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A House Divided

Episode 1 of 2

How the tangled relationships and emerging rivalries between Europe's royal houses at the outbreak of the First World War played a crucial role in the conflict.

At the outbreak of the First World War three cousins reigned over Europe's greatest powers - Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and King George V of Britain. This two-part series looks at the role played by the three monarchs, and their relationships with each other, in the outbreak of war, arguing that it is far greater than historians have traditionally believed.

The first episode tells the story of the emerging divisions and rivalries between the interrelated royal houses of Europe and features the little-known story of the two Danish sisters, Princess Alexandra and Princess Dagmar, who had pulled off the dynastic coup of the 19th century by marrying the heirs to both the British and Russian thrones. Following the invasion of their native Denmark by Prussia in 1864 during the Wars of German Unification, the sisters became the core of an anti-Prussian coalition that prefigured the great anti-German alliance of 1914. Their sons, King George V and Tsar Nicholas II were close friends.

It looks too at the tangled relationship between the German Kaiser and his English mother, Vicky - the oldest daughter of Queen Victoria. Disabled from birth, Kaiser Wilhelm had a complex love/hate attitude towards Vicky, which transferred itself to Britain as a whole, strongly influencing his foreign policy.

1 hour

Last on

Tue 20 Nov 2018 22:00

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Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:11

    Philip Glass

    Glassworks (Opening)

  • 00:36

    Michael Houstoun

    II. Andante

  • 00:42

    Henry Russell

    A Life On The Ocean Wave

Royal Photographs

Royal Photographs
Look at restored photographs of the royal family.

Go to the galleries page


Role Contributor
Executive Producer Denys Blakeway
Producer Richard Sanders
Director Richard Sanders


  • Wed 5 Feb 2014 21:00
  • Sun 9 Feb 2014 22:55
  • Sun 9 Feb 2014 23:15
  • Wed 26 Mar 2014 00:20
  • Tue 16 Feb 2016 21:00
  • Sat 5 Aug 2017 19:30
  • Sat 5 Aug 2017 20:00
  • Tue 20 Nov 2018 22:00

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World War One at the BBC

World War One at the BBC

New perspectives on the war that changed everything.