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George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,733 ratings  ·  355 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Knopf (first published September 3rd 2009)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  3,733 ratings  ·  355 reviews

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Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have a joke for you: hereditary monarchies.

That’s it. That's the joke.

Of all the ways that man has devised for cornering power, none is as breathtaking as the hereditary monarchy. For centuries, kings and queens have ruled vast nations based solely on the notion that their blood is somehow “royal.” It’s utter wash, of course, as countless failed leaders have proven. There is nothing special about royal blood. It is the same blood as runs through our veins. Except for the hemophilia. The roya
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
I have always been fascinated with royalty, particularly how they fit into a larger world history. I have an equal interest in monarchical lineage and was enthralled to learn about how Queen Victoria left her impact with so many of her offspring playing key roles in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Miranda Carter taps into both of these aforementioned interests with this book, which seeks to highlight the lives and choices of three grandsons of the former queen: Nicholas of Russia (event ...more
Mar 23, 2010 marked it as to-read
OK, I haven't read this book -- I will, maybe -- but I was pissed after reading a review. Here's part of a review that demonstrates why I often hate reviews in the NY Times Book Review. Last two paragraphs:

“George, Nicholas and Wilhelm” is an impressive book. Ms. Carter has clearly not bitten off more than she can chew for she — as John Updike once wrote about Günter Grass — “chews it enthusiastically before our eyes.”

You turn this book’s pages with interest, however, but rarely with eagerness.
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book. What it does in an exemplary fashion is show the reader who George, Nicholas and Wilhelm were. You learn not only of their actions, but also of there varying temperaments. This is a biography, not a dry history book. It is well researched, and will be fascinating to those of you who want to look at the personalities of these three cousins. At the same time you will come to understand why WW1 occurred; why in fact it was practically inevitable. Political disputes and ...more
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebook
Monarchy. LOLZ.

6/7/18: New Yorker article by the author on one of the most amazing & illuminating aspects of this excellent biography. "What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractable Doofus Runs an Empire?" Link
As I previously read in Queen Victoria's Matchmaking it was Albert’s (and later) Victoria’s dream to create a network of European monarchies, where conflicts between the various European empires could be solved during a Christmas dinner.

Instead, a King, a Kaiser and a Czar - which happened to be each others cousins, happily went to war.

It was perhaps Albert’s greatest mistake to assume that Kings, in the modern world of the early 20th century, still would be able to shape modern politics. In f
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
This was brilliant. For anyone interested in the road to WWI this is a wonderful synopsis from the perspective of the exhaustion and decline of autocracy, monarchy and empire. Using the familial relationships among Victoria, Edward, George, Wilhelm and Nicholas Carter pulls the reader into the conflicting pulls on the leading monarchs of their day amid the challenges of nationalism, republicanism, socialism and the last gasps of aristocratic and colonial entitlement. Along the way we are provide ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was long, dense, and detailed. From the endorsements on the cover I expected something a little more rollicking, but historical detail is often a trade-off with readability, and it's quite a fair trade.

This book is a look at the lives of Tsar Nicholas II, King George V, and Kaiser Wilhelm II in the years from their birth to World War II, with additional focus on Queen Victoria and Edward VII. Carter is absolutely unsparing of each man's foibles. Although when war actually came, Wilhelm
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have managed to write a review that is longer than the actual book but I found the subject matter so interesting that it was hard not to talk about it. If you are interested in the monarchs that ruled pre-WWI Europe and how these royal cousins ushered in the war than this is a must read for you. The beginning of the book focuses on Queen Victoria - probably the last effective monarch in England. At the time of Victoria, the English Monarchs still had sway and a veto. In Germany and Russia, the ...more
Jun 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Impact of Queen Victoria on History

Queen Victoria of England not only had one of the longest reigns in royal history (her reign of 63 years and 7 months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history) but her progeny produced leaders in disparate countries that focused on three names in the pre-world War I period - King George V of Great Britain (an India), Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. In a manner of
Lois is recovering slowly
I thoroughly enjoyed this!!!!!!! I really found this easy to read. I listened to this on audiobook and didn't realize at first that the author was using quotes and I was upset at the language used. Once I understood that the author was making a point of including how racist these monarchs were I enjoyed it.
The references to the 'yellow race' and 'natives' 'savages' etc is jarring but important.
This war will drag in the colonies and involve all kinds of innocent parties.
I had not understood how t
John E
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book for the most part. It has a simple thesis: The more your leader is out of touch and coddled the more severe the results inflicted on the followers. Spoiled children without reality are not the ones to run the country: think of Mr. Trump!
Other reviews have noted that there is little new here, but the point of this book is not to bring out new information; It is to explore the origins of World War I from a different point of view. In examining the character of these three cousins, their upbringing and education, their role in the structure of their respective governments and the issues and attitudes of their counties, Miranda Carter shows how they did and didn't influence the course of events that led to The Great War.

The cousins
Jerome Otte
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A revealing, intelligent, and very readable history of George, Wilhelm, and Nicholas and their role in the origins and lead-up of the war.

Carter’s portrait follows the traditional model of the dull, relatively powerless George focused on day-to-day matters; the insecure narcissist Wilhelm, a caricature of himself who everyone tried to ignore and verged on certifiable; and the detached Nicholas devoted to routine minutiae. Carter looks at how these men lacked a formal education and how their tuto
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was ok
Oh, families. If you think your family is crazy, you haven't met the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Romanovs. This academic-style text is a discussion of the familo-political interactions from about 1860 that lead to World War I. I left this book thinking that perhaps we could "blame" WWI, not on the Germans, but instead on Queen Victoria. Why? She was the grandmother from hell. She insisted that all of her children were raised in an extremely severe style favored by her husband, Prince Albert; some of her c ...more
Naim Frewat
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book deserves 5 stars. I took one out because of all the editing the book needs. Pronouns, in particular, confused me as to who was talking to whom, for example, repetitions of appositives and typos.
That little annoyance aside, it was a wonderful read and though it's a history book, I noticed that it had a structure quite similar to a novel with a climax and an ending that, to me, came as a surprise.
I loved reading it because it showed how much those three emperors were in denial and willfu
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
King George V, Tsar Nicholas, and Kaiser Wilhelm were cousins (talk about dysfunctional families). Of course thanks to Queen Victoria everybody was related to each other through blood or marriage. But these three men held the future of Europe in their hands. Fortunately for George, his duties in a constitutional monarchy involved being the figurehead--something he could handle. He and Nicolas were first cousins as their mothers (Danish royalty)were sisters. They looked uncannily alike and people ...more
This was very good. It was perhaps a bit too long, although I cannot identify any substantial part that could have been cut. What I found most striking and alarming was how frequently a sentence about Wilhelm, Kaiser of Germany, would have made perfect sense if you substituted the name trump in the place of Wilhelm. Wilhelm was a thorough narcissist, and you can certainly see how the actions he took resemble trump's actions. Another similarity was the way neither could accept blame and responsib ...more
"King George found the post war world a foreign chilly place."

This book was quite excellent! I learned so much and consider this book my favorite non-fiction book of 2017.

What is so lovely about my experience with this book is that I happened to stumble upon it in my library's collection when I was browsing the biography section.

This is one of my favorite periods in history so I have read a lot about it through the years yet I learned quite a bit from this very well researched book.

There are so
Douglas Berry
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
An amazing account of the twilight of European monarchies in the decades leading up to WWI. Carter shows how isolated these kings and emperors had become from the changing world and how that led to the horrors of the Great War.

It is fascinating to read about how Queen Victoria's children and grandchildren essentially took over Europe, with something like 90% of the crowned heads of Europe being related to her by blood or marriage. The three titular cousins, who came to rule England, Germany, an
Fred Klein
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I find it fascinating that these three monarchs of major powers before and during WWI were related and had personal relationships. This was not by accident; it was the plan of Albert (Victoria's husband) to spread the family blood to ensure peace and prosperity. Yes, that worked out great, didn't it? Not only did it not work, but it spread hemophilia through the royal houses.

I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it. I would have liked it to contain more maps, but it did contain very useful
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating account of the three maladjusted royal cousins who ruled Germany, England and Russia in the years leading up to the First World War. Highly recommended!
Kasey Dietrich
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was ok
Started out with a great tone, and the subject matter was right up my alley, but then like many non-fiction authors, this author refused to "stay in her lane" as it were. The author started making strange judgments without facts to back up her statements. For instance, she lacks a view of the big picture when she makes a huge generalization that all royalty is antiquated and every monarch is behind the times and is fuddy-duddy and unfit to rule. That completely ignores a vast history of religiou ...more
Nene La Beet
I have taken some time to get through this book, but that is not because it isn't good, just because it's heavy reading so I've taken breaks from it. Nevertheless, it's a riveting account of all the many and varied roads that led to the Great War.
The "Three Emperors" of the title refer to the German Emperor Wilhelm II, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II and the British king George V. The two former had much too much power for their own good. They were cousins, bound together by blood and the mere fact
Excellent review of the political situation, as complicated by the familial relations throughout Europe, in the 50 years preceding World War I. Particular emphasis on the role Kaiser Wilhelm II played (he influenced conditions more than any other monarch), and on the deterioration of Russia, showing the conditions that led to their revolution. (I found that particularly interesting and plan to pursue further reading on that topic). Nice wrap-up at the end giving list of crowned heads that lost t ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-history
A readable history of the royal families of Britain, Germany and Russia in the period leading up to WW I. Carter focuses to some degree on the personalities of King George, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas, which gives the book an engaging narrative flow, but she also brings in important political movements and events that influenced not only these three "major players" but also public opinion in the three countries. I think it would work equally well as an introduction to the period or as a sou ...more
Susan Liston
Fascinating, readable account of the lives of George V, king of England (Edward VII is also a major character) Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and Tsar Nicholas of Russia up until the start of WWI. (it covers the war in just one chapter, made me wish for a sequel) The story is told from the human perspective and the fact that these people were relatives made it all the more interesting and slightly bizarre. So weird to think that skipping a family wedding or not wanting to sit by your annoying uncle o ...more
May 25, 2022 rated it really liked it
A solid, if not necessary spectacular, look at the three cousins as rulers and their interactions with each other as such, along with their families of origin and other related matters relevant to their countries entering World War I.

I've read Carter's bio of King Edward as well as mutiple books on Nicholas and his family. I've not read a bio about Wilhelm, but I've read other books such as Gordon Craig's tome about Germany 1866-1945 and a book specifically on the Hindenburg-Ludendorff dictators
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Are these the same book? 4 27 Apr 26, 2015 09:51AM  

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Biographer/historian/thriller writer. Also goes under M.J. Carter. ...more

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