Born to Rule: Granddaughters of Victoria, Queens of Europe
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Julia P. Gelardi
St Martin's Press (2005)
This covers a century in the lives of five royal cousins, from the birth of the eldest in 1869 to the death of the youngest one hundred years later. The princesses, all very different in personality, became the wives of European Kings or Emperors as the continent was about to be torn apart by the Great War of 1914-18.
Maud (1869-1938), the eldest, led the least tragic life. A lively tomboy, the youngest child of the future King Edward VII, she dreaded becoming an old maid, and married her cousin Charles of Denmark. In 1905 he became King Haakon VII of Norway, and though very pro-British he remained neutral during the war. Sophie (1870-1932), sister of the German Kaiser Wilhelm, married Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, who as King was forced to abdicate, recalled, abdicated again and died miserably in exile. Even worse was the fate of Alexandra (1872-1918), the unhappy last Tsarina of Russia whose hemophiliac son Alexis was very sick. Her husband, Tsar Nicholas II, abdicated during the Russian revolution in 1917 and the family were murdered a year later. Marie (1875-1938) was a colourful personality married to the future King Ferdinand of Roumania. She was much admired by the country's politicians, but after he died her life was soured by the unfeeling behaviour of their son, King Carol. Victoria Eugenie (‘Ena') (1887-1969) married King Alfonso XIII of Spain, but her happiness in marriage was shortlived. Like Alexandra, she was a carrier of hemophilia, and three of their four sons were always sickly.
Set against a time of European upheaval and war, this book focuses primarily on their domestic lives and personalities, drawing interesting comparisons between each of them and the way in which they adapted – or failed to adapt – to life in their husbands' countries.
The review of this Book prepared by John Van der Kiste