The Pity of War: England and Germany, Bitter Friends, Beloved Foes


Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
5.85 X 1.44 X 9.79 inches | 1.81 pounds

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About the Author

Miranda Seymour is a biographer, novelist, and reviewer. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and recipient of the Pen Ackerley Memoir of the Year Prize for Thrumpton Hall, her extraordinary account of life at the family manor, which she now runs as a successful conference and wedding business. Her other acclaimed biographies include lives of Mary Shelley, Henry James, Robert Graves, Ottoline Morrell, and Helle Nice, the Bugatti Queen. Her interest in the history of the relationship between England and Germany was triggered by her own background. In 1931, her English uncle was (inadvertently) almost responsible for Hitler's death. His marriage to a German woman led Miranda on a quest for her family's German links, which had been neglected and forgotten following World War II.


A noble endeavour, encyclopaedic in its scope, beautifully organised and written, and very moving, as these two cousinly nations are driven asunder by war. A wonderful subject.--Michael Frayn
Biographer Seymour, granddaughter of diplomat Richard Seymour who served in Berlin under Queen Victoria, captures the tumultuous relationship between England and Germany in this ambitious exploration of the period from 1613-1945. She opens with the union of Prince Frederick and Elizabeth Stuart--'marriage of the Thames and Rhine'--and runs through the 1840 match of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that culminated in WWI. Long before the indelible scars created by 'the pity of war, ' Seymour illustrates how intellectual attraction drew the two cultures together, sketching a series of illustrious Englishmen--for example, poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Friedrich Schiller's translator) and William Thackeray. Most compelling is the minor royal who played a role in what might be called the family feud: Daisy, Princess of Pless--née Cornwallis-West--who in 1891 married into the German aristocracy. Daisy's position afforded her a close view of the antipathy between Kaiser Wilhelm, Queen Victoria's irascible grandson, and his Uncle Bertie, the Prince of Wales. Seymour draws on Daisy's private papers, which foretold the inevitability of WWI, and interviews with her son Hansel, which revealed her own uncomfortable position during the conflict. Every family has its differences but Seymour lays out why this particular family's intrigue is so irresistible.--Publishers Weekly
In her new book, Seymour contends that no two European nations have a stronger history of cultural and familiar bonds than Germany and England. This work celebrates these connections and calls for a resurgence of the mutual admiration that once existed between these cousin nations. Beginning with the marriage of Elizabeth Stuart and Prince Frederick in 1612, Seymour explores how marriages of royals and nonroyals created dual identities for the children of these unions. Particularly appealing are the accounts of lesser-known figures such as Daisy Plessy and Hansel Plessy, mother and son, one interned by Germany and the other interned by England for being alien enemies during World War II. Equally compelling are the lives of Herbert Sulzbach and Heinz Koeppler, who worked with German prisoners of war during the same war, teaching them the skills necessary for democratic citizenship. By focusing on intercultural exchange, successful diplomatic relations, and cultural exchange, Seymour successfully makes the case that the nationalism of the era isn't the only lens from which to examine the period. VERDICT A well-researched collection of stories that emphasizes the connection rather than the divide among nations, this book should appeal to students of international relations and peace studies as well as Anglophiles and Germanophiles.--Library Journal
Miranda Seymour's [stories] have a hypnotic effect. Imagine yourself outside a café overlooking a seaside esplanade. The mood is elegiac: nostalgia shot through with a sense of foreboding. . . .A vivid, well-researched book.--BBC History Magazine
An arresting account of a complex and multi-faceted subject.--Country Life
This is an impressive, meticulously researched and thought-provoking history.--History Today
Seymour's enormously entertaining . . . book acts as a much-needed counterweight to the glut of World War One histories that appeared in 2014; it paints the much larger picture of just how incredibly interconnected England and Germany were in the decades preceding the outbreak of war in 1914. Even long-time students of WWI will learn a great deal from this wonderful book.--Stevereads
The Pity of War is a collection of the personal stories of the rich and the famous, many of whom had close family connections. . . .The chapters dealing with the 20th century are...interesting because there is more detail and longer biographical sketches.--Daily News