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  • Published: 27 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9780141960968
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 624

The Three Emperors

Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One




The juicy, funny story of the three dysfunctional rulers of Germany, Russia and Great Britain at the turn of the last century, combined with a study of the larger forces around them

In the years before the First World War, the great European powers, Britain, Germany and Russia, were ruled by three cousins: George V, King-Emperor of England, the British Empire and India; Wilhelm II, the last Kaiser; and Nicholas II, the last Tsar. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war which set twentieth century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world.

Miranda Carter uses the cousins' correspondence and a host of historical sources to tell the tragicomic story of a tiny, glittering, solipsistic world that was often preposterously out of kilter with its times, struggling to stay in command of politics and world events as history overtook it. The Three Emperors is a brilliant and sometimes hilarious portrait of three men - damaged, egotistical Wilhelm, quiet, stubborn Nicholas and anxious, dutiful George - and their lives, foibles and obsessions, from tantrums to uniforms to stamp collecting. It is also alive with fresh, subtle portraits of other familiar figures: Queen Victoria - grandmother to two of them, grandmother-in-law to the third - whose conservatism and bullying obsession with family left a dangerous legacy; and of Edward VII, the playboy 'arch-vulgarian' who turned out to have a remarkable gift for international relations and the theatrics of mass politics. At the same time it weaves through their stories a riveting account of the events that led to World War One, showing how the personal and the political interacted, sometimes to devastating effect.


For all three men the war would be a disaster which destroyed for ever the illusion of their close family relationships, with any sense of peace and harmony shattered in a final coda of murder, betrayal and abdication.

  • Published: 27 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9780141960968
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 624

Praise for The Three Emperors

Fascinating. A wonderfully fresh and beautifully choreographed work of history

Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Carter draws masterful portraits of her subjects and tells the complicated story of Europe's failing international relations well...a highly readable and well-documented account

Spectator

Absorbing. Carter has a good eye for a quote and an ability to bring various personalities to life. A convincing and considerable achievement

Sarah Bradford, Literary Review

Carter's account of how an already dysfunctional family turned toxic is fresh and enjoyable...timely and welcome

Guardian

Miranda Carter's story is full of vivid quotations...a romp though the palaces of Europe in their last decades before Armageddon

Sunday Times

Well-paced, a thoroughly polished, professional piece of work. A macabre family saga

A. N. Wilson, Evening Standard

An entertaining study of power and personality portrays the strutting absurdity and grotesque glamour of the last emperors on the eve of catastrophe

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times

Fascinating. Carter is a gifted storyteller and has written a very readable account

Independent

Carter's intelligent, entertainging and informative book folds dynastic and political narratives into a panoramic account of Europe's road to war

London Review of Books

In her group biography of three monarchs, Carter has succeeded in painting their personalities in vivid colours...she brings an excellent biographer's eye for the telling detail...the great appeal of this book lies in it narration and comparative analysis of the life and personality of her imperial subjects...well-researched and expertly written...an engaging and remarkably even-handed portrayal

The Times Literary Supplement

That these three absurd men could ever have held the fate of Europe in their hands is a fact as hilarious as it is terrifying. I haven't enjoyed a historical biography this much since Lytton Strachey's Victoria

Zadie Smith

Miranda Carter writes with lusty humour, has a fresh clarifying intelligence, and a sharp eye for telling details. This is traditional narrative history with a 21st-century zing. A real corker of a book

History Today

A highly original way of looking at the years that led up to 1914

Antonia Fraser, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year

Carter deftly interpolates history with psychobiography to provide a damning indictment of monarchy in all its forms

Will Self, New Statesmen Books of the Year

A depiction of bloated power and outsize personalities in which Carter picks apart the strutting absurdity of the last emperors on the eve of catastrophe

Financial Times Books of the Year

Takes what should have been a daunting subject and through sheer wit and narrative élan turns it into engaging drama. Carter has a notable gift for characterisation

Jonathan Coe, Guardian Books of the Year

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