Many different nations were involved in the Great War. It is therefore not surprising that royals and political personalities played significant roles during the conflict.
How it all began: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Franz Ferdinand was the nephew of Emperor Franz Joseph and heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of the Archduke and his wife, Sophie Gräfin Chotek, in Sarajevo is widely considered as the event that triggered World War I. After political discussions failed, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Pre-existing alliances also brought Germany and Russia into the conflict.
Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last German emperor. After the assassination of Franz Ferdinand he encouraged Austria-Hungary to take action against Serbia. Although he was military leader of the German army, the real power lay with the generals. He was forced to abdicate the throne in 1918.
Famliy Ties: Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II and King George V
Tsar Nicholas II was a cousin through marriage of the German emperor Wilhelm II which put him into a delicate position. The Tsar hesitated at first but felt obliged to enter the war to defend Serbia.
A first cousin to both, King George V paid numerous visits to troops on the frontline, which made him more and more popular with his people.
The USA declared neutrality under President Wilson at the beginning of the war in 1914. As he grew up during the American Civil War, Wilson wanted to spare his nation the horrors of war. However, due to German submarine warfare affecting Americans, the USA declared war on the Central Powers in 1917. Woodrow Wilson
In the early years of WW1, Georges Clemenceau, the former French Prime Minister, was an outspoken critic of the French army’s efforts. Late in 1917, he was re-appointed as Prime Minister and saw France through to victory the following year. At the Treaty of Versailles, Clemenceau wanted to severely punish Germany, but was tempered by Lloyd George and Wilson.
British Prime Ministers Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George
Herbert Asquith was Prime Minister when World War I started. After a series of political and military misjudgements he became increasingly unpopular with the nation and was finally replaced by the Chancellor of Exchequer David Lloyd George at the end of 1916. David Lloyd George was a key figure in fighting off the growing German submarine menace.
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