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A story of the self-delusion of royalty: three monarchs who were also three first cousins—Wilhelm II, the last kaiser of Germany; George V of Britain; and Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia—and their mistaken belief, on the very brink of World War I, that their family connection could save Europe from itself.
In the years before the war, Wilhelm, George, and Nicholas corresponded and wrote about each other in their diaries. The Three Emperors uses these sources—a hidden history of how Europe went from an age of empire to a more democratic and more brutal one—to tell the tragicomic story of a tiny, glittering, solipsistic world.
From the kaiser’s tantrums to the tsar’s indecisions to King George’s stamp collection, Carter makes clear how anachronistic the three emperors were: marooned by history in positions out of kilter with their time and ill-equipped by education and personality to deal with the modern world. She delineates the responsibility they bore for the outbreak of the war, and explores the possibility that, had they been more capable men, they might have averted it.
A remarkable combination of royal biography and keenly analytical history that is riveting, often comical, and ultimately tragic.
“Masterfully crafted. . . . Carter has presented one of the most cohesive explorations of the dying days of European royalty and the coming of political modernity. . . . Carter has delivered another gem.” —Bookpage
“Ms. Carter writes incisively about the overlapping events that led to the Great War and changed the world. . . . 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 of Gunter Grass—‘chews it enthusiastically before our eyes.’” —The New York Times
"An irresistably entertaining and illuminating chronicle. . . . Readers with fond memories of Robert Massie and Barbara Tuchman can expect similar pleasures in this witty, shrewd examination of the twilight of the great European monarchies." —Publishers Weekly
"[An] enterprising history of imperial vicissitudes and royal reversals." —The New York Times Book Review
“Carter did a brilliant job of integrating the life of the spy and art historian Anthony Blunt into the slippery context of mid 20th-century international politics. Here she sets herself an even bigger task. . . . Fresh and enjoyable. . . . Carter reminds us that what we are watching is nothing less than the first steps towards armageddon. In the process she offers a valuable corrective to the tendency of recent years to tell history in terms of grand, impersonal forces rather than through the quirks of personality. . . . [Her] thoughtful reintroduction of the vividly human to late 19th-century international politics is timely and welcome. ” —The Guardian
“Gossip of a richness to raise Nigel Dempster from the tomb. . . . Carter's view of the descent towards the first world war as a family quarrel. . . . makes entertaining reading. Her story is full of vivid quotations . . . A romp through the palaces of Europe in their last decades before Armageddon.” —The Sunday Times
“Carter draws masterful portraits of her subjects and tells the complicated story of Europe's failing relations well. . . . This highly readable and well-documented account is a useful addition to the huge literature on the question of why a general European war came in 1914.” —Margaret MacMillan, The Spectator
“Carter has chosen an ambitious theme. . . . This is an absorbing book. Miranda Carter has a good eye for a quote and an ability to bring the various personalities to life. . . . A convincing and considerable achievement.” —Literary Review
“A fascinating tale, or rather three fascinating tales, all skilfully interwoven. . . . [Carter is] interesting–and refreshingly incautious. . . . [A] wonderfully fresh and beautifully choreographed work of history.” —The Mail on Sunday
“Miranda Carter has written an engrossing and important book. While keeping her focus on the three cousins and their extended families, she skillfully interweaves and summarizes all important elements of how the war came about. . . . Carter has given us an original book, highly recommended.” —The Dallas Morning News