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  #21  
Old 05-04-2008, 06:43 PM
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It is possible Albert would have been able to guide Vickie in her struggles with the Prussian court, but I think Bismark would still have been a strong factor in seeing that a liberal Prussia/Germany did not come to pass. I think it more hinges on the fact that Fritz's father lived far too long!

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Old 05-04-2008, 06:51 PM
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Yes, that's true, and also that Fritz died young after being effectively sidelined. I know little boys tend to like being around military environments, but Willy seemed to react like a kid who joins a gang because his home life isn't giving him what he needs. Unfortunately there are always people ready to take advantage if they see someone like Willy without a firm emotional anchor at home. We've seen it happen to Prince Charles more recently although fortunately he didn't look for emotional compensation in war games.

I don't know if it's just this book, but Vicky comes across as someone who's very academically clever but can't apply her intelligence to real life. She also seems to be increasingly bitter and frustrated - she lost her favourite children, her heir was physically and emotionally flawed, her husband was being treated like a nonentity, from being the centre of attention as a child she was now regarded with suspicion and had powerful enemies, and she was living away from home in an environment she was struggling with.
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Old 05-04-2008, 07:03 PM
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Fritz was Kaiser for all of 96 days, I believe, and ill all the while. Not nearly enough time to effect the reforms he and Vicky so desperately wanted to institute. Willy did embrace military life with fervor, and it appears for the reasons you state, because there he found something that was lacking at home.

I agree Vicky was very intelligent but she was hard pressed to apply her abilities in day to day life, not just in this book, I got the same impression of her from the book Victoria's Daughters. I thank she suffered from tunnel vision. I don't think her father really did her any favors by attempting to use her as the tool to create a constitutional Monarchy in Germany. She couldn't let go of his vision and see the world in which she lived. Even more unfortunate was that she could not form a close bond with her son so that he would share that vision and assist her when the time came.

I also find it very intriguing that Nicky's grandfather was attempting to institute more liberal reforms in Russia while Bismark was busy doing the exact opposite in Germany. The outcome would have been completely different had Russia and Germany been moving in the same direction. Sadly one can not rewrite history.

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Old 05-05-2008, 10:13 PM
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I haven't had a chance to read all the comments and GlitteringTiaras excellent analysis but I shall later.

However, here are my first impressions of the first six chapters.

So far I tend to agree with one critic that the book seems to overplay the importance of family relations in the hostilities although that opinion may change as we read later chapters. It is perhaps unavoidable when the theme is family relations between 3 specific cousins that other facets get only mildly touched upon but I do think Bismarck and his political manuvering especially against Willy's father, Fritz, the Crown Prince and Victoria, had a greater influence than the book intimates. I actually became more interested in the whole relationship between the Kaiser, Fritz, Wilhelm and Bismarck. The author doesn't go into detail how Bismarck was able to dethrone Fritz and Victoria from favour and influence Willy although its seems obvious that by the time that Willy was grown that he had. But then again that's not the subject of the book so fair enough but that particular family relationship seems so important that the lightness of treatment about these particular relationships seems noticeable.

About the families my main impression was that the women were far stronger than the men: Victoria, Alexandra, Minny, all seemed to have enormous influence over their husbands to an extent that I found surprising and in different ways, Alix and Minny were much more superficial than Vicky. I wonder if their influence over their husbands was really that great or whether it was an exagerration of the author. In Victorian times, it seems unusual that wives would have that great of an influence. Queen Victoria had less influence than I imagined over her eldest son and his family in particular. She is a much less grand figure in this book, in fact she seems very ineffectual. Again I don't know how much is just the author's imaginative interpretation or whether this is really the way Victoria was. Its going to be interesting to read how the author treats Sasha in the book. I found great correlaries between Sasha's autocratic outlook and the outlook of Willy's grandfather the Kaiser. The author tends to treat the Kaiser rather harshly and Sasha a bit more favorably but that is just an initial impression.

So those are my general first impressions, of course free to change as I read more into it. So far I'm more intrigued by the stuff the book does not get into. This author keeps a very narrow focus on her subject which can be a good thing but I wondered if she could have chosen a few more ancilliary themes to fill out the story. I do get the impression that there is so much going on not only in the countries but in the families that is not in the book. So far its an easy read except for the first 3 chapters that jumped around a bit.
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  #25  
Old 05-05-2008, 11:56 PM
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Here are some answers to GlitteringTiaras excellent questions.

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1. Due to Alexandra's hatred for Germany do you believe it had somewhat of an impact later in Georgie's life hence the build up toward WWI? If so, why?
Its hard to see at this point after chapter 6 the influence that Alexandra had upon her son George. I'm more struck by the influence that he gets from his father Bertie who visits him while he is in the Navy and is definitely more of the type to go with the flow and then do his own thing (as we see with Bertie's attitude towards his mother Queen Victoria) George's diary, which seems to be commonplace and devoid of any real trauma (so far) seems to come from a personality that doesn't like to deal with difficulties - and Willy definitely was difficult. Bertie was also a man that didn't like to deal with difficulties. I did find it odd though that Bertie admonished George to stay in the Navy because he had to show an example and he couldn't be seen an idle. Bertie himself seemed the personification of idleness.

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2. "Doomed as a failure". This quote was applied to Georgie's older brother, Eddy, which I blame solely on his mother, Alexandra. Do you believe this to be true? Or was there something else going on? If so, what?
Its hard to tell what is going on with Eddy. This particular author is tantalizingly scant of details. OK we know that Eddy didn't like to read and he was really lazy but what did that really mean? The author doesn't give us enough details to make up our own conclusion. But then again the author doesn't even mention Nicholas' older brother that died as an infant so the also-rans don't seem to be as important in this book. Sasha's older brother Nixa also received short shrift in the book.

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3. If Vicky was Georgie's mother do you believe he would have been a stronger person hence "tougher"? What is the problem here in regards to both Nicky and Georgie? The obvious pattern which seems to have carried on in their adult years. Willy, on the other hand, turned out quite "normal" so far... despite his rising ADD problem.
Its hard to imagine Vicky as Georgie's mother. Based on her statement that she was considered a German in London and too English in Berlin, I got the sense that Vicky had a hard time fitting in anywhere. If she had been Georgie's mother, I imagine there would have been something about the society that she lived in that she didn't just fit into and that would have carried over to her relationships with her children. I suspect she had a genius IQ in a time where even male geniuses had a hard time much less female geniuses.


Quote:
4. Georgie's education suffered because he was the second son. His education was somewhat sacrificed to whatever they thought Eddy needed. Would things have turned out differently if he'd had the education and upbringing of the heir like his cousins did?
I think Georgie's education (and Eddy's) was sacrificed because neither of their parents valued a good education. Alexandra came from the Glucksborgs who valued social success over a good education and Edward didn't seem to value education either. Actually I think their education could have been good with the teachers they had; however, it may be that they inherited their parent's disdain for good education that that affected their motivation to become learned. George never seemed to have an intellectual hungering for anything in his life. Alexandra actually seemed to detest learning.

Quote:
5. Would Willy have been less stridently patriotic if his mother had managed to maintain better relations with her father-in-law? And would it have made a difference if Prince Albert hadn't died young?
I think Fritz needed to remain on good terms with his father. In the battle for a boy's respect, if you pit an all powerful Kaiser grandfather against a well meaning but ineffectual and sidelined father, I'm afraid a young boy is always going to choose the role model that makes his feel the best about himself, ie, the powerful grandfather. I think Fritz didn't have enough strength for Willy to want him as a role model so Willy's grandfather and Bismarck took Willy's father place in the young boy's esteem. Actually I think Fritz failed his son more than Vicky failed him.

Quote:
6. How much of a factor were Vicky's attitudes in the relationship between her husband and his father? Or were Fritz's liberal leanings enough to drive a wedge between them anyway?
This is a maddening question because so far we don't have an answer. I suspect that Fritz had these leanings before he met Vicky; that's why they got on so well. I think Vicky's outspokenness hurt Fritz but then again Fritz made that meaningless gesture by refusing to lift his glass to toast Bismarck so we can't blame Vicky for all of it. I suspect Fritz had severe moral misgivings about the way Bismarck was handling things - with or without Vicky but neither he nor Vicky knew how to handle the situation. I blame Fritz more than Vicky because this was his country and his family and it looks like he should have known better. However I can't make that judgment because this particular book tells us so little about Fritz and his character. Maybe that will change in later chapters but so far the treatment of Fritz in the first six chapters is maddenly slim.

Quote:
7. Did the assassination of Alexander II before he was able to implement some of his reforms affect Nicky's upbringing and attitudes?
I have my own opinions about this from other books but this particular author hasn't given me a real feel for Nicholas yet. He seems like the author's least favorite cousin. I think Alexander II's death immensely affected Sasha though and his approach toward reigning.

Quote:
8. If Bertie had married a German princess, would relations between Prussia and Britain have been better during Queen Victoria's reign?
Well German doesn't exactly mean Prussian. If Bertie had married a princess of Hannover or of Hesse-Darmstadt that got overrun by Bismarck's armies and were forced to pay crippling reparations, then I don't think they would have been so pro-German Empire.

Quote:
9. Do you believe Russia could only be ruled with by an autocratic monarch? After years and years of instability, a small rising class of literate Russians, socialism, modernization, and extremely poor peasants suffering is an autocracy the answer? Is having a monarch at all in Russia worth keeping?
I think Russia needed time between the rise of the common classes and the dissolving of power of the nobility. Alexander II tried to help the common classes without adversely affecting the power and privileges of the nobility and that was impossible. Unfortunately he didn't live long enuogh. It would have taken a very far sighted son to see what Alexander II had tried to achieve and where he had failed and Alexander III was not that man.
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  #26  
Old 05-06-2008, 02:46 AM
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Well German doesn't exactly mean Prussian. If Bertie had married a princess of Hannover or of Hesse-Darmstadt that got overrun by Bismarck's armies and were forced to pay crippling reparations, then I don't think they would have been so pro-German Empire.
I think a good example of this, is that the author mentions that as Princess Alice was married into the Hesse-Darmstadts, and she was Edward's favourite sister, Edward's feelings towards Prussia became even cooler after this.
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  #27  
Old 05-06-2008, 03:14 AM
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It might not have been all that different from the reality of his marriage to Alexandra; it's just that the bad feelings would have come later since Schleswig-Holstein was the first land grab of the unification.
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  #28  
Old 05-06-2008, 06:25 AM
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Yes, I think that second war against Austra and the smaller German states had farther reaching implications than the initial war against Schleswig=Holstein. There were so many smaller German principalities whose rulers were not necessarily pro-Prussia who were really eaten up by this second war. From the standpoint of governing, Germany was broken into so many smaller and inefficiently managed states that unification was unavoidable to a degree but I wonder whether it could have been done less belicosely. Perhaps not; Alexander II's attempt to free the serfs without really severely hampering the nobility backfired and no one was happy. The smaller ruling families in Germany were bound to lose out in any unification no matter how mild put but I somehow cannot see Germany entering the 20th century as the loosely connected but autonomous collection of city-states and grand duchies it had been under a no longer strong Holy Roman Empire.
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  #29  
Old 05-06-2008, 07:32 AM
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I'm really looking forward to reading this. I ordered it from the library and I'm picking it up tomorrow.

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  #30  
Old 05-06-2008, 03:42 PM
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Small announcement:
I cannot take all the credit here. Elspeth added many great questions to the original starter post for KKT.

Okay back on topic.
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  #31  
Old 05-06-2008, 04:16 PM
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Yep, my questions included the maddening one about Vicky's attitude and the ambiguous one about German princesses. Probably more by way of being a roadblock than any actual help.
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  #32  
Old 05-06-2008, 06:32 PM
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Children with ADD or ADHD, even intelligent, usually do not get good grades. So, it is possible Willy did not have any of these problems.

I have read that Bismarck played a key role in creating problems between Willy and his parents. And when Bismarck went to Vicky to look for protection, Willy already the kaiser, she said so to him, she could not help him because he had destroyed that relationship.

And, Glittering Tiaras, they say there is already a tzar in Russia....
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  #33  
Old 05-06-2008, 07:14 PM
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Then my son must have been the exception to the rule, despite having been diagnosed with ADHD he always got good grades (we were diligent in our studies) and in college made the Dean's list every semester but one.

At any rate, it is evident Bismark played a key role in distancing Willy from his liberal parents' viewpoint, hough in King, Kaiser Tsar, there is no mention of Bismark going to Vicky for help/protection once Willy became Tsar. Interesting that he did, if indeed he did. Other than KKT and Victoria's Daughters, I admit I haven't read much about Kaiser Wilhelm.

Vicky's mane problem seemed to be she was much too focused on the dream her father instilled in her, and one which Fritz evidently shared, or a united but democratic Germany. She was unable or unwilling to adapt to the political climate she found in Prussia/Germany and therefore failed to make the connections and form the ties she would need when the time came. She and Fritz also failed to form a close emotional bond with Willy, which might have insured he was more closely aligned with their point of view.

Of the three cousins Willy is the most compelling and the greatest enigma, though Nicky is a close second. Both of these boys grew to have the greatest power and both were abysmally unsuited for the positions they inherited. I think the way they were raised had a lot to do with that, perhaps Nicky more so than Willy.

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Old 05-07-2008, 09:20 AM
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I found a smilarity between Bismarck's trying to pass over Fritz for Wilhelm with the situation today of elements in British society who are pushing for William to overstep Charles in inheriting the throne.

Bismarck's promotion of Wilhelm over Fritz severely damaged the relationship between father and son and weakened the family. I wonder what effect the current situation is having on Charles' and William's relationship.
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  #35  
Old 05-07-2008, 10:45 AM
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I was thinking along the same lines only yesterday! Great minds obviously think alike...

Unfortunately I don't think many of the "Charles must go" people spend a lot of time thinking of the effect this must be having on internal family relationships. However, my guess is that the Queen isn't as interested as the old Kaiser in having it happen, and I hope there aren't any influential courtiers who are angling behind the scenes to make it so. So hopefully it's more an irritant than anything.

Course, there does seem to have been a bit of a tradition among the Hanoverian monarchs, as well as at least some of the Windsor ones, for there to be a very uneasy relationship between the monarch and the heir. I don't know enough about the history of the German kingdoms and principalities to know if it was common there too.
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Old 05-07-2008, 04:05 PM
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It is possible Albert would have been able to guide Vickie in her struggles with the Prussian court, but I think Bismark would still have been a strong factor in seeing that a liberal Prussia/Germany did not come to pass. I think it more hinges on the fact that Fritz's father lived far too long!

Cat
Maybe she would have been guided down the right path (whatever that might have been) had Albert lived longer. I just don't understand how she under the advisement and counsel of her grandmother (along with her husband) were trying to mold the empire into Victoria's "English" Prussia. That was the goal when it all boils down to it. Am I the only one to see the absurdity in this? Did she not fear her life? The court was bent on absolutism. I understand that the times were changing but to be that close in proximity Bismark and taking him on in what seemed like a war against the world! Reading this book I was afraid of what he was capable. I am very surprised that Vicky lived to be Kaiserin no matter how brief the period was.
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  #37  
Old 05-08-2008, 08:01 AM
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[quote=ysbel;762324]

Its hard to imagine Vicky as Georgie's mother. Based on her statement that she was considered a German in London and too English in Berlin, I got the sense that Vicky had a hard time fitting in anywhere. If she had been Georgie's mother, I imagine there would have been something about the society that she lived in that she didn't just fit into and that would have carried over to her relationships with her children. I suspect she had a genius IQ in a time where even male geniuses had a hard time much less female geniuses.

I can't really agree with this, Ysabel. I think that she was regarded as a German in London because public opinion turned against the Germans because of the three wars, especially the one against the French.

The German culture was extremely different from the English and I think the Germans found Vicky very assertive compared with German women. She didn't endear herself to them by constantly implying that English ways were superier, it must be admitted!

I think that if she'd married a more liberal-minded and dominating English lord or duke, she might have been perfectly happy.

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Old 05-08-2008, 08:13 AM
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Smile re: Emphasis on personal conflicts; Education

I haven't read all six chapters yet but I am inclined to agree that the author emphasizes the personal conflicts between the families too much - of course, that is her theme. I am not sure either that Alexandra's hatred of Germany played such a large role in developments. However, she was certainly influential in England becoming friendly with Russia.

Education of Willy

Vicky certainly doesn't seem to me to be the best mother, so far! Her coldness and imposition of such a harsh regime on poor Willy (I can't believe that I'm now calling our former enemy that!) must have been very tough on him. I don't think that her father's advice would have helped because he did this to Edward VII. It's his influence here that was at fault.

She also had great difficulty in accepting that Willy had a withered arm, which must have been awful for him.

Minnie

Someone remarked that Minnie wasn't bright. The book says that she was quite bright. I haven't got up to Nicky's education yet so I can't comment.

I only got the book out yesterday and I am likely to have trouble keeping up because my mother is old and frail so I spend a lot of time at her place and it's too hard to carry books back and forth all the time. I am enjoying the book very much so far. It's written in an interesting way with lots of anecdotes and not too heavy and academic.

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Old 05-08-2008, 08:19 AM
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Since both Victoria and Albert were essentially German, I think their hearts were in the right place. They evidently knew, or believed, the German states would eventually have to be united and would have preferred the unification to happen peacefully and become more of a constitutional monarchy like England. It is rather sad that they assigned this task to Vicky, who turned out to be woefully unsuited, and that Albert did not live long enough to assist her in making his dream a reality.

There were several factors that conspired against them, and Vicky and Fritz. I don't think they counted on Bismark and his unification of Germany by sheer brute force. Nor was Vicky's ingrained "Englishness" considered. Vicky was either unable or unwilling to blend into the existing Prussian Court before she let her liberal views be known. She lacked the common sense and diplomatic skills necessary for the task her parents laid upon her.

Willy's personality was also another factor no one could have foreseen. None of these men, especially Willy and Nicky, were raised to fully appreciate and understand the roles they would eventually assume. Had Willy been shown more tolerance by his English grandmother and uncle, even his cousin George, the whole thing might have turned out quite differently. If Willy had been able to select his friends and advisers better it also would have helped.

Then again, had Nicky's grandfather not been assassinated, Russia might have been more liberal. Sadly Sacha reacted very badly to his father's death. He and Alix both failed in preparing Nicky to be Tsar, just as Vicky and Fritz failed with Willy.

Huge word "IF"!

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Old 05-08-2008, 07:26 PM
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IntelligenceI

I am not reading the book but enjoying very much this interesting thread.

Remember that intelligence is an inherited potential, that develops until 15 or 16 years old, approximately, through the richness that environment offers. Mothers are very important, not only because of the genes, that too, but because they had more influence and spend more time with small children. Every hug, smiles, words, are important in development. And later they choose cultural and learning opportunities. A person can be born with 80 out of 100 of intelligence (I am inventing an example), and the environment only helped to reach until 60, that important it is. Maybe with Queen Mary entered into british royal family smarter genes that with Queen Alix.

Eddy could have had a low I.Q. Children with little intelligence are just like the other more normal children, they learn to walk, talk, etc., only that when school begins they are unable to learn,or learn too slowly, depending on the extent of the problem.
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