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George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I [Kindle Edition]

Miranda Carter
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $11.99
You Save: $8.01 (40%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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.
Through brilliant and often darkly comic portraits of these men and their lives, their foibles and obsessions, Miranda Carter delivers the tragicomic story of Europe’s early twentieth-century aristocracy, a solipsistic world preposterously out of kilter with its times.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*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 of the Great Powers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and especially the growing animosity and rivalry between Britain and Germany, with particular focus on the attitudes and actions of three royal first cousins: Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, and King George V of Great Britain (who also reigned as emperor of India, hence the book’s title reference to three emperors). Rich in concrete detail, elegant in style, and wise, fresh, and knowledgeable in interpretation, the author’s account observes a profound anachronism at play: that these three monarchs, in what they didn’t realize were the waning days of the institution of monarchy, handled foreign diplomacy as if it were a family business. Despite the reality of growing fissures separating their countries, “each emperor continued to paper over the cracks with cousinly gestures, each increasingly irrelevant.” Europe plunged over the precipice of war in August 1914, revealing in stark terms the inability of royal familial ties to control and contain national disagreements; as the author has it, the fact that Wilhelm, Nicholas, and George were out of touch with actual politics could not have been more apparent. An irresistible narrative for history buffs. --Brad Hooper


“History on a large canvas. . . . Carter writes incisively about the overlapping events that led to the Great War and changed the world. . . . Impressive. . . . Carter has clearly not bitten off more than she can chew for she—as John Updike once wrote of Gunter Grass—’chews it enthusiastically before our eyes.’”
The New York Times

“Splendid. . . . This is history on a vast scale written on an intimate level, and it is immensely rewarding. . . . [Carter’s] portraits of the men are razor-sharp. She places each monarch in his unique context, providing a tapestry of the age and the maneuvering that led to the outbreak of war. . . . The reader is swept up in the pageantry, pathos and glory of an era that makes our own seem remorselessly venial and vulgar.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Engrossing and important. . . . While keeping her focus on the three cousins and their extended families, [Carter] skillfully interweaves and summarizes all important elements of how the war came about. . . . An original book, highly recommended.”
The Dallas Morning News

“A fascinating biographical saga. . . . The personal, hidden history of King George V, Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm II’s relationship [is] incomparable, haunting and unforgettable.”
Providence Journal

“The parallel, interrelated lives of Kaiser Wilhelm II, George V, and Nicholas II are . . . a prism though which to tell the march to the first World War, the creation of the modern industrial world and the follies of hereditary courts and the eccentricities of their royal trans-European cousinhood. . . . An entertaining and accessible study of power and personality.”
—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times

“Some wars are inevitable. Others, such as World War I, could have been avoided. . . . R...

Product Details

  • File Size: 6447 KB
  • Print Length: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (March 23, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00338QEMY
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #281,874 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Miranda Carter has produced an excellent biography of three prominent men of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. King George V of Great Britain, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany were the rulers of three of the most powerful states in the world. George and Wilhelm were first cousins as grandsons of Queen Victoria, while Nicholas II was George's first cousin (their mothers were sisters), married to another of Victoria's grandchildren, and a more distant blood relation of Wilhelm's. Their tangled family trees meant the three men, who were all about the same age, grew up knowing but not necessarily liking each other, and their personal feelings affected their nations' political and foreign policies during their reigns.

The biographies of all three men have been written many times, but Carter's comparative approach allows for many new psychological and other insights to be made. There are many anecdotes, including many that I, though I have enjoyed reading about that time period for many years, had not previously come across. Some of the stories are hilarious, particularly those dealing with the Kaiser's madcap efforts to make and unmake alliances and wars. In the end Wilhelm seems to have been the most intelligent (but also most erratic) of the three, while Nicholas, although more perceptive than he's generally assumed to have been, was still far too passive and ignorant of his country's troubles. George was the most enigmatic to my mind, primarily because as a constitutional monarch he took care not to make his opinions (if he had any) well known.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Origins of First World War April 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I rather expected this heavy tome to be heavy going. I was pleasantly surprised to find it moved at a brisk pace, was skillfully written, and told a ripping good tale. The period covered - the events of the last decades of the 19th century and leading up to the first World War - has not been the focus of much literary attention in recent years. Miranda Carter, using a plethora of primary and secondary sources, brings this period to vivid life. The three royal personages of the title, George V, Tsar Nicholas, and Kaiser Wilhelm, prove remarkably interesting considering they were either ordinary or worse than ordinary. They ruled during the last years of European royalty, and only the English king managed to survive the Great War. I look forward to finding some of the historical sources listed in the comprehensive bibliography for further reading. This book is an excellent starting point on the origins of World War I and the characters of its royal protagonists.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written and Descriptive- A Fine Book. April 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a most interesting description and viewpoint of the era preceeding and leading up to WWI. The perspective taken is one seen through the eyes of the 3 main hereditary rulers of the time ( The rulers of Great Britain, Russia and Germany). This gives an interesting insight into the bungling and lunacy which delivered WWI to the world.

The premise of hereditary right to rule is completely destroyed by this book. One is appalled that the system ever existed to begin with. There have been many books written about each of the 3 monarchs, as well as the times before and during WWI. This is the first book that I have read that takes one behind the scenes of the personal rivalries of the rulers of Russia, Great Britain and Germany and allows one to view their stilted and limited capabilities, along with the "enabling" of the royal courts and the politicians .

At times, the feeble workings of the mind of Kaiser Wilhelm lead to utter disbelief that such an unfit individual was allowed anywhere close to the seat of power. His cousin, the equally clueless Tsar Nicholas of Russia, was equally well-endowed in the area of brain power. The British royal family demonstrated a complete lack of ability and came across as childishly as their cousins abroad. But,as they had no real power, they were easier to regard as mere performers of an ancient ritual. The royal family served to amuse and entertain the people,their ridiculous antics filled the gossip papers of the time, they were the equivalent of the "stars" of the reality shows which are so esteemed by some today.

Do read this book for a most interesting perspective of just how the vanities and falsehoods of relatively few individuals, led to the disaster that was World War I
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54 of 65 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No new insights April 28, 2010
By SusieQ
What I did not like about this book was the often snarky; occasionally impatient, definitely non-professional-historian, attitude that this author takes to her three subjects and the times they lived in, throughout the book. It's an almost blog-ish style of authorship: the quick reveal about one and then it's onto the next. The research this author has done is apparent, but the superficial intonation she brings to her writing is very hard to take. This is a shame, because GEORGE, NICHOLAS AND WILHELM, I will grant, is more substantive than Catrine Clay's similar (but truly terrible) "King, Kaiser, Tsar"; has fewer errors than that book (although at least twice within the first pages, this author refers to one of her sources, Princess Marie Louise, as Princess "Mary" Louise. Sheesh...) and has better chapters about the beginning of the First World War. These qualities earn my stars.

But principally I felt this author was merely regurgitating everything she's read about the three rulers. There's no new information and it's certainly not very compellingly presented.

For better written, and more insightful views on these men and their times (and also their mothers, or the women they married), I would suggest reading these biographies instead (some of which are cited by Ms.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Remembering all the names and relationships is not easy. Over all...
Interesting but lots of names and details so slow to read. Remembering all the names and relationships is not easy. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Sheila
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly entertaining and informative read
This marvellously readable book tells the story of three very ordinary, unremarkable men who, by accident of birth, became the titular heads of three great empires. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Teemacs
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book and grate service!!!
Published 1 month ago by eduardo
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid and enjoyable book with insight into three very important...
Great detail on their live and a very timely read given the 100 anniversary of WWI
Published 2 months ago by mr. ipod
4.0 out of 5 stars excellent
It answered many of my questions about how WWi started.

Abut hard to follow on as few occasions.

Well done.
Published 2 months ago by Thomas F. Wallace
4.0 out of 5 stars It was amazing how similar the three men were based on poor ...
Read this right after The Bully Pulpit (Kerns-Goodwin) and the two worked well together in terms of showing incompetent leadership based on monarchy. Read more
Published 2 months ago by MaryEllen Putnam
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very interesting. The author provides an ...
Well written and very interesting. The author provides an intriguing look behind the personal politics of European royalty at the end of the 19th century leading up to WW I.
Published 2 months ago by R. L. Sun
1.0 out of 5 stars It is very easy to do masses of research that supports your...
No, no; this is pop history. It is very easy to do masses of research that supports your preconceptions. Read more
Published 3 months ago by john cridland
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!
Very well written, very well researched. A great resource for learning about the personae and circumstances that led to WWI. Read more
Published 3 months ago by RHartsaugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
An interesting read. Has a lot of insight in the three cousins. Maybe I should read it the second I find it.
Published 4 months ago by Akatonbo
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