Review: Royal Cousins at War (video)

Royal Cousins at War.

An excellent 2-part documentary that brings to light many little-known details about the convoluted family tree that bore the bitter fruit of the First World War.

Here’s an abbreviated family tree, with the major players highlighted:


Through informative narration and unique period film footage and still photos, we learn a lot about Willy, Nicky and Georgie, their vastly disparate upbringings (despite their occupying similar positions of privilege), and the relationships that developed between the three cousins. It’s the kind of information that usually doesn’t appear in the history textbooks.

Their story is told through quotations from family letters and brief re-enactments, and period photos that are often color-keyed to identify the protagonists and antagonists. (Some of the vintage film footage was also colorized at some point, in garish hues that unfortunately distract from the ongoing narration.)

The video poses questions about the evolution of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s accession to power: What if his grandfather, Wilhelm I, had died sooner? What if his father, Frederick III, had lived longer?

I have a few questions of my own: What if the blame for Wilhelm II’s disabling birth injury had been borne by the doctor who delivered him, instead of its being foisted upon the mother, Princess Victoria, and the child himself? What might have happened to Bolshevism if George V had relented and accommodated Tsar Nicholas II’s need for asylum? What if Wilhelm II’s artistic talents, like those of the pseudo-emperor who followed him, Adolf Hitler, had been encouraged? Would the world have been spared the destruction wrought by two megalomaniacs? What if the Allies had persisted in getting the Kaiser extradited from Holland, tried, and punished for the war crimes he willfully committed?

We’ll never know. But we do know that the world we live in is the one we inherited directly from the Royal Cousins at War.

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