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  • The last British royal wedding -- between Prince William and Kate Middleton, brought

  • together 1,900 guests, many of whom were pretty high profile people.

  • Footballer David Beckham was there with his wife and fashion designer Victoria Beckham.

  • Elton John was there too.

  • But this photo might be the most impressive of all, because

  • This is the Queen of Spain And the Prince of Spain

  • Next to the Princess of Sweden,

  • the former King of Greece is behind them,

  • And way back there is the former King of Romania.

  • They were invited because they're all related to Prince William's great-great-great Grandmother,

  • Queen Victoria.

  • Over the course of her 63-year reign, she strategically planned marriages to place her

  • descendants in royal families all over Europe.

  • And in doing so, created one of the most remarkable royal families in history.

  • By the early 19th century, Europe had been at war for decades.

  • After the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars killed millions, European leaders came

  • together to restore peace by reshaping major states for a new balance of power.

  • Great Britain went on to become one of the strongest states.

  • And years later, Queen Victoria and her husband Albert came up with a plan to maintain that

  • political power: They married their children to monarchs across Europe.

  • And at that time, you know,

  • all royal marriages were fundamentally about dynastic unions, about

  • cementing political allegiances, about building new political alliances.

  • It started with their daughter Vicky, the eldest of nine children.

  • She married the heir to the Prussian throne, the largest and most powerful of the German states.

  • Albert's vision had always been, and Victoria shared it,

  • that Prussia of all the German

  • states was the one that would end up leading the way towards a great unified Germany.

  • They wanted to build strong connections with Germany and see them as being a force for

  • good and constitutional benign monarchy across Europe.

  • Their children Alice, Beatrice, Helena, Leopold, and Arthur also married German royalty.

  • Their eldest son, Prince Albert Edward married a Danish princess whose brother was King of

  • Greece; two more important European states.

  • But when their son Alfred wanted to marry the daughter of the Russian Tsar, things became

  • a bit more complicated:

  • There was a long history about Queen Victoria's deep, deep apprehensions about

  • Russia, for any of her children marrying into Russia.

  • Well, the Russian monarchy was an autocracy,

  • whereas the British monarchy as such was a constitutional monarchy.

  • There was a whole long period of Russophobia in Britain.

  • The two states were also extremely competitive over territory in Central Asia and Eastern Europe,

  • where they fought a bloody war in the 1850s.

  • But the marriage was allowed and by the 1880s Queen Victoria's children were in several

  • important branches of Europe's monarchies.

  • But did that bring peace to Europe?

  • Not quite.

  • See, Germany did unify in 1871, but it wasn't peaceful.

  • Prussia fought a series of bloody wars and consolidated the other German states.

  • In Russia, the royal Romanov family was losing its grip on power.

  • Members of the monarchy were being hunted and the Tsar was assassinated in 1881.

  • The royal unions didn't play out as Queen Victoria planned, but she continued to make

  • more matches anyway.

  • She had 42 grandchildren in total,

  • and these 7 ended up on royal thrones.

  • The eldest, Wilhelm II, who was already in line to be the next Emperor of Germany, married

  • a German princess in 1881.

  • The hope was that he would steer a unified and powerful Germany

  • into an alliance with Great Britain.

  • George was in line to be the King of Great Britain and married a minor British royal

  • family member.

  • Alexandra married Nicholas, who was related to George and Wilhelm, and both became the

  • Tsar and Tsarina of Russia.

  • And four more granddaughters married European royalty, fulfilling Victoria's vision.

  • I mean, when you look at Queen Victoria by the end of her life

  • she really was the grandmother of Europe.

  • Take for example this family photo, where Queen Victoria is with her daughter and grandson,

  • the rulers of Germany.

  • Her son, Britain's next king, and her granddaughters, the future

  • Tsarina of Russia and future Queen of Romania.

  • Here's the soon-to-be King of England and his look-alike cousin the soon-to-be Tsar

  • of Russia.

  • And here's some of the children and grandchildren together.

  • Finally, this is King Edward of Great Britain and his nephew Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany

  • at Queen Victoria's funeral in 1901.

  • After her death, the family ties that Queen Victoria had strung around Europe, would not

  • bring peace, but the most destructive war Europe had ever seen.

  • The Kaiser, the king of Gothenberg,

  • make ready to sweep the field.

  • The Tsar of Russia mobilizes.

  • England joins the battle royale.

  • World War One broke out in 1914 and split this family apart.

  • Wilhelm's Germany along with Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, fought an alliance

  • led by Britain, Russia and France.

  • These countries were neutral.

  • Say Victoria had lived 'til we were on the brink of war.

  • I think it would have broken her,

  • totally broken her heart,

  • to know that her grandchildren ended

  • up at war with each other.

  • The war killed over 10 million people and ended the era of monarchy in Europe.

  • Wilhelm, Sophia, and Marie were all forced to abandon their thrones.

  • Revolution swept through Russia and Alexandria and Nicholas were executed by Communists.

  • The British monarchy survived, but the war forced them to rethink their political strategy.

  • George, King George V, and his wife Queen Mary were very very astute.

  • They saw that the monarchy had to be more people friendly, had to be more accessible,

  • not just sitting there in great robes in glory.

  • You know, with their crowns on. Had to be much

  • more out on the street, hands-on, meet the people, win their confidence.

  • The kind of monarchy we now have with Queen Elizabeth.

  • That approach not only helped modernize British monarchy over the last century,

  • but it also

  • changed the face of royal weddings, forever.

The last British royal wedding -- between Prince William and Kate Middleton, brought

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The royal weddings that shaped European history

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    hsin641810   posted on 2018/07/08
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