Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was born on December 18, 1863, in Graz, Austria. In 1900, Ferdinand gave up his children's rights to the throne in order to marry a lady-in-waiting. While in power, he attempted to restore Austro-Russian relations while maintaining an alliance with Germany. In 1914, a Serb nationalist assassinated him. One month later, Austria declared war on Serbia and World War I began.
Victor Emmanuel III, (born November 11, 1869, Naples, Italy—died December 28, 1947, Alexandria, Egypt) king of Italy whose reign brought the end of the Italian monarchy.
After a mainly military education, he came suddenly to the throne in 1900 on the assassination of his father, King Umberto I. A tractable constitutional monarch, he accepted a Liberal cabinet and readily acquiesced in Italy’s war against Turkey in 1911 and entrance into World War I in 1915.
Franz Joseph, also called Francis Joseph (born August 18, 1830, Schloss Schönbrunn, near Vienna, Austria—died November 21, 1916, Schloss Schönbrunn) emperor of Austria (1848–1916) and king of Hungary (1867–1916), who divided his empire into the Dual Monarchy, in which Austria and Hungary coexisted as equal partners. In 1879 he formed an alliance with Prussian-led Germany, and in 1914 his ultimatum to Serbia led Austria and Germany into World War I.
Wilhelm II (1859-1941), the German kaiser (emperor) and king of Prussia from 1888 to 1918, was one of the most recognizable public figures of World War I (1914-18). He gained a reputation as a swaggering militarist through his speeches and ill-advised newspaper interviews. While Wilhelm did not actively seek war, and tried to hold back his generals from mobilizing the German army in the summer of 1914, his verbal outbursts and his open enjoyment of the title of Supreme War Lord helped bolster the case of those who blamed him for the conflict. His role in the conduct of the war as well as his responsibility for its outbreak is still controversial. Some historians maintain that Wilhelm was controlled by his generals, while others argue that he retained considerable political power. In late 1918, he was forced to abdicate. He spent the rest of his life in exile in the Netherlands, where he died at age 82.
Nicholas II was born on May 6, 1868 (from the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia until 1918) in Pushkin, Russia. He inherited the throne when his father, Alexander III, died in 1894. Although he believed in autocracy, he was eventually forced to create an elected legislature. Nicholas II’s handling of Bloody Sunday and World War I incensed his subjects and led to his abdication. Bolsheviks executed him on July 17, 1918, in Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Photo: Nicholas II by Boissonnas & Eggler created circa 1909.
French statesman Raymond Poincaré (1860-1934) served his country as president during World War I (1914-18) and later as prime minister during a series of financial crises. Before the war, he worked to strengthen ties with Great Britain and Russia against the growing threat of Germany. In the postwar period, Poincaré took a strong stand during the Treaty of Versailles discussions, and urged French premier and negotiator Georges Clemenceau to require stiff reparations be paid to France by Germany for its part in the war. When Germany defaulted on payments, Poincaré ordered French troops to occupy the Ruhr, an industrial area in western Germany. During the 1920s, Poincaré took dramatic measures to stabilize the French economy and bring France a period of prosperity. Citing poor health, he left public office in 1929 and died five years later.
Image Source: University of Glasgow
King George V of Great Britain was born on June 3, 1865, the unpromising second son of Edward VII. Initially, he sought a career in the British Navy, but the untimely death of his brother, Albert, placed him on the throne. He became king in 1910 and played an active role supporting the troops during World War I. Though lackluster in personality, he won the loyalty of the middle class and many in Great Britain with his steadfast dedication to his country.