138 years transpired (6 scores and 9 years for you Abe fans) between the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of World War I.
Queen Victoria’s rule fell in the dead center of these world altering events.
The American Revolution called into question the need of a monarch to lead a great nation. WWI would radically alter four empires:
- the Prussian empire,
- the Austro-Hungarian empire,
- the Ottoman empire, and
- the Russian empire.
Queen Victoria’s family played major roles in both these epic wars. The simple way to understand this is to take a selectively pruned view of her family tree.
Interesting footnotes to this family tree.
- The connection of the House of Hanover, King George III and Queen Victoria’s family line, with Germany is deep and intertwined.
- This family had lots of breeders.
3. King George III went mad towards the end of his reign. Due to his well-known insanity, many of his descendants feared they would also suffer this malady.
4. Queen Victoria’s father Prince Edward married late in life. As with most of King George III’s sons, Prince Edward was a playboy before he married.
5. King George III’s sons fathered 56 illegitimate children.
6. After King George III’s long reign, he was succeeded by his eldest son King George IV and then his 3rd son King William IV. These reigns were relatively short. Queen Victoria succeeded King William IV after his death.
7. Queen Victoria’s mother was previously widowed and had two children before she married Victoria’s father Prince Edward.
8. Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, died when Victoria was 1 years old of pneumonia.
9. It is somewhat miraculous that Queen Victoria was ever queen. She was 5th in line to succession at her birth. Had her father’s three older brother’s had any surviving legitimate children, she would have been behind them in line for succession. King George III’s eldest son King George IV did have one legitimate daughter Charlotte, but she died at the age of 21 during child labor. Her child was stillborn.
10. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert carried the gene for hemophilia which would be spread by her children to other royal families, including Russia and Spain.
11. Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Alice died 17 years to the day of her father Prince Albert. December 14th was a solemn day for the widowed Queen Victoria.
12. Queen Victoria’s eldest child Victoria was married to King Frederick III of Prussia. Frederick’s reign lasted all of 99 days before he died of cancer at the age of 56.
13. Kaiser Wilheim II was known as a brash and impulsive ruler. His birth was difficult due to being breach. His left arm was withered and notably shorter than his right arm. This birth defect was subject of much concern for his mother, and a source of much self-consciousness by Wilheim.
14. Kaiser Wilheim II was vilified for his role in bringing on WWI. After surrendering, the Prussian empire was carved up and Wilheim was forced to abdicate the throne on November 28, 1918.
15. Kaiser Wilheim II’s abdication ended the centuries long ruling dynasty of the House of Hohenzollern in Prussia.
16. Czar Nicholas II’s marriage to Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Alix was unpopular with the Russian people. They resented their czar marrying a foreign-born princess.
17. Nicholas II and Alix’s only son Alexei was much adored by his parents. Alix was crestfallen and desperate when it was discovered Alexei suffered from hemophilia. She brought in the dark and controversial figure Rasputin with the promise that his mystical powers would heal the young prince.
18. Raputin was assassinated by Russian nobles in 1916. On the night before his death, he was poisoned with cyanide. After consuming poisoned cakes, tea and Madeira wine, Rasputin showed no ill-effects. His assassins were dumbfounded. Realizing the poison was not taking effect, they shot him one time in the chest. He was then carried away, assumed dead. Hours later Rasputin awoke and attacked his captors who were checking to see that he was finally dead. Again surprised, they shot him two more times, including a close-range shot to the forehead. Taking no chances, they wrapped Rasputin in a cloth and dropped him from the Petrovky Bridge into the Malaya Nevka River. His dead body was discovered a couple of days after the assassination.
19. Czar Nicholas II was heavily criticized for his handling of the war efforts in WWI. Millions of Russian soldiers were killed and major battles were lost throughout the war. He abdicated his throne in March 15, 1917 after the February Revolution.
20. Czar Nicholas II, Alix and their 5 children were executed July 17, 1918 by the Soviets. The death of Nicholas II was the end of the 304 year reign of the House of Romanov.
Despite close family connections, Kaiser Wilheim II and Czar Nicholas II ended up on opposite sides in WWI. Marriages between royal families were designed to create harmony and alliances between countries. A deeper study would be required to determine if these martial and family alliances were successful overall. Problems with monarchies include succession disputes, hereditary illnesses from in-breeding, and nepotism. Queen Victoria’s family illustrated some of these inherent defects.