One can appreciate why Kaiser Wilhelm II, at the outbreak of war in 1914, exclaimed that ‘Nicky’ had ‘played him false’. For the rulers of the world’s three greatest nations – King George V of Great Britain and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia on the one hand, and the German Kaiser on the other – were not simply cousins, they were first cousins. If their grandmother Queen Victoria had still been alive, said the Kaiser, she would never have allowed them to go to war with each other.
The British royal family’s German roots
Queen Victoria was the daughter of the German-born Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
Victoria married her German first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1840. Their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the sobriquet “the grandmother of Europe”.
Victoria’s father was a descendant of the Royal House of Hanover, being the fourth son of King George III.
If it feels complicated, the point is they were all of German ancestry.
For example Victoria’s grandfather the British King George III was simultaneously and concurrently also the Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg (“Hanover”) until his promotion to King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was also the third British King of the House of Hanover. His two predecessors (Kings George I and George II) were born in Germany and had German as their mother-tongue. Whereas he was the first British Hanoverian King who was actually born in Britain, spoke English as his first language, and who never visited Hanover.
Three-quarter-German but British King Edward VII(top far right) in German Uniform, with his three-quarter-German sister Victoria (Kaiser Bill’s mother) his own at-least-half-German mother Queen Victoria and some of his German relations including his half-German half-English nephew Kaiser Wilhem II
King George V in German uniform with his cousin Kaiser Wilhem II
King George V and his cousins
King George V was King of Britain from 1910 till his death in 1936. During his reign the British Royal Family’ sought to distance itself from its German background.
This became seen as a sensitive issue during the first world war, so much so that in 1917 — during a war where Britain fought with one cousin’s country Russia, against another cousin’s* country Germany — George changed the family name from the too-German sounding Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor.
Coincidentally that name change became effective on exactly the same day (July 17th 1917) that his Russian cousin and his family were being murdered.
So George was controversially distancing himself from an unpopular monarch removed by Bolshevik revolution by denying the Russian cousin Tsar Nicholas II and his family asylum in Britain, at exactly the same time as he was also preparing the distancing of himself and his family from their German connections and ancestry and his other German cousins.
A tricky time for him and for European monarchies.
Apparently these two cousins weren’t so close. George and Wilhelm. George again wearing German uniform.
Kaiser Bill and Tsar Nicholas… er, I mean George V.. Er, no Nicholas .So hard to tell. Two royal cousins together, anyway.
Apparently these two cousins weren’t so close, either. Here Tsar Nicholas also appears to be wearing a German uniform, judging by the Prussian helmet.
The Kaiser* and Tsar Nicholas. Although they weren’t said to be close, Wilhelm did more to save his cousins life, offering safe passage to Britain even though they were at war, and after his Russian cousin’s family were incarcerated even offered asylum in Germany. Both offers rejected by Nicholas due to the political manouevering during war and revolution.
I have no idea how these two got on together. Kaiser Wilhelm and minor aristocrat Winston Churchill at a military review
These two cousins were great pals… until the threat of revolution got in the way…
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