In July 1917 — the point at which Miranda Carter opens this enterprising history of imperial vicissitudes and royal reversals — George V, king of Great Britain and emperor of India, resolved to change his name. In that scorching summer, King George was a worried man. His Russian cousin, Czar Nicholas II, had recently lost his throne and was under house arrest. In Germany, another imperial cousin, Wilhelm II, had been stripped of his proudest title, “supreme warlord.” Deprived of power, Wilhelm discovered a hitherto absent sense of humor. Hearing that the English king had decided to bury his German connections by proclaiming himself a member of the newly formed House of Windsor, the emperor pondered the possibilities for a forthcoming Shakespearean production: “The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.”
more from Miranda Seymour at the NYT here.