In the years before the First World War, the great European powers, Britain, Germany and Russia, were ruled by three cousins - George V, King-Emperor of England, the British Empire and India; Wilhelm II, the last Kaiser; and Nicholas II, the last Tsar. Together, they presided over the last years of dynastic Europe and the outbreak of the most destructive war the world had ever seen, a war which set twentieth century Europe on course to be the most violent continent in the history of the world. 'The Three Emperors' is a portrait of three men - damaged, egotistical Wilhelm, quiet, stubborn Nicholas and anxious, dutiful George - and their lives, foibles and obsessions, from tantrums to uniforms to stamp collecting. It is also alive with fresh, subtle portraits of other familiar figures - Queen Victoria - grandmother to two of them, grandmother-in-law to the third - whose conservatism and bullying obsession with family left a dangerous legacy; and of Edward VII, the playboy 'arch-vulgarian' who turned out to have a gift for international relations and the theatrics of mass politics. At the same time it weaves through their stories a riveting account of the events that led to World War One, showing how the personal and the political interacted, sometimes to devastating effect.