US Release Date: September 1, 2009
Spanning more than a thousand years of European history, this work looks at the motives, means and consequences of the murders of - and sometimes by - members of Europe's ruling families. In early centuries murder was usually a "family matter", the result of warring factions fighting for real power. Richard II's throne was usurped by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke, a dramatic coup famously recreated in Shakespeare's play, as was the usurpation of Macbeth. In the sixteenth century monarchs fell victim to religious fanatics or were the subject of witchcraft - King James had a coven of witches convicted for raising storms at sea when he was on passage in 1589. In the seventeenth century "judicial murder" became part of a revolutionary process. Political motives dominated the Royal murders of the nineteenth century, among them the assassinations of Alexander II in Russia in 1881 and the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in 1898. In 1914 it was the assassination by a Slav nationalist at Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which precipitated World War I. In the late twentieth century it is the lone madman who is most feared. A compendium of "who-dunnits", gruesome fellings, witchcraft, infanticide and assassinations that have changed the course of history.