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Known among their families as Willy, Georgie, and Nicky, they were, respectively, the royal cousins Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, George V of England, and Nicholas II of Russia-the first two grandsons of Queen Victoria, the latter her grandson by marriage. In 1914, on the eve of world war, they controlled the destiny of Europe and the fates of millions of their subjects. The outcome, and their personal endings are well known-Nicky shot with his family by the Bolsheviks, Willy in exile in Holland, Georgie still atop his throne. Largely untold, however, is the family saga that played such a pivotal role in bringing the world to the precipice. Drawing widely on previously unpublished royal letters and diaries, made public for the first time by Queen Elizabeth II, Catrine Clay chronicles the riveting half century of the royals' overlapping lives. They met frequently from childhood, on holidays, weddings, birthdays, and each others' coronations. They saw themselves as royal colleagues, a trade union of kings, standing shoulder to shoulder against the rise of Socialism, Republicanism, and revolution. And yet tensions abounded between them. Clay deftly reveals how intimate family details had deep historical significance, and at every point in her remarkable book, Catrine Clay sheds new light on a watershed period in world history.
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Catrine Clay has worked for the BBC for more than twenty years, directing and producing award-winning television documentaries. KING, KAISER, TSAR is her third book, resulting from her documentary of the same title. She is married and lives in London with her three children.From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. How did WWI happen? Was it the inevitable product of vast, impersonal forces colliding? Or was it a completely avoidable war that resulted from flawed decisions by individuals? Clay (Princess to Queen), a documentary producer for the BBC, inclines strongly to the latter explanation, and she brilliantly narrates how just three men led their nations to war. Forming a trade union of majesties, King George V (Britain), Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany) and Czar Nicholas II (Russia) were cousins who together ruled more than half the world. They were a family, and thus subject to the same tensions and turmoil that afflict every family. They had "played together, celebrated each other's birthdays... and later attended each other's weddings," but still, while George and Nicholas were close, Wilhelm was something of an outsider—a feeling exacerbated by his paranoia and self-loathing. Over time, his sense of exclusion and humiliation would avenge itself on the family and eventually contributed strongly to the murder of Nicholas and the loss of his own throne. Clay's theory does have a hole—though not ruled by the "cousins," France and Austria-Hungary also played major roles in the outbreak of war—but that does not detract from the ingenuity and pleasure of her narrative. 35 b&w photos. (July)
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