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King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led The World To War

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  1,089 Ratings  ·  89 Reviews
During the last days of July 1914 telegrams flew between the King, the Kaiser and the Tsar. George V, Wilhelm II and Nicholas II, known in the family as Georgie, Willy and Nicky, were cousins. Between them they ruled over half the world. They had been friends since childhood. But by July 1914 the Trade Union of Kings was falling apart. Each was blaming the other for the im ...more
Unknown Binding, 432 pages
Published 2007 by Not Avail (first published 2006)
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Feb 09, 2014 Jerome rated it really liked it
A solid joint biography, although near the end the author gets the chronology mixed up and even some of the characters. It is a tale full of irony and tragedy.

Clay's book is an intimate family history of power, war, intrigue, and tragedy. She tries to tell it chronologically, but I don't think this helped the story much. She can also get a little repetitive.

From reading the book, it seems all of these monarchs were way unfit to rule global empires, but, then again, many of their own bureaucrats
Cadi Putnam
Jun 10, 2013 Cadi Putnam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-favs
This is an excellent book on King George V of England, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Wilhelm II of Germany and how their personal relationships affected the events leading up to World War I. The author uses personal diaries and letters from all three leaders that were made public by Queen Elizabeth II.
The family history of these three leaders is fascinating and complicated and would be a compelling read even without the fact that their family drama played out on the world stage. Drawing on thei
Jill Hutchinson
Apr 13, 2010 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it
This book traces the lives of the three royal cousins who shared responsibility, to various degrees, for the horror that was WWI. Excellent research and the availability of personal correspondence among the three provides the reader with an in-depth profile of each King, Kaiser and Tsar. George V of England (Georgie) was a simple and unassuming King who had no great intellect and was happier with his stamp collection and his family. Tsar Nicholas (Nicky) was "weak as water", dominated by his bit ...more
Ana Valenzuela
Dec 10, 2015 Ana Valenzuela rated it it was amazing
A good read about some of the European royalties who took part in World War I, and how that sparked the end of the monarchy in Russia and Germany.

I cant help thinking that it was Wilhelm, always felt left out and a handicap, who was the antagonist. Well, that's just my perspective.
Jan 15, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
Shelves: finished-reading
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2014 Debbie rated it it was amazing
Wow, talk about a royal family! This was such an interesting read for me. I am amazed by the web of politics woven by this one family.
" 1CHave I gone mad? 1D Nicholas asked his wife, Alexandra, in July 1914, showing her another telegram from Wilhelm. 1CWhat on earth does Willy mean pretending that it still depends on me whether war is averted or not? 1D Germany had, in fact, declared war on Russia six hours earlier. "

With historical material like this the book is bound to be very informative and more.

Queen Victoria had taken care to keep a family together with holidays in summers and every possible occasions, affections betw
Ben Haymond
This book may have forever hooked me to European history. I loved the complex family relationships of Victoria's grandchildren and how deeply intertwined they were with international politics.

I was fascinated by the pageantry of it all, how the different monarchs gave each other uniforms from their own military and awarded them different orders and honorary ranks; how visits, wardrobe, and weddings influenced the political situation; and how important ceremony and symbolism were.

I have to admit
May 26, 2008 A. rated it liked it
I expected this to be more pop history and less History, but it was really enjoyable, just a little tough to get through when I wasn't in a thinking mood (I also had a very hard time keeping track of all the members of all the royal families). But it was an enjoyable read, well-researched and thorough and utterly fascinating in the way it looked at how the personal relationships in the European monarchies led in large parts to World War I. Worth a read if you're a European history of that era bu ...more
For some reason, I was vaguely disappointed with this book.

There are so many good things about it, though. It is detailed, spends equal time (or, more importantly, what feels like equal time) on each of the three subjects, and pulls from so many primary and secondary sources the Works Cited list could almost pass for a lengthy chapter of its own. It sticks to its central purpose, which is to describe the relationship - the tensions and affections, difficulties and celebrations - among the three
Jan 28, 2013 Stacy rated it liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It brought together bits and pieces of history I knew about WWI and put everything together. It was fascinating to see the interrelatedness of the royals across Europe. I knew that existed but not to the extent that it did exist. I really learned.
The author repeats herself which I found annoying, but that was probably in an effort to remind the reader of particular points. In general, I found the book easy to read and follow.
Ariel Coleman
Jan 09, 2016 Ariel Coleman rated it really liked it
So far I am really enjoying the book. I'm reading it via Kindle and I will say there are some typo errors in the digital copy, but they don't really hinder my reading. My one critic is that the Author tends to jump around in time periods in the Lives of Georgie, Willy and Nicky. It is sometimes difficult to know if we've jumped ahead in time, or behind. Also the chapters about each of the cousins tend to get very tangential. I'm reading about Nicky and all the sudden in between there is a 5 page ...more
Lame book. No cultural stuff or anything, just Queen Victoria bitching about how her children and grandchildren are being raised. Lame.
Robert Jones
Feb 22, 2015 Robert Jones rated it really liked it
King, Kaiser, Tsar was easy-to-read and easy-to-follow, but I still had difficulty absorbing all of the information that it presented. That's mostly my fault; I knew an embarrassing little about World War I to begin with, and Catrine Clay - try as she might - can't teach me everything. This book is, as advertised, a joint biography on King George V, Tsar Nicholas II, and Kaiser Wilhelm II. It fulfills and surpasses on what it promises. There's a lot to learn here, and the information is interest ...more
Jul 22, 2016 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is a decent joint biography of King George V, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Tsar Nicholas - three cousins who were all inextricably wrapped up in WWI. There's lots of good information here, but the author doesn't clearly delineate who she's talking about sometimes, and it's easy to get confused amidst the plethora of Alixes, Williams, Victorias, etc. Better editing would have helped this one, but the information presented is great. I just had to read it very slowly to make sure I was following alo ...more
Dec 02, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, non-fiction, romanov
This book is essential to understand the motives of WWI beyond what is taught in basic history classrooms. It is a comprehensive portrait of Europe’s greatest pre-war monarchies and the complex family structures of the ruling elite. “In the inner circles of European royalty, where everyone was related to everyone else, private and public were constantly confused.”

Though it focused mainly on the three cousins who were ruling at the war’s onset (King George V of England, Tsar Nicholas II of Russi
Sep 27, 2015 Kathleen rated it liked it
Another book in my ongoing efforts to educate myself about World War I. King, Kaiser, Tsar is an account of the buildup to World War I (and to some extent of the war itself) through the lens of its leaders: King George V of England, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Who were all, by the way, cousins.


Clay argues, with some success, that the road to World War I was directly influenced by the personalities of the three cousins and the entire family's inability to ge
Nov 23, 2010 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an absolutely fascinating look at the three royal cousins, George V of England, Wilhelm II of Germany and Nicholas II of Russia (Georgie, Willy and Nicky) told mostly through their letters to one another from their youth through the start of World War I. While the war can't be completely pinned on just these three men, it is true that Wilhelm and Nicholas were absolute monarchs who bear the final responsibility for their actions and inactions. Wilhelm is presented as a severely emotional ...more
Nov 26, 2013 Dvora rated it liked it
This is a good book, but not a wonderful one. I've been interested in Nicholas II ever since reading Massie's Nicholas & Alexandra. One of my main reasons for reading King, Kaiser, Tsar was to learn more about how and why George V abandoned Nicholas (his counsin) and his family in Russia whereas he could have given them asylum. But whereas Clay talks a lot about Wilhelm and all the details of his reign, and of course about George, she talks much less about the Russian cousin. She hardly give ...more
Jul 26, 2013 Amy rated it really liked it
This book was pretty good. I really enjoyed the first third or so about the childhood and background of the 3 rulers. Some of the political stuff later really kind of bored me, especially about the Kaiser's entourage. The foreshadowing of WWI on so many of the actions of the cousins was fun to see. I personally am more interested in the family dynamic than the political, so I wished there had been more about George V's and Wilhelm II's family once they had their own (Nickolas' was covered since ...more
Sep 29, 2010 Cindy rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Themes: family, duty, royalty, loyalty, education, politics, religion, patriotism, jealousy
Setting: Europe 1880s or so until 1919

This book is about three European rulers who were all caught up in World War I. But what makes it interesting is that the book focuses not on their politics, but on their relationships - the three men were cousins, all descended from England's Queen Victoria. George V of England, Tsar Nicholas of Russia, and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany were roughly contemporaries and all
April Helms
Jan 01, 2008 April Helms rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
This was a fascinating read into the lives of the three men who controled about half the world at the start of World War I: King George V of Great Britain, or "Georgie", Kaiser Wilhelm II, or "Willie" and Tsar Nicolas II, or "Nicky." The stories of their upbringing are largely told through their letters and the letters of their royal relatives. My predominate thought while reading this: I am soooo glad I am a commoner. The politics of the time are mind-boggling, especially when you consider that ...more
Gaye  Sweeney
Aug 04, 2015 Gaye Sweeney rated it really liked it
This was great. I love any enjoyable history book and this one about the three royal cousins was a great one. Enjoyed the parts about Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, as I haven't read much about him at all. A fascinating 'family' tale, albeit a special family that had deep historical significance to pre world war I events and its aftermath.
May 03, 2012 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: history
This is a good book to read if you are a royalty buff or someone who has a fasination with World War One history. In this case, the author looks at three men who either helped or hindered the countries they lived in before this War.

I enjoyed the book, and it is a good addition my my bookcase. However, I didn't like the feel of time jumps I got when reading this. I was able to get passed this but it is something that bothered me at times. Overall I did learn a lot of new information about this Wa
Normally books don't take me this long to read, but this was one of those books that had to be sipped and savored instead of consuming all at once, at least for. There was so much going on and so many people, I read it a little at a time to make sure that I got everything straight.
It was a great book about the three cousins: Nicky, Willy and Georgie.
Also it was hard to read in some areas: the blatant stupidity of some of the royals who them they're better than everyone else yet you don't see mos
Apr 09, 2014 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
Read this a while ago. It's a great book that gets into the heads of three leaders that eventually went to war with each other. Nothing's more dramatic than a family feud! Good background info for the causes of Wold War I.
Oct 03, 2012 Debra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love history, and especially love Russian history. I have read my fair share of books on the Tsar Nicolas and his family, so I was happy when I found this book at local library's sale for $1! I find that most books on the topic are a bit redundant. This one wasn't. I learned a lot about the three cousins I did not know, and it is well-written. The author used a lot of family letters in the text, and did her research well. It covers a topic not written about except in generalities in most other ...more
Sep 28, 2015 Kerry rated it really liked it
I enjoyed learning more about these men and how their own culture, separate from Queen Victoria, shaped them.
Mar 13, 2010 Katie rated it really liked it
3/13/10 This was a great book for me to gradually expand my horizons beyond the history of Imperial Russia and helped me to see things from the British/England and German royalty's persepectives up until the first World War. The expllinations for the war were easily explained through each Reich's side and why surrounding countries and the United States chose to get invloved or not. The histories of each Royal person were told simularily by the author comparable to a fairy tale, with good flow an ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Jennyb rated it really liked it
I might have known that Wilhelm, Nicholas and George were cousins, but no other book I've read about WWI focused much on that fact. So, this was interesting in its speculations on how their familial relationships and rivalries did or did not contribute to the onset of the war. Also interesting to read about the inter-connectedness of historical forces, rather than from the usual limited perspective of a single country's history. In other words, helps you to understand why on earth a Serb assassi ...more
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