Having traced the private and public lives of Britain's House of Windsor from the death of Victoria to the marriage of Charles and Diana in his popular Royal Family, Aronson now broadens his field of vision to focus on the 12 monarchs, major and minor, who occupied the thrones of Europe during the second decade of this century. Since the majority of these royal personages were related by blood or marriage and since few of them retained their thrones after the debacle of WW I, the author has been able to meld the elements of family saga and adventure story into a historical/biographical narrative that is frequently moving, often suspenseful and consistently engrossing. The central figures of Aronson's work are George V of England, Wilhelm II of Germany, Nicholas II of Russia, and Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary--the first three, grandsons of Victoria herself. The royal ""supporting players,"" if less well-known, are perhaps even more colorful: the diminutive Victor Emmanuel of Italy, who stood ""five foot and not quite a quarter of an inch,"" the effeminate Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who slept ""in pink surah nightgowns trimmed with Valenciennes lace,"" and the unassuming Albert of Belgium, who was once told to ""Close the bloody door!"" by a private in his beleaguered army. Opening with a description of the pageantry that attended the funeral of Edward VII, during which 54 royal horsemen--nine monarchs, five heirs-apparent, and 40 imperial, royal and serene highnesses--followed the coffin, the book then ranges across the face of Europe, bringing to life the friendships and rivalries, the personal quirks and national aspirations that culminated in the carnage of war. While the historical perspective is not scanted, Aronson has wisely centered his attention on the personalities of the monarchs (and the character of monarchy itself) in telling his story. Brilliantly organized and written with great polish, Crowns in Conflict delineates an immensely complicated period with deft strokes and a wealth of intriguing anecdotes, many sure to be unfamiliar to the general reader. Heartbreaking, hilarious, irreverent and infuriating glimpses behind the pomp and power of an all-but-vanished race.