King, Kaiser, Tsar: Three Royal Cousins Who Led the World to War by Catrine Clay (John Murray: London, 2006)

What an amazing family history this royal family has lived.  Family squabbles become international political intrigue and ultimately, war, in this book fashioned from what must have been thousands of letters between royal family members, their staff and their enemies.  Lines between normality and lunacy that began in a grey area divided into extremes.  The result was the first world war, a catastrophe of human endeavour that likely could have been avoided at several important points in time.

By the end of the book, it seemed strange that not only was the first world war avoidable but almost planned by the aristocracy.  Unfortunately for Wilhelm II, that meant that he was raised to be the “other”, the one made responsible for the outbreak of war.  His megalomania, coupled with the whispering in his ear ensured that the paranoiac Kaiser struggled to remain rooted in reality.  His manipulative upbringing and the aristocratic failure at good governance caused incalculable misery for tens of millions of people.  A dangerous family tradition indeed!

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