Royal Cousins at War

Series 1 - 1. A House Divided

Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

Suddenly, it all makes sense. If the cat’s cradle of diplomatic alliances that led to world war in 1914 has always seemed hard to fathom, this two-part series holds the key. It goes back to the 1860s and traces the roots of conflict in the family politics of Queen Victoria’s children and their in-laws. Essentially, it’s a gripping period soap opera full of ironies and what-ifs, how the rivalries and personal chemistry within one big, extended family had disastrous consequences for millions.

At the story’s heart is the figure of Kaiser Wilhelm II, son of Victoria’s eldest daughter but a misfit within the royal families of Europe – the cousin nobody wanted to play with. Bullying, crass, unstable, tactless, clownish – and a competitive bore at Cowes Week, where he would take on the future Edward VII and annoy everyone. We’re left with the impression he was a war waiting to happen. A sharp script and pithy contributors bring the story to life.

About this programme

1/2. Part one of two. Documentary examining what impact the relationships between cousins Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and George V of the United Kingdom had on the outbreak of the First World War. This episode focuses on the story of the emerging divisions and rivalries between the inter-related royal houses of Europe during the 19th century. Featuring contributions by historians Karina Urbach, Miranda Carter and Piers Brendon. Tamsin Greig narrates.

Cast and crew


Tamsin Greig


Richard Sanders
Executive Producer
Denys Blakeway
Richard Sanders