Originally, I was a history major in college. History is an endlessly depressing subject. Most every major historical event ends with, “and they all died horribly.” The flu pandemic of 1918. London in 1666. The East India Company. The Roman Empire. Plague. Wars. Dynastic marriages.
And that is the subject of Deborah Cadbury’s ‘Queen Victoria’s Matchmaking: The Royal Marriages That Shaped Europe.’ The entire book isn’t depressing. A lot of it could get confusing if you don’t have a general knowledge of European history. That being said, Cadbury knows how to write family drama. The Windsors are nothing if not dramatic. Side note: The Windsor’s family name was originally Saxe-Coburg and Gotha but the family changed it during WWI on account of the fact the British royal family is super German.
Queen Victoria was a first class meddler and spent a tremendous amount of her time and energy forcing her children and grandchildren into dynastic marriages, often with a close blood relative.
Royals wanted to, and were sometimes required by law, to marry other royals. There aren’t that many royals and near the end of the 19th century European princesses were pretty thin on the ground. Victoria had a lot of princesses in her family line but most of them had zero interest in marrying who she wanted them to. Victoria had a hell of a time getting her grandson and heir (whom the family called Eddy) engaged and then when she finally managed it the young man up and died a mere month before his wedding. The Princess May (also related to Victoria) later married Eddy’s younger brother, George who would become George V. And George had wanted to marry a cousin of his named Missy who turned him down to become the Queen of Romania.
Tragically, one granddaughter who turned down Eddy the heir to the British throne married the Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The Tsar, Alix and all her children died in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, shot at close range by 12 men in a small cellar, disfigured by sulphuric acid and gasoline then buried in shallow, unmarked graves by the side of a road. The Bolsheviks were funded in part by Alix and Nicholas’ cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II. George V refused to help the Tsar’s family even though he was related to both the Tsar and his wife and therefore all their children. George was also related to the Kaiser. Dizzy yet?
World War I was one hell of a family fight.
And of course WWI led directly to WWII.
And they all died horribly.