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Monday 24 August 2020

Shattered Crowns - The Scapegoats

 “In the past,” Archduke Franz Ferdinand said, “I believed that kings and emperors made all the decisions for their people. Now, though, I see it very differently. For the most part, monarchs are merely the actors who take centre-stage. Their lines are scripted for them and their movements are stage-managed by faceless people whom the audience never sees. Even in an autocracy like Austria-Hungary, so much goes on behind the scenes where ministers and politicians plot and intrigue among themselves. They see their monarchs as little more than puppets. They make plans that suit their personal ambitions and increase their own sense of power, and they manipulate their emperors into accepting and implementing those plans at whatever cost to their countries. Then comes the cruellest part of all: when the drama turns into tragedy, these people withdraw into the shadows leaving the emperor to shoulder all the blame…””

 From 'The Scapegoats' - the first book in the Shattered Crowns trilogy - a series of novels portraying   the Royal Families of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Roumania in the First World War.



Friday 21 August 2020

Crown Prince Rudolf

 The ill-fated Crown Prince Rudolf was born on 21st August 1858. Countess Larisch, writing after his death, rather dramatically described her first meeting with him. It sounds very melodramatic and obviously written in hindsight...."The next evening we were invited to a family dinner, and there I saw, for the first time since I was quite a tiny child, my cousin the Crown Prince Rudolph. When he entered the room I experienced a curious feeling of uneasiness. Perhaps my subconscious self knew the danger which Rudolph was destined to become in my life, and my nervousness increased when I saw that he watched me narrowly out of the corners of his eyes. The Crown Prince sat next to me and commenced to tease me unmercifully, and, boy though he then was in years, he seemed to possess the intelligence of a man. He was handsome, and for some time I racked my brains to remember what wild animal he recalled to me, for he had a curious look not altogether human. Then, I knew – Rudolph reminded me of a wolf; his eyes blazed green at times, and he seemed almost ready to spring. “Was he as cruel as a wolf?” I wondered, and then an icy chill went down my spine as I recalled the Empress’s words to me before dinner when I had gone to show her my pretty gown. “Marie,” she had said, “tonight you will see Rudolph. I warn you against him, because he will turn on you if ever he gets the chance.”



Monday 17 August 2020

Emperor Karl and his father, Archduke Otto

 On 17th August 1887, the future Emperor Karl of Austria was born. He was the son of Franz Ferdinand's brother, 'the gorgeous Archduke' Otto, whose beauty was unfortunately only skin deep. Otto was a complete cad, a drunkard and a womaniser who, with his companions, wrecked many cafes and bars in Vienna. On one occasion he took his drunken friends to his wife's bedroom at 3 o'clock in the morning so that they could have some fun 'with a nun.' Fortunately, one of his friends was sober enough to draw his sword to protect the poor woman until help arrived. 


 Archduke Otto

Otto's lifestyle soon caught up with him. He contracted syphilis, which not only left him in agony but also rotted his face. His nose was so eaten away that he had to wear a leather prosthesis and he died at the age of only forty-one. Karl, of course, was a very different character - devout and faithful to his wife.


Emperor Karl

Thursday 13 August 2020

King George's Menagerie





King George IV, like many of his contemporaries, developed an interest in exotic animals and created a large menagerie at Windsor. From 'Queen Victoria's Creatures':  "Generally, George preferred the company of the docile creatures and colourful birds that lived in his menagerie, one of which, a cockatoo, was tame enough to sit on his arm as he travelled through London. So proud was he of his growing collection of interesting beasts that he granted the public admission to his menagerie on condition that they made no drawings of the inhabitants and only visited on days when he was absent. On rare occasions he made an exception to this rule, as when a young lady arrived at the gates as he toured the gardens. On being denied entrance, she sent George a message, explaining that she had travelled some distance for the sole purpose of seeing the peacocks, and, once he had ascertained from the messenger that she was a woman of great beauty, he allowed her admission. When, however, soon afterwards, he caught sight of one of his former mistresses standing by the gate, he insisted that she be detained by the guards until he had departed." 


Thursday 6 August 2020

The Battle of Worth

On the 6th August 1870, the Prussian were victorious at the Battle of Worth. The Prussian Crown Prince, Frederick (Fritz) had just led his troops to victory at Weissenburg, but he: "...had neither the time nor the inclination to celebrate the victory, as, early the following morning, he led his men on towards the Alsatian village of Worth. As the competent French General MacMahon had amassed a force of over eight-thousand men, Fritz intended to await his cavalry before launching an attack on the 7th August. In the early hours of the 6th, however, he heard the booming of cannon and realised that a battle was underway. At eleven o’clock he reached the battlefield and, for the next six hours, he remained in the saddle in the heart of the fray. Heavy losses were sustained on both sides and, for a while, it appeared that MacMahon would emerge triumphant, but in the late afternoon, the French were forced to retreat, leaving thirty cannon and forty-thousand prisoners in the hands of the triumphant Germans.
"Bismarck pointedly failed to acknowledge Fritz’ role in the victory, and looked ‘as sulky as a bear’ when the King warmly praised him; but, with two victories in four days, the morale of the Third Army soared, and ‘Our Fritz’ became the soldiers’ ‘idol.’" (From 'The Silent Emperor')
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Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Outbreak of World War I

Although Britain did not enter WW1 until 4th August 1914, the war began on 28th July. Contrary to popular opinion, it was not a war between Emperors, as the Emperors of Germany and Russia tried their utmost to maintain peace.
"The declaration of war, which was due to be sent on August 12th, was delivered by telegram to Belgrade at eleven o’clock in the morning of 28th July, and was so unexpected that the Serbs initially believed it to be a hoax. They were quickly disillusioned when the Austrians began firing shells across the Danube, prompting the anxious Serbs to blow up the main bridge across the river to prevent the invading army from reaching Belgrade.
On hearing that Austria had launched an attack, the Russian press roused the people to demand retribution for the ‘ignoble war’ against a ‘weaker and smaller’ country, and the Tsar ordered a partial mobilisation against Austria. In spite of their antipathy towards Austria-Hungary, the Russians were largely unmoved by the headlines that attempted to turn them against Germany, and, according to one witness, the people of St Petersburg generally believed that the Kaiser would eventually prove successful in his attempts to resolve the situation peacefully.
“Everyone firmly believed in Kaiser Wilhelm’s peaceful intentions, and the efficacy of his powerful mediation, and were convinced that he would intervene in the last moment. The Kaiser’s vaunted love of peace seemed a guarantee.”
Wilhelm, realising that the situation was rapidly escalating out of control, urgently telegraphed Nicholas, asking him to halt the mobilisation, and offering further mediation while promising to ‘induce Austria-Hungary to seek a frank and satisfactory understanding with Russia.’ True to his word, he repeatedly sent emissaries to Vienna, exhorting the Austrians to show restraint and to agree to some form of compromise but his suggestions were rejected as Franz Josef’s ministers and Chiefs of Staff insisted that there could be no compromise without a complete acceptance of their demands.
Over the next forty-eight hours, telegrams flew back and forth between St Petersburg and Berlin as the Kaiser and the Tsar pleaded with each other to do everything possible to avoid war."
The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II

Saturday 25 July 2020

A Meeting of the Kaiser & the Tsar

On July 24th 1905, the Kaiser and the Tsar met aboard the Kaiser's yacht to sign the Treaty of Bjorko, agreeing to come to one another's aid if either country were attacked by more than one power. Unfortunately, the Russian ministers declared the treaty was not binding...From 'The Innocence of Kaiser Wilhelm II':
"To avoid speculation or outside interference, the Kaiser and the Tsar arranged an apparently informal meeting aboard Wilhelm’s yacht, Hohenzollern, which would be cruising the waters around Finland when the Tsar was in the area. On a warm Sunday evening, 24th July 1905, in the company of a two diplomats – one German and one Russian – and an Admiral of the Russian fleet, Nicholas and Wilhelm signed the Treaty of Bjorko.
Wilhelm returned home ecstatic about what he had achieved and, two days later, he wrote to Nicholas, thanking him effusively for the pleasure of his company and assuring him that the alliance would:
‘…restore quiet in the minds of people and confidence in the maintenance of Peace in Europe and encourage financial circles in foreign countries to place funds in enterprises in Russia.’
His joy, alas, was short-lived.
As soon as Nicholas presented the treaty to his horrified ministers they told him that, without France’s agreement, it could never be ratified and was therefore meaningless. Aghast at the news, Wilhelm, in a moment of rage, told the Tsar that their vows had been made before God and were therefore too sacred to be broken. His rant achieved nothing, but their friendship remained intact, and, in their continuing correspondence, both agreed that they should stand together against the machinations of ‘the Arch-intriguer and mischief maker in Europe’ – Nicholas’ description of King Edward VII." 

Wednesday 22 July 2020

King Cetshwayo

I greatly admire and simultaneously feel sorry for King Cetshwayo - the King of the Zulus, whose well-disciplined and courageous soldiers inflicted a shocking defeat on the British at the Battle of Isandlwana. They won the battle but lost the war, and the King - who, incidentally, personally ensured that the Prince Imperial's belongings were returned to ex-Empress Eugenie - went into exile in Britain. Happily, his graciousness and his story were taken up by a number of prominent people and the British public turned against the officials in S. Africa, who had brought about the war. Cetshwayo became very popular with the British people and he was eventually asked to resume his kingship in Zululand. Unfortunately, rival factions within his kingdom began a campaign against him and he died quite suddenly, ostensibly of a heart attack, but many people believe he was poisoned. I think he was a great king.

There is more about the Prince Imperial's story in my books: "Queen Victoria & the French Royal Families" and "Queen Victoria's Cousins":

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Kaiser Wilhelm Honoured His Father

Due to propaganda, many people think that Wilhelm II tried to erase his father's memory, but this is far from the truth. At his behest, his father's anniversary and his birthday (and those of his grandfather) were always celebrated by schools, choirs and special events. This particularly school band was one of those which always held a parade and sporting event on those dates.

Monday 20 July 2020

A Royal Love Story

I am surprised that this lovely story is not better known...a true account of an impoverished working woman, who met and married her handsome prince....

Wednesday 8 July 2020

The Silent Emperor - German Emperor Frederick III

On a bright summer’s day in June 1887, a procession of mounted kings and princes moved sedately through the streets of London in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Amid such illustrious company, all eyes were drawn to the ‘towering Lohengrin-like figure’ of the future German Emperor Frederick III in his imperial helmet, silver breastplate and the brilliant white uniform of the Cuirassier Guards. The cheering crowds could never have believed that he had less than a year to live, or that ‘our Fritz’, the hero of Koniggrätz, Worth and Sedan, would soon appear as little more than a silent portrait hanging on the walls of history. So often throughout his life, duty, modesty and loyalty obliged him to remain silent, concealing his own achievements and stifling his opinions. Tragically, when at last he was free to speak with authority, he was rendered voiceless by a painful and debilitating illness. To those who knew him well, however, he truly deserved the epithet, ‘Frederick the Noble’, whose heroic stoicism in the face of suffering equalled and even surpassed his courage on the battlefield.
My new book, The Silent Emperor, is available now worldwide in Kindle & paperback formats.


Monday 30 March 2020

Reading during the Lockdown

As people might be looking for something different to read while being confined to the house, I am reducing the price of the Kindle version of this book to only $0.99 on 1st April. On 2nd April it will be $1.99; on 3rd April $2.99; and on Saturday it will revert to its original price .

Murderesses in Victorian Britain

Saturday 28 March 2020

The Death of Prince Leopold

On 28th March 1884, Queen Victoria's youngest son, the haemophiliac Prince Leopold, died in Cannes. From 'Queen Victorias Granddaughters':

"Delighted by his little daughter, Leopold continued his duties and charitable works, but there was no relief from his medical condition. A year after Alice’s birth, he was troubled by a particularly painful swelling in his joints and his doctors recommended a trip to the warmer climes of the south of France. By then Helen was again in the early stages of pregnancy and not well enough to accompany him to Cannes. Although his life had often hung in the balance, as she watched him depart she had no idea that she would never see him again.
One afternoon, he slipped on the tiled floor of his hotel and banged his knee. A painful swelling ensued and the subsequent haemorrhage was so severe that he did not recover. After less than two happy years with Helen, he died in Cannes on 28thMarch 1884.
“My beloved Leopold!” Queen Victoria wrote, “That bright clever son who had so many times recovered from such fearfull [sic] illnesses, and from various small accidents has been taken from us! To lose another dear child, far from me, and one who was so gifted and such a help to me, is too dreadful.”[i]
Later, in a more tranquil moment, the Queen reflected that death had come as a blessing, for so often in his hours of agony Leopold had cried out that death would be preferable to his suffering.
[i] Nelson, Michael Queen Victoria & the Discovery of the Riviera (Tauris Parke 2001)