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Publisher's Summary

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 20th-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.
©2010 Miranda Carter (P)2010 Random House
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By D. Littman on 01-16-11

interesting and entertaining work of history

This is a very good work of narrative, popular history. It reminds you that, not so long ago, in the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents, the reign of kings, kings with real power. That was certainly the case for the kings of Germany (only so recently combined into a nation-state) and of Russia, much less so for Britain ... even still their Queen Victoria & her two successors had more apparent power than the current regime, if only on the diplomatic level, with their relatives elsewhere in Europe. The details of the lives of these various heads-of-state, their international networks and the political leadership, is a great story. I am not sure you can say the 3 leaders on the eve of World War I, together, had a great influence on the breakout and course of war, although the author does a great job showing that Kaiser Wilhelm (an extraordinarily peculiar person) did have a role in this.

The book is well organized, it does not have too many characters (although I am familiar with the general history) and is well narrated.

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28 of 28 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Zaubermond on 02-06-14

Essential history in the centennial year

One hundred years ago this July, events began to unfold which would change the world forever. This book examines of some of the factors which led up to them as they relate to three of Queen Victoria's grandchildren.

Miranda Carter is outstanding and her book is likely to appeal to many. It is not that there is anything particularly new here in the way of information, but that she tells the story beautifully and with great attention to detail, which makes the book a welcome addition.

Those who have an interest in the era or enjoy biographies will love the detail and careful rendering of setting and time period. Characterization is skillful, descriptions apt, and the story unfolds with perfect timing and holds one's interest to the final pages as we witness the vicissitudes of royal lives.

For those with an interest in the foundations of World War I, the view from the monarchies, as it were, is of great importance. Without hesitation, I recommend it to anyone who shares my obsession with the Great War, or who would like to understand its foundations better.

I read the book long ago but returned for a re-listen this week. I think I liked it even more the second time around.

Rosalyn Landor was, as ever, superb. What a lovely voice that actress has!

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19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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