BBC - History - British History in depth: Cousins at War
George V with his cousin, Tsar Nicholas II and there was hardly a Continental court that did not boast at least one of her relations. One can appreciate why Kaiser Wilhelm II, at the outbreak of war in , exclaimed that. Today, only Czar Nicholas, leader of the doomed Romanov clan, is much To many, Kaiser Wilhelm is just some vague 19th-century German in a pointy With little power residing in palaces, Queen Elizabeth II – George V's way through royal relations as her grandfather and two distant cousins could. George and Wilhelm shared a common relation through their also fostered the bond between George and her sister's son, Nicholas II.
Today, only Czar Nicholas, leader of the doomed Romanov clan, is much remembered on this side of the pond. To many, Kaiser Wilhelm is just some vague 19th-century German in a pointy helmet, and King George — which one was he? Could you pass a US citizenship test? Readers of Clay's book will never confuse them again. She paints vivid pictures of the turn-of-the-century royals through sharp historical analysis and a plethora of lively excerpts from their personal letters and diaries.
Georgie and Willy — the childhood nicknames stuck with all three royals for life — were grandchildren of an aging Queen Victoria, who comes across as a maniacally controlling matriarch with a heart of gold.
The last emperors
On one hand, she's forever arranging marriages and ordering her offspring around, once fretting that one of her sons married a woman with a small head, bad tidings for their children considering the future king's own "small empty brain. In one letter, she even defends the lower classes against "the wretched Willy is the villain of the piece, and no wonder.
Crippled at birth, his sense of inferiority knew no bounds. As the "odd one out," his relatives snubbed him, and it certainly didn't help that he liked to slap diminutive Nicky on the back and poke him in the ribs. Both Georgie and Nicky, meanwhile, developed an antipathy toward Germany thanks to their mothers, a pair of beautiful Danish princesses who were never able to forgive or forget the Prussian onslaught of their tiny country in If their grandmother Queen Victoria had still been alive, said the Kaiser, she would never have allowed them to go to war with each other.
Willy–Nicky correspondence - Wikipedia
Instead, World War One proved once and for all that the family ties between the reigning houses of Europe were more or less irrelevant. Their kinship simply snapped, like cotton threads, as the storm of war broke over their heads. The region had been in a state of ferment for years, and the assassination of the heir to the Hapsburg Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian nationalist, was the culmination of a train of events leading inexorably to war.
By now, however, Europe's leading nations were locked in alliances Yet at first the monarchs of Europe did not take the incident too seriously. With Serbia's apology not proving abject enough, relations between Serbia and Austria-Hungary were broken off. This finally alerted Europe's family of kings to the danger that threatened them. As the alliances clicked inexorably into place, a positive snowstorm of telegrams between the crowned heads tried to avert the inevitable.
But by now there was nothing they could do. Their constitutional powers counted for almost as little as their cousinhood.
Although, technically, Franz Joseph, Nicholas II and Wilhelm II could perhaps have curtailed the coming hostilities, they were at the mercy of more powerful forces: In the face of national pride, imperial expansion and military glory, the protestations of the crowned heads were swept aside. On such giant waves, they could only bob about like so many corks. Kings were no more guaranteed to be good soldiers or military strategists than they were to be good rulers.
In theory, sovereigns remained in supreme command, but the actual waging of this war was entrusted to generals. All the European monarchs either remained firmly in their palaces, paying an occasional visit to their troops, or else established themselves in some country house behind the front lines.
Either way, most of them had very little say in the conduct of the war. As seen above, Nicholas was sure that under the guidance of its Emperor, Russia could avoid war with Germany.The Last German Emperor, Living in Exile in The Netherlands 1918-1941
Sadly, he was wrong. The war started out well for Russia and then went catastrophically wrong very quickly. Under the guidance of his Generals, Nicholas dictated the course of the war for his country whilst leaving the politics to his despised wife in St Petersburg.
This is an example of the Monarch genuinely wielding power during the First World War.
Georgie, Willy, Nicky – Three Monarchs, One World War – Royal Central
He oversaw dispatches, directed battle groups and sat in on war councils with his Generals. So did Nicholas actually wield power? In a word; yes. Certainly more so than the Kaiser, and ten times more than his cousin George V. I find it interesting that the two monarchs who wielded the most power, were the two to lose it.
George V, on the other hand, came out of the First World War unscathed and, in a sense, more secure than ever before. However, this came at a cost. In contrast to the faltering Russian Empire, the British Empire was doing rather well.
However, there was one thorn in the side of the King-Emperor, and that was Ireland.