The Three Emperors
Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One
Retail Price (Softback): £9.99
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First Published: 2009
What it says on the cover:
IN THE YEARS BEFORE THE FIRST WORLD WAR, the great European powers, Britain, Germany and Russia, were ruled by three cousins: George V, King-Emperor of India, the British Empire and India; Wilhelm II, the last Kaiser; and Nicholas II, the last Tsar. Between them, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war which set twentieth century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in history.
Miranda Carter uses the cousins' correspondence and a host of historical sources to tell the tragic-comic 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.
The Three Emperors is a brilliant and sometimes hilarious portrait of three 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 it weaves through their stories a riveting account of the events that led to World War One, showing how the personal and the political interacted, sometimes to devastating effect.
For all three men the war would be a disaster which destroyed for ever the illusion of their close family relationships, with any sense of peace and harmony shattered in a final coda of murder; betrayal and abdication.