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George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Miranda Carter

*Starred Review* The slippery slope into horrific armed conflict is a tale often told about World War I, but this author’s take on the antecedents of the European war of 1914–18 is distinct. Carter views the shifting alliance entanglements … see full wiki

Author: Miranda Carter
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Nonfiction
Publisher: Knopf
1 review about George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal...

Cousins in war and peace

  • Aug 2, 2010
This extremely well-written book gives a brief overview of European history from the middle years of Victoria's reign, basically to the end of World War I (with some additional material at the end). It is chiefly concerned with the intermarriage of European royalty and ruling houses, and how the vast majority of royals in power were related to Queen Victoria, and thus to each other.

As can be seen by the title, the book focuses on King George V of England, Czar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. They were cousins, and rather familiar with each other, often exchanging visits and letters. We see how each of these rulers came to be paramount in his country, and just how much influence each had in the events which led up to the war.
The author gives a different description of Wilhelm than most casual readers are accustomed to, for she states that the German General Staff was responsible for the war, and even though Wilhelm was blamed for it, he was aghast at the thought that all of Europe would be engulfed in a conflagration. An interesting point of view, and backed up by hard facts.

Nicholas drifted into the war somewhat against his will because of being pushed by his confidants, who felt that a "little war" would unite the Russian people behind the autocracy, and eliminate much, if not all, of the unrest in the country. Had the Russian army succeeded, there would more than likely have been a different ending (if it would have ended) to the Romanov dynasty. There are many in Russia to blame for what happened, but Nicholas and Alexandra's firm belief in autocracy, and trust in Rasputin, combined with Alexandra's mishandling of the reins of power while Nicholas was at the front, led to the sad conclusion .

George has much less to do with instigating the war, because England was a constitutional monarchy, and even if he wished to insert himself into foreign affairs (other than writing letters to his cousins) the elected ministers would have kept him from doing so. One thing, though, is that he, almost alone, was responsible for England not offering political asylum to Nicholas and his family. Not a very cousinly thing to do!

This book fills in some gaps in the information given about this era, and even though some of the actions that occurred concurrently with the theme of the book are mentioned quite cursorily, I found it easy to read and very informative, and recommend it highly.

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