Thursday, December 27, 2012

More World War I Reading: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm by Miranda Carter

Title: George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I
Author: Miranda Carter
Publisher: Vintage Books, division of Random House, 2009, 498 pages
Alternate format: Audio, Books on Tape, 21 hours, 10 min
Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
Genre: History, biography
Subject: Influence of monarchs who participated in World War I
Setting: Europe, approx 1870-1920
Source: my own book, audio from public library download
Why did I read this book now? It was part of my World War I reading challenge.

Most of my World War I reading this year has been either straight history - the story of the various political chess moves made by the principal governments involved and the often devasting impacts those players set spinning across the world- or historical fiction as told through a variety of genres- romance, mystery, fictional agents.  In this book, Miranda Carter takes an in-depth look at the three nominal rulers of the most powerful entrants into the war arena.  In each case, they emerge as befuddled, impotent, and thoroughly under-educated figure-heads who were unable or unwilling to take steps that may have averted the disaster that was World War I.

In my mind, much of the blame can be laid at the feet of their grandmother and aunt - Queen Victoria, who felt that royalty was sufficient unto itself, needed no education, and was simply there to be obeyed and waited upon.  Unfortunately, many of her subjects disagreed with her.  Victoria's dictates about what was proper dress, behavior, food, language, etc, conspired to ensure that these three men (George and Wilhelm her grandsons, and a cousin married to her grand-daughter) were rigid, unimaginative, severely un-educated, and almost clueless about the social, economic, religious, and labor issues boiling in their respective countries.

This is a fascinating study of the three men whose governments pushed them aside, ignored them, or in Wilhelm's instance, tried to work around his pomposity to win a war that should never have been started.  I have this book in both audio and print formats.  The print book was especially useful for the family trees and photographs and it was wonderful to have the audio to be able to continue "reading" while I was driving, baking cookies, or working out.


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