Masaryk university

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Faculty of Education

Department of English
Language and Literature

The British Royal Family and WWI

Bachelor Thesis

Brno 2015
Supervisor: Written by:

Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D. Jitka Thirkettle, DiS.


Prohlašuji, že jsem bakalářskou práci zpracovala samostatně a použila jen prameny uvedené v seznamu literatury.

V Brně dne 29. března 2015 Jitka Thirkettle


I declare that I worked on this thesis my own and that I used only sources mentioned in the Bibliography section.

Brno, March 29, 2015 .……………………...

Jitka Thirkettle


I would like to gratefully acknowledge the supervision of Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D.

I would like to thank him for his kind supervision of this thesis and his helpful advice and insightful comments on the text as well as literature recommendations.
I would also like to thank to my family for their immense support.

Table of Contents

Introduction 5


1.1Queen Victoria’s Legacy 7

1.2King Edward VII´s Reign 9

1.2.1Edward VII and His Political Influence 9

1.2.2The King and the Army 11

1.2.3 Foreign Affairs 13 Anglo-French Relations 14 Relations 15 Relations 17 with Other Heads of States 21

1.3King George 22

1.3.1George V and Kaiser Wilhelm II 23

1.3.2George V and Tsar Nicholas II 25

1.4The Final Weeks before the Conflict 26


2.1War Onset 29

2.2The Course of War Concerning Britain 31

2.2.1Home Front 35

2.3Involvement of the British Royal Family 37

2.3.1The King´s Public Engagement and Political Affairs 37

2.3.2Other Members of the British Royal Family 42

2.4Responses to Anti-German Tendencies 43

2.4.1Changing the Family Name 44

2.4.2The Titles Deprivation Act 45

2.5The King and the Other European Royals 46

2.5.1Rejection of the Tsar’s asylum 47

2.5.2European Royal Families 49


3.1Implications for Survival of the Monarchy 53

Conclusion 55

Bibliography 57

Appendices 64

List of Figures 64


The night before Britain declared war on Germany, looking from his office Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, remarked: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Exactly one hundred years later the lights on churches, town halls, theatres, some of the British national institutions such as the Houses of Parliament, 10 Downing Street, the BBC and also Buckingham Palace were turned off to commemorate his words as he had realized that the war had become inevitable. More than sixteen million people all over the country participated in the campaign Lights Out by turning their lights off, leaving only a single light or candle to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. Candles were lit to remember men and women who gave up their lives in the conflict. On August 4th, Queen Elizabeth II attended the service of commemoration at Crathie Parish Church, near the royal residence of Balmoral Castle in Scotland and her grandson William, the Duke of Cambridge, joined the world leaders at a ceremony at St. Symphorien Cemetery in Mons, Belgium to mark the outset of the war.

The aim of this thesis is to determine the reasons which led to the self-preservation of the British throne while the other monarchies fell. In view of the fact that some of the affairs of WWI have their roots in years and decades prior to the conflict, the thesis deals with three British sovereigns – Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. They are usually depicted as figureheads with no actual power for any significant measures. The thesis investigates the role of the British Royal Family before and during the First World War and assesses their influence in regards of domestic and foreign politics, relationships with other ruling monarchs, their subjects and their involvement prior and during the course of the war.

The first chapter portrays Queen Victoria and her legacy as the Grandmother of Europe, as her descendants were sitting on the majority of European thrones, and her son King Edward VII, the Uncle of Europe, as they are often referred to. It depicts Britain´s substantial transformation from the splendid isolation to the treaties with France and Russia and observes King George V and his relationships with the German Kaiser and the Russian Tsar. These monarchs of the three leading countries, Britain, Germany and Russia, were actually first cousins. Though they held close relationships, it did not stop them fighting with each other when the war began. British King George V and Russian Tsar Nicholas II faced German Kaiser Wilhelm II only days after the outbreak of the war. The chapter also outlines the situation in the final weeks before the war. The second chapter describes the war events from the outbreak in 1914 to the armistice in 1918, including the anti-German campaign in Britain and the decisions of George V to change the family name to Windsor and his refusal to grant an asylum to the Russian Tsar and his family. The final chapter deals with the end of the war and with the implications for the British monarchy´s survival.

The conclusion provides the view that the British Royal Family prioritized their own country and the preservation of their lineage over any other family ties and supported their subjects throughout the unfavorable times of the First World War.


At the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, Great Britain was considered to be one of the super-powers and during that period an area of the British Empire extended to one-fifth of the world´s surface. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V were the monarchs reigning in the years preceding the First World War. The foreign politics of Great Britain underwent significant changes from so called splendid isolation to the formalized treaties with other countries. Britain´s naval supremacy was affirmed and so was the role of the Great Britain as the leading industrial nation.

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