The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires, and the Road to World War I

Miranda Carter, Author . Knopf $30 (498p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4363-7

Historian Carter (Anthony Blunt: His Lives ) delivers an irresistibly entertaining and illuminating chronicle from Queen Victoria's final decades to the 1930s through linked biographies of the emperors of England (George V), Germany (Wilhelm II), and Russia (Nicholas II). Anachronisms presiding over courts that were “stagnant ponds of tradition and conservatism,” the three possessed average intelligence and little imagination. All were unprepared for their jobs and didn't improve with on-the-job training. Most fortunate was George, who performed his purely symbolic royal role dutifully, avoided scandal, and, alone of the three, reigned until his death, in 1936. More colorful but also tactless and unpredictable, Wilhelm took the German throne in 1888, dismissed his long-serving, brilliant chancellor, Bismarck, and launched an erratic reign that contributed to the onset and loss of WWI. Czar Nicholas showed little interest in governing except to oppose reform. In the end, the most violent reformers, the Bolsheviks, murdered him and his family. 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. 32 pages of photos, 2 maps. (Mar. 28)

Reviewed on: 02/01/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 498 pages - 978-1-4000-7912-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-307-71450-3
Open Ebook - 452 pages - 978-0-307-59302-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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