The years immediately before the First World War saw the last great flowering of European monarchy. Although sovereigns no longer ruled by divine right, their prestige and positions remained almost intact. The glittering centerpieces of national life, those crowned and anointed monarchs were still widely regarded as mystical, unassailable, divinely guided. And, with the majority of them being so closely related, they constituted a royal clan, an international freemasonry through which it was assumed the peace of Europe was being maintained.
World War I shattered all this. King took up arms against king; cousin was pitted against cousin. Twelve leading monarchs, ranging from the vainglorious Kaiser Wilhelm II to such lesser-known figures as the brigandly Nicholas of Montenegro, the ‘outre’ Foxy Ferdinand of Bulgaria and the tragic Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary, were involved in the conflict. For, in the end, that celebrated kinship of the family of kings proved irrelevant. Against the upheavals of these years, monarchs were revealed as both powerless and impotent.
Here, Theo Aronson has assembled the entire cast of embattled monarchs. His is the story of eight momentous years viewed, as it were, from the monarchical standpoint; an account of the passing, not only of their particular world, but of the entire monarchic and dynastic order of the Continent. It describes the brilliant sunset and the dramatic break-up of the Europe of the Kings