren of the great Queen Victoria. But I somehow never considered the idea that these royal cousins would have all known each other, and corresponded with each other, and even had fates that were destined to merge with World War I. As much the story of the Danish royal house into which two of the cousins married, this was a fascinating book, although the ending, with World War I, felt a little abrupt. Here's something I learned that will perhaps surprise few people - no one liked the Prussian. ( )
3 vote Meggo | Jan 4, 2008 |
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Catrine Clayprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gyllenhak, UlfAuthorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On 21 May 1913 dockworkers were standing about on the quayside at Flushing in Holland when the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert came alongside.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802716237, Hardcover)

The extraordinary family story of George V, Wilhelm II, and Nicholas II: they were tied to one another by history, and history would ultimately tear them apart.
Known among their families as Georgie, Willy, and Nicky, they were, respectively, the royal cousins George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Nicholas II of Russia--the first two grandsons of Queen Victoria, the latter her grandson by marriage. In 1914, on the eve of world war, they controlled the destiny of Europe and the fates of millions of their subjects. The outcome and their personal endings are well known--Nicky shot with his family by the Bolsheviks, Willy in exile in Holland, Georgie still atop his throne. Largely untold, however, is the family saga that played such a pivotal role in bringing the world to the precipice.
Drawing widely on previously unpublished royal letters and diaries, made public for the first time by Queen Elizabeth II, Catrine Clay chronicles the riveting half century of the royals' overlapping lives, and their slow, inexorable march into conflict. They met frequently from childhood, on holidays, and at weddings, birthdays, and each others' coronations. They saw themselves as royal colleagues, a trade union of kings, standing shoulder to shoulder against the rise of socialism, republicanism, and revolution. And yet tensions abounded between them.
Clay deftly reveals how intimate family details had deep historical significance: the antipathy Willy's mother (Victoria's daughter) felt toward him because of his withered left arm, and how it affected him throughout his life; the family tension caused by Otto von Bismarck's annexation of Schleswig  and Holstein from Denmark (Georgie's and Nicky's mothers were Danish princesses); the surreality surrounding the impending conflict. "Have I gone mad?" Nicholas asked his wife, Alexandra, in July 1914, showing her another telegram from Wilhelm. "What on earth does Willy mean pretending that it still depends on me whether war is averted or not?" Germany had, in fact, declared war on Russia six hours earlier. At every point in her remarkable book, Catrine Clay sheds new light on a watershed period in world history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Profiles three royal cousins--George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia--whose actions shaped the course of twentieth-century history, drawing on hitherto unpublished diaries and letters.

» see all 2 descriptions

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