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Three Emperor Cousins

If you read my report From the Book Front a month ago, you might have been anticipating a post about Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I had suggested was next on my reading list (and which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction just a couple of days later). If it were on my Kindle, I bet I would have read it in the following week. But it isn’t, and I seem to have a strange difficulty lately picking up physical books, so it has gone unread.

Instead, thanks to my friend Werner’s suggestion and its availability on the Kindle, I unexpectedly find myself reading Miranda Carter’s tri-biography George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. (Published last year in the US, but in 2009 in the UK under the title The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One.)

Werner wrote to me last week that he had just finished it and had been unable to put it down. I got home and downloaded the opening sample, but evidently to the wrong device, so when I went to read it that night, it wasn’t there. I saw Werner the next day and we talked awhile about the book. This time, when I got home, I decided to forget the sample. I paid for and downloaded the whole book.

I was soon reading about the difficult labor in 1859 of Queen Victoria’s oldest child, eighteen-year-old Vicky, and the birth of Victoria’s first grandchild, Willy, eventual Kaiser Wilhelm II and grandson of soon-to-be Kaiser Wilhelm I. A couple of days ago, I read about the childhood of Victoria’s grandson George, the eventual King George V, and now I’m on to the childhood of the future Tsar Nicholas II. Not new stories, to be sure, but stories well told so far.

I wrote yesterday about our seeing The King’s Speech two nights ago. It was fun to read about the young George in the morning and then watch him in the evening as his life came to a close. I seem to have skipped over some important details in-between. I’m counting on the book to fill in the gap.

It’s a bit jarring to realize that just two weeks ago we (well, not me, but some of us) were watching the wedding of George’s granddaughter’s grandson. Time moves right along, and as it does, one realizes that Prince William isn’t so far removed from Queen Victoria. With more than a few twits in between.

Categories: Books, History
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