From the Archive: ‘George, Nicolas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I’

So I was thinking the other day about how I used to blog on Tumblr, and how there are a lot of good books over there that none of you have ever read.  I’ll be posting a few every month, just some highlights.  :-D

This was actually my first book review I ever posted online anywhere!  It was originally published on tumblr December 1, 2011.

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by Miranda Carter

published 2009

It’s ironic that this is my first book to review here.  I’ve been reading George, Nicolas, & Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins & the Road to World War I for probably close to a month now.

The book is over 400 pages long and intensely dense.  It’s full of rambling stories and random quotes from letters and telegrams and speeches and journals.  The book constantly introduces new characters with complicated names and titles.  Just attempting to even vaguely understand the way that all the royals in Europe were related at the turn of the 20th century is ridiculously involved.

I really, really enjoyed this book.

First off, the year in Tapestry that I am using as a base history study focuses on the 1900’s.  I realized that I don’t actually know a lot about the 1900’s, not even the 1900’s in which I was alive.  (Really…  Reagan was president when I was born…  there were a couple of wars…  cell phones became really common…  ummm…)  So I jumped in and started reading and Week 3 of Tapestry is already hitting World War I and I realized I was just going too fast, because I really didn’t understand ::why:: World War I was happening.

(As a sidenote, you’ll have to realize that when I immerse myself in a time period to study, that time period becomes way more relevant to my life than current events.  I have only the vaguest ideas of what is going on in England, Germany, or Russia right now, but, by golly, I have been deeply entangled in the politics of 1905!)

This book starts with the acknowledgement that King George of England, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, and Tsar Nicolas of Russia are all first cousins, all grandsons of Queen Victoria.  When Nicolas would visit England, he and George were confused for each other!  The family ties ran deeply, and it was utterly fascinating to watch the way that the lives of these three very powerful men intertwined and led to World War I.

Honestly, I could go on at length about this.  But I’ll try to remain concise and simply say that I was blown away at how World War I was about virtually::nothing::.  At the end of the war, “eight and a half  million soldiers were dead … and at least another million or so civilians … a further 21 million soldiers had been wounded.”  The state of Virginia has around eight million residents.  Imagine the entire state being wiped out, and then the entire population of Texas  being injured.  The casualties in this war were monumental (not to belittle the current efforts in the Middle East, but honestly, the total deaths in this entire war have tallied up to a remarkably awesome DAY in World War I) and the gains almost nonexistent.  All of those millions died for basically nothing.  Absolutely mind-blowing.

Ennywho, getting ready to roll into some more details of World War I, hopefully in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, reading this book actually led me to several other questions, especially about the British Empire: seriously, what is up with the histories of India, Ireland, and Canada?  So some “brief histories” are on the stacks now, to hopefully continue to weave together a solid background for World War I, and then World War II.

All in all, I would strongly recommend this book, but only if you have a lot of spare time and a deep interest in European affairs around 1900.  :-D