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Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats (Shattered Crowns Trilogy Book 1)

Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats (Shattered Crowns Trilogy Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Christina Croft
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his morganatic wife, Sophie Chotek, were shot dead in broad daylight on a crowded street in Sarajevo. The murder of a relatively unknown archduke in a remote Bosnian city might well have been quickly forgotten were it not for the fact that this seemingly minor event ignited a spark that would explode into one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. Within four years, over sixteen million people from one hundred countries would lie dead on the battlefields of the First World War.
By 1914, through a series of alliances, Europe was largely divided into two separate camps: the Triple Alliance of the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, and the Triple Entente of Russia, Britain and France. The clashing of these empires has often led to the First World War being described as an Imperial War and their emperors have provided a convenient scapegoat on which to pin the blame for the consequent slaughter. In reality, however, not one of these monarchs – who were close friends and cousins – had any desire for war and each of them struggled desperately to maintain peace.
“All our cousins,” wrote Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, “were more like brothers and sisters than mere blood relations.”
This novel – the first in a trilogy following the royalties of Europe from 1913 to 1918 – tells the story of the year leading up to the outbreak of war and the very human tragedy that befell those cousins and friends; a tragedy which might have been deliberately engineered to lead to the destruction of the Russian, Austrian and German monarchies.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1 - The Schloss Artstetten, Austria - April 1913

The dazzling reflection of the sun did nothing to lighten Archduke Franz Ferdinand's mood as he viewed himself in the full-length mirror. Rather than raising his spirits, the light served only to accentuate the deepening furrows in his brow and the wisps of grey sprouting through his stiffly waxed moustache. He peered at the image in the glass and saw in every line and wrinkle the scars of the humiliation heaped upon him by those whose hearts were too narrow to understand love. In the crevices around his eyes he saw, too, the deep-rooted anger that those bigots at court had dared to snub and shame the woman who meant more to him than life.
He leaned closer to the mirror, adjusting his medals and rubbing his cuff over the lustrous buttons of his blue jacket, determined that not one speck of dust would sully his uniform on his return to Vienna. No matter what insults they whispered behind their hands, he would stand erect and dignified, proudly displaying the confidence acquired through his forty-nine well-spent years until all those sneering ministers and sycophantic courtiers would have no choice but to treat their future emperor with the respect he deserved.

His boots clicked over the parquet floor as he turned from the mirror and strode onto the balcony to inhale the fresh mountain air and the scents of roses emanating from the trellis. Radiant in its summer splendour, the sun poured over the onion-domed towers and white walls of the castle and gleamed on the limbs of three children running happily over the lawns below. Their laughter immediately dispelled Franz Ferdinand's irritation and their smiles brought such a rush of delight to his heart that it suddenly dawned on him that the intransigence of his uncle, Emperor Franz Josef, might not have been such a cruel blow after all. Perhaps, by insisting, even before they were born, that these little ones would be excluded from the succession and could never inherit the throne, the Emperor had unwittingly granted them more freedom than he had ever known.

Power had cost the aged Franz Josef dearly and even a cursory glance at the recent past showed that the Habsburg monarchs had been handed more of a crown of thorns than a crown of roses. What benefits, Franz Ferdinand wondered, had kingship brought his uncle? None whatsoever; only the alienation of those closest to him, sorrow within his family and the ceaseless strain of trying to hold this fragmented empire together.

Of course, thought Franz Ferdinand, these problems were mostly of the Emperor's own making. With a little more understanding and a lot less reliance on his self-seeking ministers, he could have made his own life and the lives of those around him far happier. Had he opened his eyes towards the future instead of fixing his gaze on the past, he might have averted the tragedies that had beset the latter part of his reign and even found some means of appeasing the many different factions in his empire. If Uncle Franz Josef suffered, his obstinacy and refusal to break with tradition were largely to blame.

As Franz Ferdinand's eyes moved beyond the park to the rooftops of distant villages, he couldn't help but envy the ordinary folk going about their business, free of the constant scrutiny that plagued archdukes and kings. Like a child lying in the long grass, peering into the miniature world of tiny creatures, he had often stared out intrigued by lives that seemed so different from his own. It wasn't simply a matter of wealth or power that separated the Habsburgs from the ordinary Austro-Hungarian people; it was rather as though an invisible wall separated those of royal blood from the rest of humanity - a wall as substantial as a fortress and equally impossible to breach.

On one side of the wall, extended royal families stretched across Europe like a spider's web of intricately woven and delicately balanced relationships: siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, all manner of kinship, protected by titles and a lineage that could be traced back through centuries. It had sometimes fascinated Franz Ferdinand to think that the balance of power was maintained by such hereditary threads but it puzzled him to see that so many members of this elite clan had sacrificed love, happiness and passion for the sake of sustaining the bloodline through suitable dynastic marriages.

On the other side of the invisible wall was a world as impenetrable to the Habsburgs as theirs was to the majority of their countrymen. It irked Franz Ferdinand to think that so many of his siblings and cousins remained cocooned in the immutable Viennese court with neither the desire nor the perspicacity to so much as glance at the changing world outside. Through the extensive travels of his younger years he had come face-to-face with cultures and lives so different from his own that the Emperor's highly-prized traditions and petty protocols, which dominated so much of life in Vienna, had begun to appear as little more than flimsy anachronisms, obsolete and out-of-place in this new and progressive century.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 462 KB
  • Print Length: 361 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005C1GKCE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #102,589 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Christina Croft was born in Warwickshire, England, and grew up in Leeds, where she attended Notre Dame Grammar School before graduating in English & Divinity in Liverpool. Qualified as both a teacher and a nurse, she currently lives in Yorkshire where, alongside writing and giving talks, her interests include Queen Victoria's family and other 19th/early 20th century royalties, history in general, poetry, spirituality, animals and growing herbs.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats 1 Aug 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the first in a proposed trilogy about the royal houses of Europe and the catastrophe of WWI. This first book is set during 1913 - 1914 and concerns the events leading up to the war. The story starts with Franz Ferdinand, happy in his marriage to his beloved Sophie, but resentful that his children cannot inherit and of how his wife is treated in Austria. As well as Franz Ferdinand, other main characters in this novel are Kaiser Wilhelm and the Tsar, Nicholas II. At this time, the ruling houses of Europe were interlinked by marriage and family ties - as the Kaiser tells the Tsar at his only daughter's wedding, his six sons strive for their independence and he compares them to the nations of Europe: "We are like one family but within that family there are many different characters, all of whom have the right to follow their own course and become the countries they were created to be."

Kaiser Wilhelm has his own personal resentments. Despite Germany's prosperity, he says Britain treats his nation like a child and tells Tsar Nicholas that only he and the Kaiser, as autocrats, have any personal power. However, he admits that the royal families of Europe have "bonds of friendship, bonds of kinship and bonds of kingship." The Kaiser is keen to create links between fellow monarchs. He not only speaks to the Tsar, but also visits Franz Ferdinand, flattering him by giving his wife due attention and respect. Franz Ferdinand is planning a trip to Bosnia, alongside Sophie. He is surprised that the Kaiser had heard of the proposed visit and the Kaiser says the Austrian government gave the story to the press. Franz Ferdinand had a feeling of dread, but, despite this, sets out for the visit to Sarajevo.

This novel brings the characters and period of that time vividly to life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shattered Crowns: The Scapegoats 12 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent book, which had been written with insight and understanding of the personalities involved, also highlighting the causes of the First World War with understanding but no bias. Extremely interesting and well written
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful 3 Mar 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Got this book off the free list, thought it might be interesting.
Well, trust me it is! I read it so quickly, didn't want to put it down. I like the way it talks about how the Royalty think and how the First World War may have come about, seemingly by accident or the design of other folks. Very well written and have ordered the second one
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read!! 4 Dec 2012
By Dolly
Like many people, I had always been led to believe that the First World War was brought about by imperialist emperors and kings but reading the book opened my eyes to the truth that none of these kings, who were actually made into scapegoats, wanted war. From the start, I was absorbed in this story and realised that this was a presentation of history in a completely new and more accurate light. Don't be deceived, though - this isn't dry history! This is the story of real people whose emotions the author captures brilliantly! As with her earlier book - Most Beautiful Princess - the author draws in the reader and makes you believe she was actually there at the time that these events happened. The reader feels with the characters and 'gets inside their heads'. I am now reading the second book in the trilogy - The Sacrifice - and I am already captivated! An amazingly gifted author who not only writes well and has done an incredible amount of research, but also clearly has an excellent grasp of psychology!
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