In this centenary of the start of WWI, revisionist theorists and historians are keen to highlight the sheer stupidity of it, and argue that it was the crowned heads of Europe who played it out to their own designs.
Others say it was necessary to enter the war to prevent an aggressive Prussian Empire from gaining more power. Both are right - but neither argument makes it right.
My own simplistic view, having read extensively about Queen Victoria (a prior Bardiness post) is that had she not been such a bunny boiler (as far as her husband Albert was concerned), she wouldn't have born so many children which she was hell bent to distribute throughout Europe and marry them off.
A consequence was her eldest grandson Willelm II, aka Kaiser Bill, King of Prussia whose bellicose, bombastic impetuousness triggered the bloody war in the first place.
Yes we all know that the firework was lit by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, but that was an opportunity not to be missed by Bill.
His mother was Victoria's eldest daughter, Victoria, the Princess Royal. She was married off to his father Prince Frederick William of Prussia who later became German Emperor Frederick III. She became engaged to him when she was 14 years old in 1855 and married him two years later.
For Queen Victoria this was dynastic planning. This planning may have resulted in the deaths of millions.
It's difficult to track the connections, but take for example that Kaiser Bill's first cousin was King George V (grandson of V&A and son of Edward VII, Victoria's eldest son; and his second cousin was Tsar Nicholas II whose wife Alexandra was a granddaughter of...yes you've guessed it..Victoria. Her mother, Princess Alice was the second daughter of V&A who married her off to Duke Louis IV of Hesse.
Queen Victoria, rightly or wrongly believed that her children would be instrumental in unifying the European Crown States, and create stability. Today we still have this anachronistic legacy.
The King of Spain, Juan Carlos I is a direct descendent of Victoria. His grandmother was Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg who was..here we go again...a granddaughter of Victoria through her fifth daughter Princess Beartrice. Not only was Eugenie Queen of Spain through marriage to Alfonso XIII, but also first cousin of King George V of the United Kingdom, Queen Maud of Norway, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (the aforementioned wife of Tsar Nicholas), Queen Marie of Romania, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany (yes, that bloke), Queen Louise of Sweden, and Queen Sophia of Greece. Is it any wonder Europe is in such a mess?
What baffles me about all this, purely from a layman's perspective, is that back in 1649 during the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell chopped the head off Charles I as a direct reproof of the notion of the divine right of kings. The parliamentarians really didn't like him waltzing into the House of Commons swanking away. How then, a mere one hundred years ago, did the United Kingdom find itself embroiled in a war which without doubt was a direct result of royalist manipulation and chess playing?
Even today our House of Windsor (formerly known as the house of Saxe-Coburg and changed because of anti-German sentiment in 1917) is directly descended from the matriarch who, having married off her brood, lived the remainder of her life in mourning, was rarely seen, but nevertheless gave her name to an era of extraordinary and unprecedented social change and industrial achievement.
The Great War - the war to end all wars was without question directly or indirectly related to the Royal Families of Europe. The brave men who fought (mine and your relatives in living memory) believed they were fighting for freedom. They will be remembered and never forgotten - but did they really know what they were fighting for? Do we know? Even now? Will we ever?