WWI: Everyone is Related

Hello everyone! Sorry it has been so long 1) Christmas Break 2) Something was wrong with the site and publishing features so the things I was publishing were not showing up. BUT they are fixed and I will be republishing in them in the weeks to come!

But first.

I love WWI. A lot. So in the next week or two will be posting a lot about how it started and interesting details of the war! A lot of history teachers only have time to play World War I off as the war that led to World War II and that the war was mainly a basic war of attrition; firing at each other and killing each other in trenches until the enemy had been overcome. While that assumption is at its core the truth, it is also far from the truth leaving out some insane details that make it one of my favorite events in history to study.

When describing the outbreak of WWI many start with the assassination of the Archduke of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrio-Hungarian throne, which is a great place to start but I want to give you guys some background that I find super interesting on the intricate web of relations that tied much Europe together.

When you think of Europe pre-WWI you need to picture early Downton Abbey (if you haven't seen Downton Abbey, get on it, all six seasons) A very hierarchical society entrenched in rules, tradition, and duty. Children of the aristocracy were often pared before they were even born to ensure a suitable match for each family in retaining the prestige of their family blood lines. Many of the heirs to the thrones of the major players had grown up with each other, had siblings that had married into royal families all over Europe, and often toured Europe visiting and catching up the close relations in just about every country.

So by 1914 going into WWI the leaders of Europe had been intricately webbed (this can get kind of confusing so just hang with me).

First, the players:

King George V of England : When George was born he was 3rd in line for the British throne so there was little expectation that he would ever be king. The plan was for him to make a career in the British Navy; but after his older brother, Albert Victor, died of pneumonia George became next inline after his father.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor/King of Prussia was born second in line for the throne of the newly formed German Empire.

Tsar Nicholas II, Tsar of the Russian Empire his reign was plagued by issue after issue when he toke the throne at just 26 years old.


Now, how they are all related:

King George V of England / was the son of King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark.

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany / was the son of Frederick III and Victoria of England / who was the sister of King Edward VII within the British Royal Family / making both George and Wilhelm first cousins and grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia / was the son of Tsar Alexander III and Dagmar of Denmark / who was the sister of Alexandra of Denmark, King George V’s mother, making King George V and Tsar Nicholas first cousins within the Danish Royal Family.

So all were cousins, Wilhelm and George were first cousins, George and Nicholas were first cousins and Wilhelm and Nicholas were third cousins. (Dews)

They also were equal decedents of King George II of England making the three of them fifth cousins. (Dews)

There, got it? lol. 

(Image by Marcia Underwood from Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History" )

(Image by Marcia Underwood from Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History" )

I found the family tree chart on the Brookings Institute website in on of their essay series. The Brookings Institute is a non profit research think tank that covers everything from public policy, foreign affairs, history and basically anything else that would have to do with materials needed for putting together reliable policies. 

I highly recommend taking a look at Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War." McMillan explores the similarities of the world on the brink of war in 1914 and today, super interesting!