Correspondence between 19th and 20th century royalty

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

The TV drama 37 days has a couple of extracts from letters, including the ‘Dear Nicky’ and ‘Dear Willy’ letters between Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The documentary ‘Royal Cousins at War’ too goes over the longer-term history of European royalty before WWI. It includes Kaiser Wilhelm’s sad childhood and near-exclusion from his British family due to the hostility between Prussia and Denmark, the homeland of the wives of Edward VII and Alexander III of Russia, presenting it as informing his erratic personality and love/hate relationship with the most powerful imperial family in the world. It also has film and photos from the family holidays taken in Denmark by the British, Russian and assorted German royal families from the 1860s onwards, as well as the failed attempts at family diplomacy between Kaiser Wilhelm and Nicholas II before WWI. Those holidays were where Nicholas II and George V first met, and helped build friendlier relations between the previously hostile Russian and British royal families to the disadvantage of the British relationship with Germany. It’s all quite interesting in that regard, though clearly a world removed from the realities of great-power politics and, to varying degrees in all cases, the realities of civilian and even ‘democratic’ government (though the latter not in Russia’s case)


You may be interested in “George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm” by Miranda Carter. It’s not completely personal correspondence but it does highlight a good amount of it.


I think a lot of this stuff is still hidden away in the family archives of various royal families, not easily accessible to researchers.


indeed many of them were related by blood, but there was an idea of all royalty being a common “family” i suppose. the anthem of britain (god save the king/queen) was used by many other european powers because it was not a song related to any national identity but a song that praises the royalty. and when the normans conquered england the king of france addressed the now english king as “son”, while the king of england addressed the french as “brother”. so i guess my point is that while many kings were related, but there is a stronger sense of kings being families that precedes it.