Groß Glinicke/Potsdam, Germany on September 26, 2014:
In May 1913 a large wedding took place in Berlin. The whole extended family attended whether they liked each other or not. What’s a wedding without a little family drama anyway? In late spring of the following year they returned for the baptism of the couple’s first child.
It wouldn’t be an especially noteworthy occasion if the bride has not been Emperor Wilhelm II’s youngest daughter Victoria Louise, who married her cousin Ernst August, heir of the kingdom of Hanover and son of the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. In attendance were further the bride father’s cousins Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and King George V with their respective wives. They became godparents of the newborn child along with the emperor of Austria-Hungary Franz Joseph.
Not long after they all went to war – with each other and against each other.
No, WWI was not one big family feud gone terribly wrong. Quite a few of the ruling houses had to answer to a parliament or even had to do its bidding. Others would be kicked out of office before the war ended. They hadn’t had enough power left to turn dislike into war.
However, just as the entwined family tree of the European royal houses shows, the perceived differences between the people that are emphasized by border lines might be exaggerated by our wish to feel special and superior and our fear of the new and the unknown. We could do with less searching and stressing the ways we can be distinguished back then and now. In the end each and every one of us is unique, a king or queen of our lives. And each and every one of us is just alike – a member of a large and diverse family.